The blockade continues

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”.

A happy Kathmandu resident with his stash of wood

A happy Kathmandu resident with his stash of wood.  Photo credit Kathmandu Post.

Locals patiently line up to buy wood, under the watchful eye of a member of the Nepalese Army

Locals patiently line up to buy wood, under the watchful eye of a member of the Nepalese Army.  Photo credit Kathmandu Post.

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.

Woman assessing the stockpile of wood at Pashupatinath Temple.

Woman assessing the stockpile of wood at Pashupatinath Temple.  Photo credit People’s Daily, China

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.”

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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2 Responses to The blockade continues

  1. Grace Coffey says:

    Looking forward to intermittent blog updates Kate! Safe Journey! gx

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