Monday, 31 August 2015


In Nepal the demand for electricity has far outstripped the supply, and so many areas are subjected to “load shedding” as the systematic power cuts are called.  As so much of the country is extremely hilly or mountainous, with fast flowing rivers draining through it, there is a huge untapped source of hydro-electricity that, with investment, could become available.

An access tunnel entrance at Ngadi
Further up the Marsyangdi valley from Besisahar, a large hydro-electric plant is being built by Chinese contractors, and possibly partly financed by the Chinese too. This site makes sense as the river here carries a lot of fast-flowing water, especially during the monsoon period, and can be harnessed to produce electricity.

It is a huge undertaking. Ever since I have lived here, massive transporter lorries have crawled up the valley, on the only narrow road, laden with massive components for this much needed scheme. The contractors even had to build a new bridge and a tunnel through a rock cliff, to extend the road to reach the construction site.
The improved road, photo taken out of the window of the bus!

Before, this upper part of the valley was a beautiful unspoilt start to the Annapurna Circuit trek.  Sadly unspoilt is not a word to describe it now, but there is a need to balance environmental concerns with people’s right to technological advances needing electricity.
Looking down on Ngadi and the construction from one of the schools

Two of the schools that I work with are close to this construction site, and I was visiting one of them last week.  After my work there was completed I was invited for lunch to a colleagues house in Ngadi, close to the ‘dam-side’ and I was able to look more closely at the installations.

The dam itself is huge, dividing the river into three separate flow channels.  The gates were raised at present, allowing the muddy monsoon water to surge through, but I could imagine the potential for generating electricity from this torrent.
From discussions with engineers working on the project, who I’ve spoken to whilst travelling on the buses, I understand that some river water will be diverted into a long tunnel which has been cut through the nearby hill.  This tunnel is at present the longest in Nepal. Turbines have been set into the tunnel to generate as much electricity as possible as the water passes. The water then flows back into the river lower down at Khudi.

The huge red-brick administrative building for the hydro-electric scheme, which is being built downriver at Bhulbule, looks completely out of place.  However any building of this size in this position, amongst the traditional villages, would be inappropriate, and the admin offices need to be near the dam, tunnel and turbines, so there is no alternative.

Once completed at the end of 2015, this scheme should help to supply electricity to local people, and hopefully generate income for Nepal too.

Friday, 21 August 2015


We stayed overnight at the home of one of the headteachers, after visiting his school.  His house is high up on the hill overlooking Besisahar. The following morning he showed us a small enterprise, run from his home.  Mushrooms!

A small dark room attached to the house has been transformed into a mushroom farm.  Row upon row of bowl-shaped mounds lined the floor, and from many of them a forest of fungi were sprouting.

The medium on which these fungi grow is made from rice straw, crushed into a metal bowl to make a solid mass.  Presumably the spores from the mature mushrooms spread onto the new host mounds, to later produce more fruiting bodies there.

His daughter was busy that morning picking the mature fungi, which would either be sold while fresh to neighbours or dried in the sun and sold later.

We ate mushrooms picked that morning, with the daal bhat. Mito chhaa! (Tasty)

Pheri bhetaulha!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Women at work

The position of women in this developing country is changing, but there is still a very traditional attitude to their role by many, especially men and boys.  In the villages where I work, and walking to them, I observe at first hand the lifestyle of country women and in many cases the hard grind which is their life.

In many of the rural villages, high in the hills, there is little or no employment and a high percentage of men leave their families to seek work elsewhere, sometimes as many as 50%.  This work may be in Kathmandu or the other cities of Nepal, or abroad. Many men go to the Middle Eastern countries and work on construction projects there.  A job in the army, the British Gurkhas or Indian army, is better paid than many jobs in Nepal, and so is highly prized.  The wives are left behind in the village, at their husband's family home, to look after the children and in-laws, farm the family’s land and literally hold everything together. 

Many women work incredibly hard, cooking, cleaning and caring for their family, fetching wood or fodder from the forest for the animals, cultivating crops and often trying to earn some extra money by knitting, weaving or making things in their spare time.  Sadly, this hard slog is often not appreciated or even noticed and in many cases the work of women is taken for granted and not valued by the men.  

Below is a selection of photos taken of women at work around Besisahar.
Carrying maize back from the fields

Digging and planting on one of the terraces behind my flat.

Churning milk from the family buffalo to make butter.
Winnowing to remove the dust from the rice grain.

grinding lentils by hand

I shared the back of a jeep with this woman, as she took a
heavy sack of bananas down to the nearby town to sell.

Making a mat from rice straw in one of the local villages.

Spinning cotton on a hand powered wheel
This lady weaves beautiful shawls and
scarves on a hand loom in her shop just near
my flat.

Woman soldering to mend saucepans, on a street corner in Besisahar.