21-27 June 2013 #661

Taking the lead

Anil Chitrakar’s book infuses hope into Nepal's cynical and negative public sphere
Tsering Dolker Gurung

It’s 2020. Nepal is at peace, there is economic stability, corruption is at an all time low, and the country has made great progress in reducing its carbon footprint. This is the naya Nepal that Anil Chitrakar projects in his debut book Take the lead: Nepal’s future has begun. Quixotic, yes, but the engineer says it is possible.

“People who talk negatively about Nepal usually don’t understand the country and are merely watching from the sidelines,” explains the 52-year-old social entrepreneur and energy planner. “If we make the right decisions like South Korea and Singapore in the 60s, these goals can be achieved.”

The author’s in-depth understanding of Nepal’s political, economic, and environmental landscape is reflected in the compelling anecdotes, commentaries, and reflections on history that make up Take the lead. Tired of the growing cynicism and negativity among fellow Nepalis, Chitrakar hopes that perhaps a few will have a change of heart after finishing the book.

Released three weeks ago, sales have picked up rapidly through word of mouth and schools and organisations are recommending the book as a quick guide to understanding the country’s current state of affairs. The author now wishes to see Take the lead included in school and university curriculum too. Chitrakar tells us he always wanted to write, but it took a young entrepreneur to convince him to take the plunge and once he started, he simply couldn’t stop. A meticulous note taker, he was able to complete the book in just six months.

Growing up near Hanuman Dhoka in a family of artisans, Chitrakar was fascinated by machines from a young age and spent hours trying to fix old alarm clocks and other gadgets. After earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Rajasthan, the math whiz moved to the US to study energy planning at the University of Pennsylvania. “I chose energy because I knew it would be the future,” he says.

Chitrakar began his career as an energy engineer at the Academy of Science and Technology, went on to head the Nepal chapter of IUCN, and even served as a member of the Kathmandu City Planning Commission. Today he works as a freelance consultant and volunteers at several non-profit organisations including the Himalayan Climate Initiative which he helped found.

He is also involved with the greater Kailash conservation area, a project which aims to promote sustainable development through regional cooperation between neighbours Nepal, India, and China. For two of his energy projects, one, to develop an off-grid telecom system and two, to convert waste into energy, Chitrakar will be visiting 72 sites.

His work in developing sustainable alternative energy in rural Nepal and heritage conservation earned him the Rolex award which recognises promising social entrepreneurs, the Silicon Valley Tech award. He also won a global development market place award for his efforts to promote the use of solar tuki throughout Nepal. In 1993 Chitrakar was named one of the 100 ‘global leaders for tomorrow’ at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

“I could be working at a place like World Bank, but I chose a different path because I wanted to help bring a change,” says the writer who has been a part of several social campaigns. When asked if he sees a future in politics, he replies candidly, “Mainstream politics comes with a lot of baggage. I prefer doing my own work and helping out in whatever little way I can.”

Take the lead: Nepal’s future has begun

Anil Chitrakar

Kathalaya Publication

Rs 299

112 pages

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