Nepali Times
Life Times
The kingdom within the republic



The kingdom of Mustang has historically been a vital trade conduit between India and Tibet. The links carry on to this day.

Tsering is a monk from Lo Manthang who received his education in India. He returned to his home after 20 years to serve as a monastery keeper, and what he saw shocked him. His home town had seen a dramatic transformation.
"The conditions here are improving. They are building a road. It'll be completed in three years," he says. The pony trail carved over the ages is now being replaced with a motorable road connecting Nepal to China. Soon, the porters and pony handlers will be out of jobs.

Lo Manthang is already connected to China by road, and will soon have an all-weather road south to Jomsom. While most locals are happy with greater accessibility, some are worried that it will affect income from trekking tourism.

"We are worried that trekkers will no longer have the desire to come here," says Lo Manthang lodge-owner Tserwang.
The arid and rugged landscape of Mustang has shaped the people, and the people have shaped the landscape. This has defined the trans-Himalayan Mustangi way of life, which is the region's unique attraction for tourists.

The road will transform daily life in Mustang, for better or for worse. One youth group leader is ambivalent, "We like the road, it will make life easier but it will also bring bad influences."

Already locals are worried about plastic litter from cheap Chinese products, and people are switching from healthy local produce to imported processed foods. Most Nepali products are more expensive than Chinese ones. On the other hand, those who made a living from tourism, like porters, will not have an income.

The noise and pollution from trucks and jeeps will not only eliminate jobs but also soil the purity of Mustang's environment. Three-fourths of people here migrate down to Pokhara and Kathmandu in the harsh winter months.

The youth club leader makes the migration every year, and every year he returns. "I grew up here, I don't miss the noise and pollution in Kathmandu," he says, "now the noise and pollution have come here and they endanger Mustang's soul. We will become a Thamel."

Upper Mustang has a cap on tourists it allows beyond its borders to the region from turning into an over-commercialised destination. A maximum of 2,000 tourists permits are distributed per year. It is unclear how this will work when the road becomes fully operational.

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1. Daniel J Meisel

Ah, so called progress!  A double edged sword, as pointed out well in this article.

At least those is Mustang are aware of the issues

Best wishes to them as they try to "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative."

Great photos!

2. Karen
It's great to see such a strong English publication while visiting Nepal. I particularly enjoyed reading this article, as my husband and I have visited Mustang several times. Absolutely lovely pictures! They sent a powerful message and captured the essence of the area at the same time. 

3. Rajesh Chaudhary
I can accord with the facts mentioned in the article. Progress and development is something that obviously everybody adores, but not at the cost of natural beauty. I think trekking is the one thing tourists are attracted to Nepal. Even if they will build the road, we all can imagine, how it will be like in 5-years down the line. As we have seen, we can't have a wonderful roads in western or developed countries which still preserves the natural beauty -- ours will only help to destroy what we already have in the name of development. 

4. Freak Nepali Traveller
The thing is that world changes according to time. America was discovered in 16 century and need to tell. 
What i want to mention is that its the Asian century and Nepal being in between India and China can not remain the same. Its developing and it will develop but what we nepali can do is preserve Lo Manthang Wall city, its cultures and history.
By the way Nice Article.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)