It’s been over ten weeks since the blockade first started, and to be honest, I am not sure if the end is in sight. Hospital’s supplies are running seriously low, propane gas is non existent and many neighbours are combining their resources by cooking for multiple families at one time saving on cooking fuel, and cooking enough food for a 24-hour period.
Firewood has been selling in the market for 50 rps/kg ( 50 cents). Porters carry wood on their backs, walking down from the Shiva Puri national forest. Now, the government is bringing truckloads of trees from the southern forests up to Kathmandu and selling pieces for 15 rps/kg. Their first delivery was yesterday and the headline in the city’s newspaper reads: “Kathmandu residents queue up to buy firewood”.
I’ve also heard reports of many people taking from the wood piles at Pashupatinath Temple – a sacred Hindu site for cremations. The wood used for cremations is supplied by the government and is easily accessible at the temple. People must do what they can to keep warm and eat hot food as the winter comes and the temperatures drop.
I am leaving for Nepal myself in a week’s time, but had a wrinkle in plans when my flight into Kathmandu was cancelled during the week. Fuel restrictions in Kathmandu means airplanes cannot refuel in Kathmandu, so many of the main airlines have cancelled many flights. I was fortunate to find another flight …. a 30-hour journey from Vancouver (yikes!) which has me travelling the length and breadth of China, finally getting to Kunming – a short hop to Kathmandu. Smaller planes can get into Kathmandu from locations just a few hours away, thus avoiding the need to refuel in Kathmandu.
It will be an interesting trip for me this time. I have not been back to Nepal since the earthquakes so am a little apprehensive to see the extent of the damage for myself. And as this blockade continues with fuel, cooking fuel and food restrictions, day to day life will be a little different this time.
Update on the sale of firewood:
The Kathmandu Post says: “The government had decided to sell firewood in Kathmandu for Rs15 per kg from 8am on Sunday. Each family could buy up to 100kg wood by showing the citizenship certificate. Hotels and organisations got a maximum of 500kg wood at the rate of Rs17 per kg. TCN depots ran out of stock by 11am on Sunday, forcing desperate people, including 350 who had already received coupons, to return empty-handed.”
Read the full article here.
An interesting point made by another friend: “The 4 million who are stateless have no access to this wood. They are stateless because they are either Tibetan refugees or descendants of Tibetan refugees, or they are from the Madhes who are descendants of an Indian father, grandfather or great grandfather.”