Nepali Times

Google Everest

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

google everest2

Google Earth has launched a new platform to inspire young people about the world’s highest mountain to coincide with the second anniversary of the Nepal earthquake as well as the spring climbing season in the Himalaya.

The new version of Google Earth will have a streamlined user interface and introduce a new feature called Voyager which will feature a collection of map-based stories from around the world that will be updated weekly.

It features interesting stories from Nepal on the World Most Dramatic Mountain category and showcases works on mountains including Everest and AmaDablam

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The highlight of the feature called This is Home is a preview of the Home of Kancha Sherpa, the last living member of the 1953 expedition in which  Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to scale Mt Everest . Sherpa recounts his experiences from the expedition and shows us around his house.

Google Earth Outreach has partnered with StoryCycle and the Apa Sherpa Foundation to help locals in the Everest region digitally represent their areas on Google Maps.

Apa Sherpa , a 21-time Mount Everest climber and chairperson of Apa Sherpa Foundation, said: “The Khumbu is famous for being home to Everest, but it’s also the home of the

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Sherpa community. I hope people viewing the images online will develop a deeper understanding of the region and of the people who live there.”

Saurav Dhakal, founder and curator of StoryCycle said: “Google Earth is an very interesting educational tool for everyone to understand the world. The Home Project could give different understanding about Nepal and Khumbu region.”

The new app will be available on the web via Chrome browser at and a native Android app available via the Google Play store. It will also soon be available oniOS. Previously, Google Earth was available on desktop and mobile (Android, iOS).

Story Cycle

Kathmandu candidates

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

From the Nepali press

Bhasha Sharma in  19 April

Mayor1Nepal’s two latest political parties are the first ones to announce mayoral candidates in Kathmandu.

At a time when the NC, UML and other established parties look undecided over their candidates, journalist-turned-politician Rabindra Mishra’s Sajha Party and the youth-based Bibeksheel Nepali – both of which have never fought elections – have chosen two unconventional politicians: former secretary Kishor Thapa and 21-year-old student Ranju Darshana.

Thapa of the Sajha Party was an SLC topper, studied architect engineering and served as a top bureaucrat for 22 years. If elected, he says he will expand roads in Kathmandu, expedite the Melamchi and Outer Ring Road projects and introduce a 20-year energy development plan.

Thapa argues Kathmandu needs a political leader with administrative and technical know-how, and claims to be one. “I am familiar with each alley of Kathmandu,” he says. “As a bureaucrat I worked to develop Kathmandu as a bureaucrat. Now I want to lead the city politically.”

Ranju Darshana, Bibeksheel Nepali’s candidate, has none of the experience that Thapa boasts of. But she has emerged as a feisty youth politician after joining Bibeksheel Nepali three years ago.

Darshana was born the year the Maoist war began, and was just one-year-old when Nepal last held local elections in 1997. Raised by her single mother in Kathmandu, she says she suffered the mess created by bad politicians and joined politics to clean that up.

“If elected, I will work to make Kathmandu greener, pedestrian-friendly and a place where everyone can work and live peacefully,” says Darshana, a bachelor level student of development studies.

President Bhandari in New Delhi

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017
President of India Pranab Mukharjee and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives President Bidya Devi Bhandari at the Rastrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on Tuesday

President of India Pranab Mukharjee and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives President Bidya Devi Bhandari at the Rastrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on Tuesday

President Bidya Bhandari, who is on a week-long state visit to India, received a guard of honour in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Bhandari was received by her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi. Also present in the ceremony was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Bhandari, flanked by Mukherjee and Modi, told journalists that her visit would help strengthen Nepal-India ties.

Although Bhandari is a ceremonial head of state, analysts say Indian leaders will use her visit to send a message to Nepali leaders, ex-Prime Minister KP Oli, at a time when the Himalayan republic is preparing for first local polls in two decades despite opposition by Madhesi parties.

Bhandari’s previously-scheduled India visit was cancelled by the Oli government, which was preparing to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping in Kathmandu last year.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who ousted Oli and became Prime Minister himself, instead welcomed Indian President Mukherjee, and rescheduled Bhandari’s visit to New Delhi.

