The city takes pride in its sacred spaces. Durbar Square has the largest concentration of temples in one area … something I never saw before. These houses of prayer are stunning, and curious in the amount of materials they must have taken to be built. For instance, one of these shrines, the Kasthamandapa is said to be constructed from a single Sal tree; exquisite wood carvings adorn the doors and windows of the Jagganath Temple and the Pashupathinath Temple is a sparkle of silver and gold. In spite of seeing these temples today and reading about sacred spaces for our Society and Conservation class, I believe, religious places (not just temples) could perhaps be the best advocates for the environment … although right now they seem to be sharing the scarce resources.
Sharing resources seems to be a way of life in Kathmandu. People, police, cows, dogs and vehicles share roads. Black, tangled masses of electric wires hang down precariously from street corners, where all it needs to share this zapping field is a clip and a wire. Where available, sidewalks are shared by open air vendors
Clean air shares space with fumes from vehicles, running water shares space with religious traditions and everyday needs (as seen along temples) and trees on streets share spaces with two and four-wheelers.
In a developing country like Nepal, Spock’s, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” takes on a whole new meaning.
The needs of the few here, I believe, would be the needs of natural resources – better logging laws (and their implementation), clean air and water laws (and their implementation), more mindful disposal of trash and recycling to begin with. But in a country where natural resources take a back seat to the everyday
struggles of the many, how does one go about implementing such laws? How does one strike a balance between a meal today and a viable environment for future generations?
Conscientious citizens are trying to take baby steps towards a greener way of life. And a greener way of life is like a spoonful of medicine, which can be made palatable by adding sugar... In this case, one man, Nal Bahadur Kumal, is making an effort by collecting plastic bags and wrappers from the streets of Kathmandu and turning them into beautiful trinkets – purses, bags, bracelets, foot rests and more…
In a city that is coming to grips with itself after several political upheavals, in lives where cell phones and culture struggle to keep in stride, where North Face and Nepali goods are sold next to each other on sidewalks, where a world is trying to keep up with the rest and hold on to its identity … perhaps slowly but surely, work by people such as Kumal would spark an interest towards more heavy-duty recycling efforts without sugar-coating, perhaps environment and natural resources will also become mainstream… just as the more glamorous things … perhaps … before it’s too late.