Aamir Khan promises to restore Rancho’s school in Leh

by Padma Preetham

t didn’t come as a surprise when Aamir Khan decided to shower some compassion towards the people of Leh. Taking cue from the latest news, the philanthropic actor took the plunge to organize and donate to resurrect Druk Padma School at Shey in Leh.
Incidentally this school, which was damaged in the recent rainstorm, shot to fame after Aamir’s character Rancho a.k.a. scientist Fungsuk Wangdo in ‘3 Idiots’ was shown running the school in the movie.

Aamir interacted with the students of the school

Aamir has decided to champion a cause after seeing the school being badly damaged in the cloudburst that happened two weeks ago.

The actor, who is quite popular in Leh has a special affection for this particular school after it was featured in ‘3 Idiots’. He stated that this is not how he wanted to revisit Leh, which incidentally is in a bad condition.

“I will contribute myself and I also want the people to contribute to the PM’s Relief Fund,” added Aamir

While at the school, Aamir interacted with the students and the management of the school. Moreover, the ‘3 Idiots’ actor even managed to take stock of the things that were damaged.

Aamir wants everyone to donate for Leh

Saddened to see the devastating situation at the school, Aamir stated, “All is not well, but for the sake of humanity one should help others. One should raise the morale of others.”

Announcing exclusively to the media, Aamir stated, “One part of the country is suffering and it is our duty to help the people out.”

“One should donate whatever one can within the best of his abilities to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. The money for the rehabilitation is coming from that fund,”further added Aamir

Taking a one day long trip in Leh with the chief of the Drukpa sect of Buddhism, the 12th Gyalwang Druk Chen, Aamir thanked the media for their support in telling the people of the country about the heavy loss in Ladakh.

Since tourism is the backbone in Ladakh, Aamir also shared his beautiful moments visiting this heavenly place and summed up stating that people should visit Leh and it’s quite a safe place to come.


Cycle city (in Kathmandu, Nepal)

There is an amazingly simple solution to curbing air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley (and your weight). Ditch your motorbike and get on a bicycle. And if you think the precarious road conditions of Kathmandu won't let you, there is some good news in the offing. An enthusiastic group of youths have devoted themselves to turning the capital into a cycle-friendly city by 2020.

An ambitious goal, but the small yet swiftly increasing breed of cyclists in the city can at least look forward to breathing easier. Started a year ago by students of Kathmandu University, Rajan Kathet and Shail Shrestha, the Kathmandu Cycle City 2020 campaign is moving ahead with full force. It already has 700 active members, who use cycles as a regular means of transport.

Their plans involve building cycle lanes, promoting cycling to commute short distances, and encouraging youth participation in cycling sports. In the last year alone, they have organised cycle rallies and conducted cycle workshops to raise the profile of cycling. The campaign has also been lobbying government bodies to build cycle lanes on newly constructed roads and accommodate cycle lanes within existing road networks.

If the authorities reciprocate the campaigners' zeal, the usual spectacle of Kathmandu's infamous road traffic, which makes everyday cycling more akin to adventure sports, will hopefully take a turn for the better. Ride safe!


The age of enlightenment

The prospect of at least six more years of power cuts is making businesses, homes and offices to migrate to solar power in a big way


Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. Sure enough with the prospect of at least six more years of power cuts, businesses, homes and offices in Nepal are all migrating to solar power in a big way.

Going solar isn't going to make you more environmentally friendly in Nepal because hydroelectricity already accounts for 99 per cent of supply. But if you use diesel gensets to tide over long loadshedding hours, then it does make sense to use the abundant free energy from the sun.

Solar comes in two types: passive solar heating of water for the household, and electricity generation through photo-voltaic panels. Nepal's urban homes and trek lodges routes have been using locally built solar water heaters for 30 years now. But solar cells for electricity are becoming more popular with the price of photo-voltaics coming down.