President Bhandari left for New Delhi on Monday and returning home on Friday.



Warwick Deacock, 1926 – 2017

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Lisa Choegyal

warwick deacock

Warwick Deacock,1926 – 2017 Pic: Colin Monteath/Hedgehog

Major Warwick Deacock’s erect bearing and bronzed craggy features evoke his British military background, his crooked nose that of a former sportsman. Striding into my Kathmandu office with his wife Antonia in his wake, Warwick’s thick steel grey hair is swept back with comb marks visible, his safari shirt immaculately rumpled.

“We have run away from home, Lisa,” he declares in a booming Anglo-Aussie twang, his bright eyes creasing in the corners. “Antonia and I want to do our own thing and will walk the length of Nepal at our leisure, no set itinerary, we will follow our noses, away from the guidebook trails for as many months as it takes.” Antonia appears just as strong, but smiles resiliently. “As long as it takes,” she echoes.

It is typical of Warwick that he and the intrepid Antonia consider a major traverse of the Himalaya is the sort of activity to celebrate escape from the office. It is 1988 and the Great Himalaya Trail is yet to be conceived. In fact their trip took eight months of “mountain travelling” as he called it, five in Nepal and three in India. Periodically they reappeared to restock and resupply, never looking bedraggled or even much worn, then off again with glee for the next uncharted section.

The grand old man of Australian adventure tourism is ebullient, pithy and passionate, his words famously difficult to follow – I struggle to stay focussed as he rambles on, his conversation meandering through a range of zany tales and obscure memories. But there is no doubt that Warwick is the real thing. A soldier, sailor, mountaineer, adventurer, conservationist and visionary, he is credited with wild adventures from India and Pakistan, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, to Alaska and the Antarctic, and counts Bill Tilman and Ed Hillary amongst his pals.

And Antonia keeps up with him, relishing their reputation as a formidable couple. An architect from South Africa and newly married, she was one of three housewives in 1958 to drive across Europe to India then walk to Zanskar, having charmed Prime Minister Nehru into giving them special permission to cross the mystic ‘Inner Line’.

Together they made a business out of what they both liked doing best, daring to be different. Warwick introduced Outward Bound and Duke of Edinburgh Awards to Australia where they migrated from the UK in 1959, following a British Army and SAS career. In 1965 Ausventure became the world’s first adventure travel agency, putting together groups of Australians and New Zealanders for the world’s first trek operator, Colonel Jimmy Roberts who had established Mountain Travel Nepal in 1964.

As Warwick put it: ‘We all owe much to the dream that Jimmy Roberts had. We were both very lucky to be present when a good idea arrived.’ A year later Leo Le Bon founded Mountain Travel USA in California, and throughout the 1970s Warwick and Leo provided Jimmy with most of his business.

Warwick wrote: ‘We worked together very well over the years and I admired and respected Jimmy’s respect in turn for the people of Nepal and the Sherpas in particular, coupling this with an honesty that was refreshing in terms of honoring our duties to clients.’ The first commercial trip to Nepal from Australia was a 25-day Dolalghat to Everest Base Camp trek in December 1967 for a group of four women and two men.

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Ausventure prospered, offering desert camel safaris, extreme skiing, river descents and Tasmanian rambles in addition to Himalayan trekking and climbing. With a young family to support, Antonia had given him five years to make a success of the enterprise, but he was solvent after four. Ausventure arranged the first Australian commercial mountaineering expedition to Mulkila, Lahul in 1975, and the first Everest clean up trek in 1977 to highlight environmental threats, even back then.

Warwick led over 100 treks and expeditions worldwide. “Ask my knees,” he joked. But the Himalaya remained central to the Deacocks, sponsoring students, organising volunteers and serving as Nepal Honorary Consul General to Australia. Their son Nick married Beant, a colleague from Mountain Travel India’s Delhi office, further consolidating the family South Asian connection.

A couple of years ago in his late 80s, Warwick visited Kathmandu and the Khumbu for the last time, arranged by his kids Kate and Nick but now ‘mountain travelling’ alone as Antonia had died in 2012. Warwick was looked after by two of their protégées Sonam and Lakpa, sons of late Dawa Norbu Sherpa an original Mountain Travel stalwart.

