Nepal: “One of the most difficult parts of covering this story is just getting there.”

June 11, 2017

KATHMANDU, NEPAL — I have followed the story of the village of Samzong in Nepal’s Upper Mustang region since 2013. I’ve visited the area four times. One of the most difficult parts of covering this story is just getting there.

The journey is long and difficult. It can take three or four days. Transportation is inconvenient. The roads are rocky and steep — quite dangerous. In some places there’s no road at all, and drivers take to a riverbed.

I have been cramped inside a loading truck, hurtling from side to side for eight hours. I sat on the edge of a tractor, grasping the roof for eleven hours straight as cold wind and dust blew all over.

I have hiked steep mountain paths and raced horses over uncomfortable terrain.

I’ve done all of this to reach the village of Samzong.

This place, where 18 families live, is so different from where I call home. There are no roads, no vehicles, no shops, no restaurants and no factories. Yet Samzong is affected by climate change.

The village relocated to a new place because their water source dried up, and they weren’t able to grow food. But they didn’t know why it had dried up. They don’t know much, in academic terms, about climate change.

Villagers dig an irrigation channel to bring water from the Kali Gandaki river to their field in Namashung, in Nepal’s Upper Mustang region. The villagers moved to Namashung after a water shortage in Samzong, where their community had lived for generations. Shilu Manandhar, GPJ Nepal

It was sad to see the impact climate change has had on this small village. It seems unfair that they had to leave Samzong, a place they’d called home for generations.

But I was pleasantly surprised when I visited their new village 8 kilometers (about 5 miles) to the southwest. Eighteen houses stood proudly on once-empty land. The entire village prepared to sow seeds after a successful harvest from new fields.

The decision to move must have been very difficult. One source said they needed food to survive, so although they loved their land and their homes, they were forced to leave.

And they survived. They worked as a community to build their houses and fields. There is much more work to be done and they have not fully moved, but they are getting there slowly but surely.

One source, Pasang Tshering Gurung, told me, “There is enough water and the harvest is good. Now we don’t have to move.”

And I really do hope that they don’t have to move anymore.

 

Shilu Manandhar, GPJ, translated one quote from Nepali.