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has set an example by installing a solar array for backup power and to charge its fleet of electric vehicles. In winter, solar energy contributes 15 per cent of the energy needed to heat the building and also powers the perimeter and parking lot lights.

Across Patan, the World Food Programme (WFP) office recently completed the first phase conversion of its entire office to solar power, even when there is electricity from the mains. "Our annual electricity bill is $20,000, and we spend $12,000 on diesel," explains WFP's Tyler McMahon. "We hope to cut the utility bills by half once the whole system is in place and will completely eliminate the diesel bill for the generator."

It's not just big international organisations that are going solar. Electronic engineer Surendra Mathema has put his technical knowledge to good use at home where he has a fully solar 200W backup for the whole house, a passive solar water heating system and even a parabolic solar dish for heating water. Mathema also uses LED lights to reduce energy consumption and CFLs wherever he can.

"The great thing about solar is that it's a one-time investment, once you set it up everything is free," he says.

The next challenge is to convince NEA to buy back power when home generators like Mathema or organisations like ICIMOD have a surplus. This 'making the meter run backward' technology would not just turn households into power supply sources, but also help reduce loadshedding on the grid. The only obstacle is to introduce the technology and set up the regulatory framework.

The time and money invested by Nepal's solar pioneers show much promise, and finally proves there may be a light at the end of the tunnel after all.

The Genchenpa Extended Scholarship Fund(GESF)

Dear Friends.

The Genchenpa Extended Scholarship Fund(GESF) was established in 2005 by the Genchenpa families and extended families here in the United States as a tribute to those in our family that have passed away. Our mission is to provide educational assistance to Tibetan children in Tibet and Tibetan refugee children in India.

For the first 4 years of the GESF project we were able to assist students at TCV School in India with their higher education. For the last year we have decided to provide assistance to Tibetan children inside Tibet, specifically those in the rural western region of Tibet. In this region of Tibet, children only have access to school till middle school. We are providing funding to aide these rural children to seek further educational opportunities in larger cities in Tibet. Currently we are working with 3 students in this region of Tibet and plan to help more.

To date the funds have been voluntarily donated directly by Genchenpa families annually. In order to make this a sustainable project we would like to involve more of the community, and have decided to start by having our first garage sale. We would like to make this project about more than what our family donates, but a community effort to improve the lives of young Tibetans.

Any sellable items or cash donations are greatly appreciated, please contact Nawang Kelsang, Coordinator of the Genchenpa Extended Scholarship Fund @ 360-213-9284 or Be assured that all of the funds from this garage sale will go directly to the students in Tibet.

Garage Sale Details:

When: June 11 & 12, 2010 – all day!
Where: 614 NE 153rd Ave, Vancouver, WA 98684
We encourage you to stop by and browse – there will be lots of treasures to be discovered.

Thank you,
Genchenpa Family


Biogas moves up

A quiet revolution in rural Nepal has made this country a world leader in alternative energy

Away from the political turmoil in the capital, a quiet revolution in rural Nepal has made this country a world leader in alternative energy.

In the past 50 years, over 205,000 households have built biogas plants to turn farm manure into methane gas for cooking and lighting. The simplicity of the Nepali-designed technology that allows bacteria already inside the cow's stomach to turn cowdung into a clean and safe gas is only half the story.

The other half is a successful government-subsidised soft credit scheme. There is almost 100 per cent payback, the effluent is excellent pathogen-free fertiliser, and the elimination of indoor pollution from kitchen fires has reduced child mortality.

The Nepali fixed-dome biogas design is cheap and maintenance free, and proved to be superior to Indian and Chinese models. After initial support from the United Mission to Nepal, the Dutch group SNV stepped in with the Biogas Support Program (BSP), and millions of farmers in nearly all districts of Nepal have benefited in the past decades.

Today, 98 per cent of the plants are still functioning, some of them nearly 30 years old. Nearly 20,000 new plants are being added every year and BSP's goal is to have a total of 500,000 plants in Nepal. The organisation won the prestigious Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy in 2005.

