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Look east

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009
100 YEAR PLAN: Homnath Adhikari of Namsaling in Ilam at a pilot waste-water treatment plant that he helped set up.

100 YEAR PLAN: Homnath Adhikari of Namsaling in Ilam at a pilot waste-water treatment plant that he helped set up.

While the rest of the country is a political cesspool, Ilam shows visitors that the Nepali word ‘eelum’ must stem from the inherent industriousness of its inhabitants. Bhupi Sherchan noted this long ago when he visited the district, hence the famous verse: Nepal bhari ali ali Ilam chharna man lagyo…I want to sprinkle a little Ilam across Nepal.

Indeed, if Kathmandu had the same commitment to waste disposal and water treatment as Ilam’s municipalities, the Bagmati would not be the sewer it is. If the national power utility was as efficient as Ilam’s community micro-hydro network, there would be no load-shedding. If the rest of the country showed the same management skills as Ilam’s farmers, who have made Nepal the world’s biggest exporter of cardamom, there would no national food deficit.

Ilam is blessed with fertile soil, copious rainfall, and a temperate climate but that is not why it is the most developed district in Nepal. Proximity to Darjeeling and a traditional emphasis on education have given Ilam one of the highest literacy rates in Nepal, and there is a work ethic that takes the visitor by surprise.

“If you think about it, I would say quality education has been the single most important factor in Ilam’s development,” explains Homnath Adhikari, director of the Namsaling Community Development Centre (NCDC). Adhikari says inspiration to do something for rural upliftment came when he was a primary school teacher in Namsaling 30 years ago. “There was a Peace Corps volunteer who got us together and told us to plan for where we wanted Ilam to be in a hundred years time,” Adhikari recalls, “and that got us thinking about what kind of Nepal we wanted for our great-grandchildren.”

That Peace Corps volunteer was Barry Bialek, who is now a physician in Boulder, Colorado. He heads Engineers Without Borders, which collaborates with NCDC in Ilam on a waste treatment plant, safe drinking water, telemedicine, latrine building, and projects to improve farm productivity.

NCDC is also involved in biodiversity conservation and the revival of community forestry along the border with India, where there has been serious denudation because of poaching from across the border. It has even installed a giant fog collector in Danda Bajar to augment drinking water supply.

Says Adhikari: “You could say Ilam is a model for other districts in Nepal, and although we are an NGO we work very closely with the district development committee. Our job is to complement the government’s own efforts, fill the gaps, and build the government’s capacity.” Indeed, district development committee officials and NGOs from Dolakha and Myagdi are trying to replicate Ilam’s experience.

Another Ilam NGO is the Mahila Jagaran Sangh that works with 9,000 women in a microcredit scheme that generates income for families. The group’s ‘Khutruke’ program now has Rs 30 million in savings and lends to women for small enterprises and dairy and tourism projects while also investing in community micro-hydro.

NCDC’s partners include Norway’s Development Fund, ICIMOD, WWF, UNDP and SNV. NCDC with the Alternative Energy Promotion Program (AEPC) has installed more than 220 kilowatts of subsidised small hydro-projects. This has earned Ilam the moniker of ‘Peltric district’. The power supplied to 203 households saves Ilam Rs 700,000 worth of diesel and kerosene per year and has brought down the cost of milling rice, reduced indoor pollution and increased income, by allowing villagers to work at night. And, unlike Kathmandu where the current four hours of power cuts are only a taste of what is to come, Ilam’s villages have power all the time.

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14 Responses to “Look east”

  1. Tweets that mention East West | Travel Blog by Kunda Dixit | Nepali Times | » Blog Archive » Look east -- on Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bhupendra Gurung, Nepali Times. Nepali Times said: Look east: While the rest of the country is a political cesspool, Ilam shows visitors that the Nepali word ‘eel.. […]

  2. May on Says:

    What a heart-warming story, and what a contrast to the depressing news of destruction, greed and selfishness that make the national headlines. Thanks, Kundan Dixit.

