Friday, February 20, 2015

Dolakha, Nepal

It's been a busy few weeks! I had the opportunity to travel to Dolakha District, just a 5 hour drive from Kathmandu, to visit some communities that are implementing sanitation programs. They are using a method based off the Community Led Total Sanitation approach (CLTS), and the government of Nepal is pushing for total sanitation coverage; that means every household has a latrine. We visited several villages and spoke with the Village Health Committees, discussed challenges and successes, and how they can push their communities towards coverage (and use!).

Terraced hillsides covered with mustard, waiting for the rainy season planting
A public latrine. Clean, managed well, but no soap
A billboard discussing the implications of open defecation in the community and promoting latrine construction
Dustbins placed around the village by schoolchildren
The door of a household latrine. What does that say above the handle?
Best of Pluck! (Good luck in there, or does it mean that you, the Plucked One, are the Best?)
We had taken the road north out of Kathmandu towards Tibet. I didn't realize it until I noticed different license plates passing me, but the driver informed us that we were just 8km from the border. We took a right and headed east up the hillside, looking over at the snow-capped mountains of Tibet. Later, when we were leaving, the driver asked if we wanted to drive up to the border. It was 3:00 on a Sunday, and we still had to get back to Kathmandu. Maybe another time I'll visit.

The mountains in Tibet, just 8 km away
A view from the office, looking north towards Tibet
 As we drove back, we crossed the Sunkoshi River. In August 2014, a massive landslide that buried a village and blocked the river for days. Even now, the land is a moonscape, with gray-ash colored rocks littering the valley. Scores of people we pulling over to look at the damage. Houses stood half-drowned in the lake that has formed from the flooded river. A water live was visible some 20 feet about the current lake level.

The tail of the landslide and the lake that has formed as a result of the Sunkoshi River blockage
View (from the car) of the new road, over the landslide
The landslide that buried a village and blocked the Sunkoshi River for days
It was difficult to capture the sheer size of the landslide in photos. It was even difficult to grasp how large it was, even with the bus-sized boulders strewn about. As I looked at the scar in the earth, I noticed, half-way up, a bus, sitting next to a house.

Circled are a bus and house - just to show the sheer scale of the slide
Zoomed in, you can see the bus and house, tiny when compared to the slide
The drive back down the valley was quiet, but we stopped to take a few photos, buy some cheap Chinese goods, and eat some fresh fruit (not to mention breath some fresh air before heading back to Kathmandu.

The Sunkoshi (Gold River), downstream of the landslide

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