One of the limiting factors is that biogas doesn't work as well in the cold climate at higher elevations. But with its new pilot plants in Langtang, BSP has found a simple way to generate methane from yak dung even at higher altitudes.
Pasang Demdi Sherpa, a trekking guide, is happy with the biogas plant in his hometown. "It saves us a lot of firewood, and I wish more people would use it," he says.

What Pasang Demdi and other high-altitude biogas users have done is to pile a compost heap on top of the underground digester so that it heats and insulates the� digester from the chill of the Langtang winter.

Kyanjin Gompa, the highest settlement in Langtang Valley at 3,850m, is where no biogas plant has gone before. At first, the plant at Hotel Yala Peak just looks like a pile of rubbish, but beneath the heap of steaming compost is the underground dome digester that supplies methane to the kitchen even in winter.

"We've considered many other methods of heating the digester, from using solar heaters to building biogas plants within greenhouses, but those are very expensive solutions," explains Hari Bahadur KC, an engineer with BSP.
Heap composting to insulate digesters is a small-is-beautiful solution that needs no added cost, and the compost itself can be recycled for fertiliser. Biogas can now go to mountain regions, where replacing firewood for cooking is even more important to protect the environment.

BSP's executive director Saroj Rai is not someone who rests on his laurels. He is happy that Nepal's biogas program is an internationally acclaimed success story because of the 'ecology of support' it has from the government, banks, donors, technicians and farmers. But he wants to concentrate on making the technology even more widely available, and maintain the quality of the construction and after-sales service.

Says Rai: "Biogas is perfect energy solution for rural Nepal, and it is regarded as a model for other countries as well."
'Hurrah Nepal's future is in the dung heap', #234
'Cowdung takes the cake', #257


The technology couldn't be simpler. All you need is four cows for a four-member household, mix the cowdung with an equal amount of water, allow it to ferment in an underground digester and the carbohydrates are decomposed into flammable methane gas. The spent slurry is very good fertiliser, and the process is completely organic. The beauty of it is that the technology has no movable parts and needs very little maintenance. Larger families with fewer cows have also successfully linked their latrines to the digester.

Usually, BSP provides a Rs 12,000 subsidised credit to defray the cost of building the plants and most farmers offset that cost by the Rs 10,000 a year they save in not buying firewood and kerosene. an 8 cubic m plant usually costs between 50-100,00 rupess depending on road-access. Plants in roadless areas of Nepal cost more.


Donation to Yushu, Tibet through Machik

Earthquake Devastates Jyekundo (Yushu)
April 14, 2010 - On Tuesday, 13 April, a devastating earthquake struck in the Tibetan area of Jyekundo. The quake measured approximately 6.9 and took place at 07.49 (23.49 GMT).

Due to limited capacity on the ground, it is difficult to assess the devastation at the moment. Early reports indicate that hundreds have perished, while a local observer estimates that the number is likely above 3000. An estimated 80% of the buildings have collapsed. The water dam has been damaged and there are fears of the city being flooded.

We are deeply saddened by the tragic human loss and send our prayers for those who struggle for survival now.

Jyekundo is a Tibetan county approximately 800km southwest of the city of Xining. It is on the border of the Kham and Amdo regions. The vast majority of the local people are Tibetan herders without access to emergency relief resources.

The people of Jyekundo urgently need your immediate help for medicines, clothing, food and clean water, and in the longer term for rebuilding their community.

Machik is networked with Tibetans who have years of experience serving local community needs in the Jyekundo and surrounding areas.

East West | Travel Blog by Kunda Dixit | Nepali Times | » Blog Archive » Adventures of a battery bug

East West | Travel Blog by Kunda Dixit | Nepali Times | » Blog Archive » Adventures of a battery bug


Red Cross Launches Appeal on Mongolia (severe storms)

Written by Ch.Sumiyabazar
Tuesday, March 30, 2010.
International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) on Monday appealed CHF 1,062,295 (US$991,697) in cash, kind, or services to support the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) to assist 13,600 animal herders who have lost their entire livestock to one of the worst winters in the last three decades.

