Nagarkot is a town in the valley of Kathmandu, Bagmati Province, 2 hours away by bus from the big city (with a transition in Bhaktapur). It is quite known as the place to be for foreigners near Kathmandu who are searching for a bit of mountain air and a view. It is the highest place in the valley, culminating at 2175 meters, and the only referenced one where you can see the Everest top at dawn.
Nagarkot is famously known for its loveliness, amazing view and laid-back feeling compared to Kathmandu. That said, the expectations and the reality are not quite equivalent, and the hope of cleaning mind and body away from Kathmandu can quickly be washed away if you do not fall on the right day. Indeed, only some lucky tourists will get the chance to have a clear view because Nagarkot is usually shadowed by a fog of pollution wedged in the mountain range, coming from Kathmandu, China and India. Instead of the ideal landscape, your vision will be cut short by air pollution, and you can even look the sun in the eye without blinking due to the thickness of this fog.
Pollution is sure to have a disastrous impact on tourism because it kind of scares off tourists and deceives expectations of Nepal as the country of the mountains with pure air. Tourists can be disillusioned quickly by the reality of Nepal's environmental issues. Even in Nagarkot, the number of garbage instantly brings you back to Kathmandu streets when you might have desired to lose yourself in nature. And really, Nagarkot is not very thriving on anything else than tourism. Some students I met on the trip told me there were not a lot of things to do there for them. So if Nagarkot loses its attraction to tourists, it will also lose a huge part of its economy. As a glaring example, there are almost as many hotels as there is houses in the town, a testimony to the need for tourism. Moreover, tourism not only impacts hotel trade but also groceries businesses and restaurants around Nagarkot that cannot afford to lose clients.
The lack of financial support that Nagarkot faces is clearly visible, first from the state of the inhabitants' houses, second from the serious lack of garbage collection, third from the condition of the roads. It is even more obvious when compared to Bhaktapur, a town quite well-kept only an hour away (by bus) from Nagarkot. I do think it ought to be better maintained because it’s a beautiful place, ideally located with kind people all around and an amazing view when the weather is favorable to it. There are great hikes around, wasted by plastic, and even the waterfalls are contaminated with rubbish. Again, Nagarkot is referenced as the place to see if you’re close to Kathmandu, and with reasons for sure, but it cannot hold up to its title if nothing is done to help the town flourish and embrace its wonderful environment.
This is why it is truly appalling to realize the extent of the pollution in Nepal and its influence. It feels like an open-air garbage dump, and the more I stay, the more I realize that no matter what, you cannot escape it. I had hoped to flee the oppression of Kathmandu for a few days but I found myself preoccupied with the ecological catastrophe I encountered in Nagarkot. So instead, I observed it and I wrote about it because I believe it is one’s duty to call out the governments and the people on this issue with the hope that it will change for the better, and not only in Nepal.
Fanny is an intern from France