It’s a cloud … It’s a fog … It’s the smog!
Wake up, rise and shine but just after a heavy rain. Pollution in Nepal is a common and massive issue. A beautiful blue sky is a rare exception to the foggy and dusty every day reality of Kathmandu valley. Shockingly, this pollution has spread beyond the big cities and even affects the rural areas of Nepal. Brick and cement factories, ongoing construction works, climate conditions and lack of concrete roads as well as the big number of archaic cars and motorbikes make it difficult to breathe in the majority of the country. However, things are changing, especially after the April 2015 earthquake. Alas, many brick factories change their out-of-date technology and invest in new eco-friendly and innovative solutions. Nevertheless, some of the world heritage sites are in danger. Lumbini, one of the most polluted cities and a birthplace of Buddha (173 micrograms per cubic meter of pollutants, while WHO sets the safe limit on 25 micrograms) faces difficulties to preserve its monuments from pollution based degradation.
For the first week an excited group of 6 EVS Charger volunteers, coming in pairs from Spain, France and Poland, had to face this smoggy difficulty as well as get into the rhythm of project preparation. So supplied with facemasks, tissues and eye drops we started our work. Among many, many Nepali language classes we’ve learned a just a bit about Nepali culture and the specifics of each ongoing assignment. Employees from our host organization held introductory lectures on the possible activities that can be set for Children Development, Women’s Empowerment and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) development projects.
I, eagerly and willingly, had been allocated to the WASH project that focuses on issues in the Okhaldhunga district situated in the northeastern part of Nepal. I wasn’t sure what kind of activities my group was supposed to conduct but I was excited to be a part of this international program. Later, it turned out that we were free to design our own sub-project and were exposed to the Nepali way of management that overlooked many – from a European point of view – important issues.
Nonetheless, before the exciting but shocking 12-hour jeep drive to our placement we found some time to see several cultural sites of Kathmandu. Few strolls around the city, especially Thamel, a trip to the Monkey Temple and the Boudhanath – one of the largest spherical stupa in Nepal – together with numerous visits to local restaurants helped us to better understand Nepal and its diversity. Worried about the upcoming rural Nepali diet, the whole group of volunteers deliberately skipped the pleasure of ordering Dal Bhat Tarkari, the Nepali traditional dish. Instead of this race and lentils based delicacy we kept on enjoying mo:mo, pasta and burgers. Although, now after almost 3 months in the village I do like Dal Bhat Tarkari, there are days when I am craving for some greasy and fat slice of well-done pizza.