According to the Mongolian Red Cross Society, 4.5 million livestock have died so far since December 2009, nearly 10 percent of the nation’s animal population. Four human deaths were reported, mainly maternal deaths, to have occurred in snow-blocked residences in remote areas that have no possibility to reach by ambulance.

More than 90 percent or 19 out of 21 provinces of Mongolia have been covered with heavy snow in which more than 3,400 herder families have been severely affected.

Millions of livestock carcasses now lie scattered across the Mongolian steppe, half-buried in the snow, which may cause outbreak of a disease, national health experts warned, when it gets warm and snow thaws. Another warning is a potential risk of flash flooding of thawed snow in April and May.

“Analysis over the past two months indicates a deterioration in the coping capacities of the population. The impact is greatest for more than 3,000 herder families (12,000 people) who have lost their entire livestock reserve.” IFRC stated.

“In response to the increasing needs of the most affected population, this Emergency Appeal supports MRCS in providing herder families with the timely delivery of relief assistance through the distribution of food and non-food items as well as the provision of psychosocial support to the most vulnerable families affected by the severe winter. Additional support for herder families in rebuilding their livelihoods will be provided through recovery interventions, the details of which will be defined through further assessments defining targeted support.”

The MRCS also appealed media organizations for their cooperation in giving warm messages to animal herders. “Psychological support is vitally needed for those strongly affected,” said R.Samdandovj, Secretary General of the MRCS. Some local media outlets have published opinion pieces to remind “lazy” animal herders, who have not prepared reserves of fodder in the warm season, are accountable for loss of their own private assets.


Shades of Green thru The Oregonian

Green survey reveals Oregonians practice sustainability, but in different shades of green
By Scott Learn, The Oregonian
March 26, 2010, 3:55AM
Illustration by Steve Cowden, The Oregonian
Our first green survey introduced us to a Portland woman who fills about a garbage can a year, a Milwaukie man with a 2,000-square-foot garden and a slew of dedicated recyclers, including a retired nurse who met her husband at a recycling center and used to recycle glass IV bottles after her shift was over.

The survey, which drew 540 responses from online and print readers, also identified some backlash at bicyclists, admissions of green fatigue and a sizable gap between people who think activities such as biking, bus riding, composting and buying local food are important and those who actually do them. Our survey wasn't scientific -- judging by written responses and interviews it slanted toward the green-minded. But there were some revealing results:

More than nine in 10 people turn off their lights when not in use. That was high, but not a lot more than the 89 percent nationally who said they flipped the switches in a random green survey conducted three months ago by Yale and George Mason universities. That strong response makes sense: turning off lights saves money, too.

Where Oregon really stood out: 93 percent recycle everything possible at home, versus 53 percent nationally. Eight in 10 regularly use reusable shopping bags, versus about a third nationally. And eight in 10 actively reduce trash, nearly double the national rate.

Those surveys aren't directly comparable. The national survey was random and scientific. Ours wasn't. But the results are consistent with Oregon's relatively high recycling rates and, readers pointed out, the state's environmental ethic.

Gloria Miniszewski, the retired nurse, said she and her husband keep their heat down in their Portland home, try to minimize driving, often buy used clothes and set their water heater at a low temperature.

"There's always room for improvement, and sometimes I think we (Oregonians) blow our horns a little bit too hard," she said. "But we feel very fortunate living in Oregon overall."

A lot more people ranked mass transit, walking, biking, composting and buying locally grown food as important than actually did those things.

Part of it is access. Readers from Seaside to Woodburn said they don't have great alternatives to their car.

"I would like to walk to the store and my salon, but we live up from where Scholls Ferry and Beaverton-Hillsdale collide!" reader Marta Alto wrote. There are "no sidewalks or place to walk but the ditch -- even scarier for bikes."

