Sunday, February 17, 2013

one man's trash...

The tiny village of Newakot was as scenic and idyllic a spot we could find on our short journey through Nepal. It's also one we almost didn't have the opportunity to visit because of road barricades in the township preceding it. Two pedestrians had died the day before due to wreck-less driving through the towns streets. Understandably, the affected families and friends weren't going to allow that to happen again - nor were they going to allow anyone to pass. But, after fifteen minutes of negotiations, we were granted permission to continue on our way.

Once we arrived, we didn't want to leave. We begged and pleaded to stay a day longer than the one given. Instead we were allotted a few extra hours. The fresh air, blue skies and crystal clear waters provided all the greater contrast for us as we entered Kathmandu the following day.

The air in Kathmandu is so thick you can eat it. Some might call that a cliche'. I just call it the truth. Many walk around with face masks on. Every exposed part of the body is covered with a thin film of smog. No matter how long you shower, you never truly feel clean.

The rivers no longer qualify as such. In their place are small pools of mucky water gathered between mounds of debris.

There are no sanitation laws in the country. No waste management company. Small piles of trash are instead dumped onto the streets and burned at random. Though, come morning, the streets are swept clean.

As we walked to a local market two men were shoveling a muddy mass of gunk out of a street-side gutter... in the process, flinging some of it on me. Not knowing what diseases might have just landed on my arm I grabbed a hand wipe and cleaned it off.  I searched for a location to dispose of the wipe, but found nothing.

After purchasing an item from a teenaged boy, I asked him if he had a trashcan. He looked at me quizzically. Garbage, I tried. Again I was only returned a look that questioned my sanity. Rubbish, I offered, and showed the wipe. With an expression that now had me feeling like an idiot, he shrugged his shoulder and pointed to the street. Of course.

I held on to the wipe for a while longer.

After returning home I came across an excerpt in Dervla Murphy's book, The Waiting Land - A Spell in Nepal, which I thought couldn't have summed up the city better.
"Another aspect of Kathmandu's crudity is referred to [by] Dr David Wright, who spent some years here as a surgeon to the British Residency and wrote, in 1877, 'From a sanitary point of view Kathmandu may be said to be built on a dunghill in the middle of latrines.' ... I feel that he was being charitable when he stated that 'this is one of the filthiest cities in the world.' In some quarters reeking water lies stagnant in the square stone public baths, and I doubted the evidence of my eyes when I first saw people drinking this brew. After the scum has been pushed aside and the liquid - one can hardly describe it as water - has been collected in earthenware or brass pitchers it looks like strong tea; what immunity (or what dysentery) these people must have!"


Patti said...

I was dismayed that the article you quoted from was written in 1877. 145 years later, no change.

Dumpster Rental NYC said...

Indeed, its horrific to see isn't it Patti?

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