  3. arty on Says:

    Wow. There really are two Nepals: the political one and reality. The latter one can be so much more uplifting.

  4. Ujjwal Acharya on Says:

    Reading such stories gives hopes in otherwise hopeless-looking scenario!

  5. sailesh thapa on Says:

    I had recently toured a waste management site here at Pennsylvania. What i found out was that the raw material supplied through recycling of the waste material would cut manufacturing cost largely for the new product. As for instance, the recycled steel would cut the manufacturing cost of a car by about 70%. In the same context, I assume recycling industry if operated in nepal would be very efficient and profitable. on the top of it we are already fed up by the such large dump of garbage in our cities. And if those could be turned into money making things rather than disposed off into dumping site, then it would be an wonderful thing. And recently I read an article about a rag to riches of a Nepali man who had made a huge fortune through such business. That was really inspiring. I have been here for almost 3 years. And beside all such political turmoil, things are turning out goods in our country. And such warm and wonderful inspirational story really makes me go back to my homeland and do something on my own.
    love motherland
    with best regards

  6. Kunda Dixit on Says:

    Oops. I have just been told the etymology of the word “eelum”. Comes from the Farsi “Ilm” which means “knowledge” or “education”, but in Nepali it has come to mean “talent” or “skill”. Somehow “industriousness” seems a better fit to describe “eelum” in “Ilam”!

  7. on Says:

    It was a pleasant surprise to know that something like this existed in Nepal. Thank you for bringing it up and allowing us a much needed respite.

  8. LaliGurash on Says:

    Impressively great to learn about such example, which, I hope will definetly give a hope to every Nepali, that we can be self independent. Ellam has set an example. Can we work together for any such cause for our motherland? I ask question to you all
Right leadership and a strong determination will definetly lead us to our goal of a prosporus NEPAL.
    I am overwhelm to know that atleast there is something which is still not affected by a self-centered and egoistic politics and people are working for the community which we expect from our “Political Leaders”. Can we come together!!!

  9. Ganesh Limbu on Says:

    The first time in many years that I’ve read something positive about Nepal. The peoples’ energy should be channeled towards eradicating corruption, poverty and illiteracy through ‘true’ governance. Nepal’s youths have been led astray by a false sense of hope by dodgy politicians.

  10. syangjali on Says:

    Take Ilam off of WWF, UNDP’s hooks and you’ll see much progress at a greater speed! These suckers don’t have much to contribute except for increasing dependency!!

  11. Devendra Pant on Says:

    Great example. Let’s hope that the Illam model could be replicated elsewhere in Nepal. Lessons learned– the local initiative is the driving force for bringing in transformation!

  12. Green Ilam Gets Greener - CLIMATE HIMALAYA on Says:

    […] also: Rest of the country has lot to learn from Ilam, KUNDA […]

  13. Joker Boyz on Says:

    Anyone can feel such improvents on ilam by visiting once. It doesn’t mean to have higher hope about such progress but there is certain lessons have done that can impress everyone. Though Ilam is not develop as much as cities like dharan it tries to keep such strengthen. “elum” this word is enough to describe Ilam. If Ilam would have budget some more than yet it will be the model developed district. Without any huge project has been implemented there, almost all villages are connected to road. If electricity contribution will progress at current rate there will be no darkness within 2 yrs as almost 43 have light out of 48.

  14. Sandesh Dewan on Says:

    As Im a resident of Ilam but sadly had to stay at kathmandu for higher studies fo 3 years and futher 4 years abroad, I was wondering hows my home town Ilam as I was away for such a long time. I could only read and hear the news about the different development projects that were carried out through governmental or from the certain organisations based on the local investments. As I went to my home town and my grandfathers home village after 7 years time I could see the difference then and now in a positive prospects. I could feel that! Thank you for the people and associated orgs who are directly or indirectly helped the district to be here and I would like you; the people of Ilam to keep it going.

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