Part of it is cost. Diana Koppen of Portland said she frequents farmers markets, and likes the idea of buying local produce. "But I'm not going to pay a premium just because it's locally grown," she said. "If the cost is reasonable, then I buy."

And part of it is the hassle factor.

Terry Perrone of Happy Valley ranked himself high on most green measures -- he reuses bags for supermarket vegetables and loves the smell of line-dried sheets. "Where I would like to improve is composting, or using wet garbage," he said. "If I wasn't so lazy I guess I'd get some kind of composter."

Steve Cowden, The Oregonian
Then there are those who aren't sold on all the conventional green recommendations.

Nearly a third of the respondents didn't take mass transit, bike or walk and didn't think doing so was important, higher than the national averages in those categories.

Some are retired or disabled and don't drive much anyway. Others, including Cheryl Mellnik, a manufacturer's representative from Portland, need cars for their jobs.

Mellnik, an "old hippie from the '60s" who ranked high in most green behaviors, said she supports biking but gets frustrated at bikers, a fairly common gripe.

"It's scary because they'll just go when you've got a green light -- I just had that happen yesterday when I was driving downtown on 6th Avenue," she said. "It can be annoying."

About a quarter of respondents also cited composting, buying locally grown food and washing laundry in cold water as unimportant.

That result was lower than the national average for composting; for laundry and local food, it was about the same.

"I am from the old school," wrote Xan Graf of Portland. "My whites, linens and towels go into hot water. No one will ever convince me that cold water will do the job on those items."

Readers thought our survey missed some important green behaviors. Among them: buying organic, eating less meat, forgoing pesticides, improving home insulation, using clotheslines, planting for low water use and reducing population growth.

"When we do things like recycle and scrimp on water usage, it just enables the politicians to cram more people into smaller spaces," said David Petersen, a father of one who has seen small lots spread like wildfire near his Tigard home. "The real problem is population. Everything else is just a Band-Aid."

Arthur Moore and his wife have ridden bikes for decades, bring items they can't recycle at curbside to a Far West Fibers depot and maintain a 2,000-square-foot garden in their Milwaukie yard that supplies them and many of their neighbors for much of the year.

"We're maniacs," Moore said.

Betty Shelley and her husband are down to one garbage pickup a year from their Portland home. But Shelley, who works part-time in the Metro regional government's recycling information center, said they started small about 15 years ago. "It's about taking one step at a time," she said.

Those steps included switching to cloth napkins, buying in bulk, heading to the library instead of buying books, reusing plastic bags and turning down the thermostat in 2 degree increments.

Like many other respondents, Shelley noted that today's "green" behaviors are really nothing new. Waste not, want not, was a common refrain.

"My mother-in-law used to do all that stuff and I thought it was really strange," Shelley said. "But now we do it, too."

- Scott Learn
Steve Cowden, The Oregonian


Medieval Earthern Walled City of Lo Manthang, Nepal

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party.

Nepal (Asia and the Pacific)
Date of Submission: 30/01/2008
Criteria: (ii)(v)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by: Department of Archaeology
State, Province or Region: Mustang District, Daula Giri Zone, West Nepal
Coordinates: N29 10 59 E83 57 21
Ref.: 5256

Lo Manthang the capital of the former Kingdom of Lo was constructed in the 15th Century on a plateau at 3800 meters above sea level. The settlement is located on the ancient trade route that runs along the Kali Gandaki River that cuts through the Himalayas. The settlement is surrounded by a 6-meter high earthen wall with square towers or dzong on the corners. Within the walls there exists a compact settlement of earthen structures.

The main monuments found within the walls are the palace and monasteries of Jampa Lakhang and Thupchen Lakhang from the 15th Century and the monastery of Choede Lakhang from the 18th Century. There are several rows of chhortens and mane walls within the settlement and along the circumambulatory path directly outside the wall.