With Warwick and Peter Hillary, I attended the ribbon-cutting inauguration of Lukla drinking water improvements organised by Lakpa with local communities and funding from the Himalayan Trust. It was a fine clear day and Peter was called on to extinguish a blaze with the new fire hose as part of the water supply demonstration, an entertaining diversion for the village. Warwick was in fine form, slightly thinner on top but as dapper and incomprehensible as ever, full of enthusiasm for the mountains, his Nepali friends and relived memories.

Seeking to make the visit of this aged giant of Nepal trekking a bit more comfortable, I had arranged with the Australian Embassy that he use the VIP facilities and a wheelchair on arrival. His flight landed, the Embassy staff were briefed and in place, but Warwick failed to emerge as the anxious Sherpas waited outside at the crowded airport curb. Eventually Warwick was wheeled through the normal channel, undaunted and grinning. He had presented himself at the VIP lounge, only to be told that Warwick Deacock had already arrived and been received – just the kind of mix up he relished.

For those of us who knew him, there will only be one Warwick Deacock – the one who lived life to the full and left a footprint in Nepal. Warwick died peacefully on 3 April 2017 aged 90, following a stroke and surrounded by family. Farewell.

Philim 2 years later

Monday, April 17th, 2017


Dara Punjal Lama, (second from right) with his family in Tsum Valley from where he has to walk two days to his school in Philim several times a year across dangerous trails damaged by landslides.

Dara Punjal Lama, (second from right) with his family in Tsum Valley from where he has to walk two days to his school in Philim several times a year across dangerous trails damaged by landslides

Peter Reid

Dara Punjal Lama is 14, and lives in the remote northern end of Tsum Valley behind Ganesh Himal close to the Chinese border. Since there are no schools in this spectacularly scenic and sacred valley, he has to attend school two days walk away in Philim.

The trek used to be treacherous even at the best of times, but after the April 2015 earthquake Dara and two other boys risks their lives several times a year walking along steep paths etched out of mountains mauled by landslides and rockfalls by the earthquake.

Landslide along the route from Tsum Valley to Philim

Landslide along the route from Tsum Valley to Philim

Now in Grade 6, Dara’s family cannot afford private school fees in the city so he goes to the Buddha Middle School in Philim. Luckily, unlike other government schools in the region, the school has good infrastructure and teachers.

It was designed by the Japanese group Asian Architecture Friendship (AAF) which won Best Stone Building in the World in 2009 from the Marmomacc  International Stone Architecture Award.

The most dangerous part of the Manaslu trail which was swept away in landslides after the earthquake two years ago

The most dangerous part of the Manaslu trail which was swept away in landslides after the earthquake two years ago

The unique design with its circular stone dining-hall and the classrooms survived the 2015 earthquake and were back in use soon after. But three of the five dormitories were damaged, and the students had to sleep in large UNICEF tents in the school yard for the past two years.

The Buddha Middle School in Philim built in 2006 by a Japanese group which won an international award for architecture design for stone buildings

The Buddha Middle School in Philim built in 2006 by a Japanese group which won an international award for architecture design for stone buildings

A fortuitous meeting between Marian Hodgkin of UNICEF and Lava Deo Awasti then at the Ministry of Education in 2015 led to support from Rotary International to upgrade the school. Peter Reid, a VSO volunteer, who happened to be in the meeting returned to the UK persuaded his Rotary Club to raise funds to help the school.

Once a month a local Nepali restaurant in Plymouth puts on a fund-raising meal for friends of Nepal and gives half of the money it raises to help the Philim school and some of the students like Dara. Rotary International has a scheme to donate matching funds, and Philim could benefit from a $64,000 grant.


Children at morning assembly at the Buddha School, of the 400 students 140 are boarders, whose hostels were damaged in the earthquake. For the past two years they have slept in the white tents in the background

At that time the trails to northern Gorkha were still blocked by landslides and the school was being supplied by UN helicopters. The money donated so far has been used for furniture, equipment, fixtures and plumbing, and Japan’s AAF have stepped in again to rebuild the damaged structure. Philim’s townspeople are playing a major part in the reconstruction. The school has 15 teachers and 400 students, 140 of them staying in five dorms since they live too far.

