Magazine article UN Chronicle

Towards a More Habitable Homeland

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Towards a More Habitable Homeland

Article excerpt

Nature is all-powerful, and we humans must ultimately abide by its laws; but this is easy to forget when living, as I do, in a society undergoing dramatic, and compelling, political transformations.

I grew up in a sleepy, quiescent Kathmandu, where on holidays my siblings and I could have picnics by the rivers, and splash about in the water, carefree.

Kathmandu's population then was a hundred thousand. Today, it is nearing three million.

The rivers are befouled, the air is laden with toxic particulates, and native plants have been replaced by exotic species, altering the ecological mix and reducing biodiversity, bringing us to the point of collapse. The suffering that this causes Kathmandu-dwellers is directly observable. Drinking water is scarce, the roads are choked by fumes, the cornucopia of traditional foods is being wiped out by monoculture farming. There is little open space in which to rest and renew the spirit. The quality of life in Kathmandu is much diminished.

Yet I would not quite exchange present-day Kathmandu for the old one, for the transformations in Nepali society in this period have been hard-won, and they are precious.

Nepal has been engaged, over the years, in an important struggle for democracy: for political rights for Nepali citizens, as well as for civil rights.

The Kathmandu that I grew up in had banned all political parties. There was stifling state censorship. Women's rights were nonexistent. Caste-based discrimination was rife, and the rights of sexual minorities and of the differently-abled were unheard of. …

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