The Lobas, inhabitants of Lo Manthang are closely related culturally and ethnically to the people of Western and Central Tibet. The culture is to a large degree defined by the Sakyapa traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and even today many of the ancient festival, rituals and ceremonies are being performed.

Justification for Outstanding Universal Value

Satements of authenticity and/or integrity

Upper Mustang district where Lo Manthang is located is remote and was a restricted area to foreigners till 1992 and today only a restricted number of tourists are allowed to visit per year. The overall structure of the earthen walled settlement is intact. Over the past decade restoration work has been carried out on the monasteries of Jampa Lakhang and Thupchen Lakhang and part of the wall. Over the past two decades various development works and building construction has taken place outside the wall.

Comparison with other similar properties

There is no comparison to this unique settlement


Keep saving gas

Here are some tips to help you reduce the amount of gas you use. If you are already following these tips, you are probably getting the best gas mileage your car can deliver.
Drive more efficiently

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Plan & combining trips

Choose a more efficient vehicle

medical imaging back in the 17,000 feet level

Sounding Solukhumbu
Ultrasound machines prove to be sound investments for a village in Solukhumbu


An ultrasound machine like the SonoSite 180 Plus can cost upwards of $14,000. It is a portable, battery-and-AC-powered, high image quality device. The 'drop-tested' SonoSite MicroMAXX, with wireless data transfer facilities, costs over $21,000. These are not devices you'd expect to find in a Nepali village.

But Phaplu Maternity Centre in Solukhumbu owns five such devices, all donated by the American company SonoSite. While pregnant women in Kathmandu pay over Rs1500 for three ultrasound visits to a health professional to monitor their baby's health and growth, pregnant women in Solukhumbu are serviced in their own villages, for free.

For almost a year now, local NGO Himalayan Health and Environmental Services Solukhumbu has run a pioneering pilot program whereby nurses from the district hospital in Phaplu travel to all of the VDCs below Chaurikharka every three months to provide routine ultrasound check-ups.

Nurses Pema Lamu Sherpa, Sani Sherpa and Auxilliary Nurse Midwife Bhagawati Gurung walk for up to three days as is, with a SonoSite in tow, to reach their patients. The images from the ultrasound tests are stored in a computerised database for three years. First timers as well as women with twins, fetuses in breech or transverse positions, or birth complications, are referred to the hospital in Phaplu if necessary.

The luminous interior of Suzanne's Shelter, donated by Planned Parenthood of Western Washington
"The ultrasound program has really helped in early recognition of women at risk for difficult deliveries," says nurse-in-charge Pema Sherpa, who has herself examined over 500 women in these villages. In a recent case, she referred a pregnant Pashi Sherpa of Tingla VDC to the hospital because of the large size of her baby's head. Pashi was then sent to the maternity hospital in Thapathali, Kathmandu, where a successful operation took place just last week.

Sonograms save lives, a luxury given that 281 out of 100,000 live births result in complications leading to the mother's death (DHS, 2006). Nationwide, only 18 per cent of deliveries take place in an institution, only 44 per cent of pregnant women receive antenatal care once and only 29 per cent receive antenatal care at least four times. The government has promised free delivery services across the country, but this remains unfulfilled.

Back in Solukhumbu, however, Gau Maya Rai of Kanku VDC has almost reached the full term of her maiden pregnancy. As recommended, she arrives at Phaplu Maternity Centre, where Pema Sherpa conducts an ultrasound scan for the size, femur length, and heartbeat of her unborn child. Here she will also receive free maternal care, including a Rs1500 transportation subsidy from the Ministry of Health and Population.

Construction for the Phaplu Maternity Centre was sponsored by the INGO Sherpa-Med Germany. The centre functions as an extension of Solu Hospital, set up in 1975 by Sir Edmund Hillary. Since July 2009, over 80 pregnant women from around the district have accessed the maternity centre's services.