The unique circular design of the school dining hall

The unique circular design of the school dining hall

The money donated has been used for computers and training for all teachers through Open Learning Exchange, Nepal. A British primary school teacher trainer will visit for three months a year to work alongside teachers in seven feeder primary schools.

Two decks of beds in the girls’ dormitory.

Two decks of beds in the girls’ dormitory.

Medical doctor Iman Singh Gurung, who grew up in Philim and completed his PhD as a Gates Scholar at Cambridge University, has been advising rehabilitation of the school.  “The AAF is already involved in hardware, we should use the Rotary money for software,” he said.

Since the school is adjacent to the main Manaslu Trek trail, and tourist traffic is picking up after the landslide damage was repaired, the school is encouraging trekkers who stop in Philim for the night to visit the classes, interact with students and fund future expansion.


Electing women

Friday, April 14th, 2017

From the Nepali press

Deepak Gyawali in Himal Khabarpatrika, 9-15 April 2017

When local elections were last held in Nepal nearly two decades ago, only 20 per cent of those elected were women. This time, the percentage could go as high as 40.

Polls on 14 May will likely elect at least 13,000 women to various posts, including mayor, deputy mayor and village council chief. And at least 6,000 of them will be from the Dalit community.

“It is a big thing,” says Sarala Yadav, a former MP from Rautahat. “For Madhesi women, it is even more important.”

The Local Level Election Act 2017 requires political parties to nominate at least 50 per cent women for major posts. For example, if a party fields a male candidate for mayor, it must nominate a woman for deputy mayor. But it does not mean that if a female is nominated for mayor, another female cannot be fielded for deputy mayor. The Act has also made it mandatory for parties to nominate at least one Dalit woman for municipal and village ward committees.

So when 36,644 representatives of the people are elected next month, at least 13,300 (36.2 per cent) of them could be women. Considering the possibility that women can also be elected through non-reserved quotas, the percentage of women on local government councils may go up to 40, or even higher.

A recent report by the Asian Development Bank puts Nepal at the top among Asian countries in terms of women’s political representation. The latest report by the International Parliament Union ranks Nepal 48th globally for women’s participation in Parliament.

Nepal’s Parliament is now 29 per cent women while the public service is 35 per cent. Local elections could set another milestone in women’s political representation.

There is still no guarantee, though. For example, a municipality could have men as both mayor and deputy mayor. This would happen if people elect a man from one party as mayor and another man from another party as deputy mayor.

Political parties often face charges that they field women candidates only in those constituencies where they are not favourites to win. So women rights activists say parties must be honest when they field candidates for local elections.

“This is an opportunity that should not be squandered,” says Nirmala Sharma of Sancharika Samuha, an association of women journalists.

New bill blasted

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Madhesi parties have rejected the new constitution amendment bill introduced by the government.

A meeting of the Madhesi Front, an alliance of seven Tarai-centric parties, also decided on Wednesday to boycott local elections slated for 14 May.

The bill was registered in the Parliament secretariat by the ruling coalition on Tuesday.

The Front dubbed the new bill ‘more regressive’ than the previous one, which was withdrawn from the House on Tuesday itself.

The Federal Alliance, which is protesting alongside the Front, will decide later today whether to accept the new proposal. It too is likely to reject it.

The new bill proposes a permanent high-level commission to redraw federal boundaries, and amends constitutional provisions on language and citizenship.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has claimed that the new bill was introduced after consultations with Madhesi parties and the main opposition UML. But neither side has endorsed the bill.

Madhesi parties have welcomed the proposal to form a federal commission but have slammed the government for withdrawing the previous bill without having provincial boundaries readjusted.

The UML has welcomed withdrawal of the previous bill, which redrew federal boundaries. But it has not supported the new one, and instead urges the government to now focus on local level elections.

With Madhesi parties rejecting even the new bill, their participation in local elections remains unlikely.