Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
Timber to Tibet



ALL PICS: SAM COWAN
DEAD-END: The asphalt road on the Chinese side stops abruptly at the Humla Karnali river which marks the border near Hilsa.
Yaks, dzos, mules carrying pine logs struggle up the last pass before the trail descends to the border checkpost at Hilsa. Dozens of timber convoys can be seen every day along Humla's dusty trails, all heading into Tibet carrying freshly sawn logs that will be bartered for food.

The timber feeds the construction boom across the border, a result of rising income and investment in China. But Tibet is too dry for trees, so the demand for timber is being met by the supply of pine forests on the Nepal side in Humla, where villagers face a chronic food shortage.

The problem is that trees in these high montane woodlands take much longer to grow back because of the altitude. Forests cleared during the Khampa war of the 1960s still haven't regenerated.

The Nepalis sell timber in Shera to Chinese middlemen who bargain hard. They bring back mainly food, clothes and also cheap Chinese beer and alcohol. The yak trains follow the new road, that Humla's DDC tried to build, from the border settlement of Hilsa to the district capital in Simkot. But Kathmandu was never really interested, and money ran out. Landslides and avalanches have taken out whole sections of the road.

However, an asphalt road now winds down from Taklakot right up to Shera, which is on the Chinese side of the Humla Karnali opposite from Hilsa. The contrast between the smooth black tarmac on the Chinese side and the dusty mule track in Nepal is stark.

The Humla highway, when linked to the Chinese road from Taklakot, was supposed to make it easier for essential items like food, fuel and building material to be brought in more cheaply to Nepal's most remote district. But given the pace at which the forests here are being destroyed, it may be just as well that the road was never finished because instead of yak-loads of timber, there would be truckloads going across.

Sam Cowan in Humla

CARAVAN: Shera is seen at the bottom of the valley as the yak convoy comes over the last pass .

Yaks heading up towards the Nara La in Nepal towards the Tibet border.

See also:
'Nepal timber to Tibet', #17
'Don't kill the Karnali with your aid', by Jivan Bahadur Shahi #260



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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