For now, Gau Maya Rai awaits delivery in the luminous and spacious wood-panelled 'Suzanne's Shelter', donated by Planned Parenthood of Western Washington. Looking at her, one can't help but think these portable ultrasound machines are a perfect fit for the needs of rural communities in Nepal, who often can't access services in district headquarters. Phaplu Maternity Centre shows us what can be achieved with targeted technology transfer. But such investment will have to take place on a much larger scale if maternity services are to reach other deserving communities across Nepal.

Nursing Nepal back to health - FROM ISSUE #489 (12 FEB 2010 - 18 FEB 2010)

Oregon financial aid

Paying for college with today's higher prices

Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 9:00-9:30pm

Call with your financial aid questions at 1-800-793-1935 between 9-10pm on January 28, 2010 or submit your questions online between January 1-28, and it may be chosen as a topic of discussion during the program.
For parents, teachers, and the college-bound, OPB presents a half-hour-long special. Topics examined on the broadcast include: loan and grant information, and advice on the application process.
The two experts interviewed on the broadcast are:
Kathy Goff, Senior Financial Aid Coordinator for Portland State University
Dan Preston, Dean of Enrollment Management at Linfield College
A cooperative project of the Oregon Student Assistance Commission, the Oregon Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, ECMC and Oregon Public Broadcasting.
If you would like to purchase a DVD of this program, contact OPB Distribution at 503-977-7792.


Terrible earthquake in Haiti, may they recover soon. Is Nepal next?

Please donate by going to: and

The Big One
Saturday, January 16th, 2010
An earthquake in the Kathmandu Valley will be our doomsday. Most of us try not to think about it too much. Those, whose job it is to, say it’s not a question of “if” but “when”.

The last major earthquake shook the nation on 16 January 1934, a jolt of magnitude 8.3 along the Nepal-Bihar fault. The next time the epicenter could be in Rasuwa or southern Lalitpur where there are other fault lines. It could be in western Nepal, where a 300-year old seismic gap–no big earthquake to release the tectonic strain building up in the crust– is waiting to rumble.

There is an escarpment ridge on the Siwalik range, East of Hetauda, that looks as if the entire mountain has tilted on its side. A geologist once told me the 1934 earthquake pushed this entire ridge up by 3 metres, lifting it up and northwards along a 4km long outcrop.

The hard igneous rock of the Indian continent that broke loose from Gondwananland is still pushing into and under the softer Eurasian continent. There is a tremendous amount of energy stored in the elasticity of the folding rocks. The subterranean strata snap periodically under the strain and that is when the mountains are pushed up in sudden jerky movements.

What has changed since the last earthquake is that Nepal has become the most densely populated mountain region on earth. Rapid urbanisation has tripled Kathmandu Valley’s population over the past 20 years. Cities like Pokhara have dramatically expanded in size.

Looking at the devastation in Haiti this week–the absence of government and relief, the social anarchy–it is not difficult to imagine Kathmandu’s fate. Like Haiti, we have no disaster preparedness plan. Nepal and Haiti are both the poorest countries in their regions. Both have unplanned and haphazard urban growth. Port-au-Prince’s advantage is that even if the airport is destroyed, relief can come from the sea.

Our only advantage is the knowledge that the next ‘Big One’ can happen any day. The Kathmandu Valley lies on a seismic zone that has historically had 8 magnitude quakes every 75 years. We can’t say we weren’t warned. There is no excuse not to be prepared. Here are some worst-case scenarios I ferreted out of some disaster experts. It scared the living daylights out of me:

Magnitude 8.3 on a winter evening with brisk westerly wind: Eighty percent of Kathmandu’s buildings collapse at a time when most people are at home preparing dinner. Gas cyclinders explode and kitchen fires spread. Fanned by the wind, the city is engulfed in a firestorm. There is no escape because Kathmandu has almost no open spaces left. Almost as many people are burnt alive as are crushed by falling buildings.

Severe earthquake at 1AM: Most people are sleeping at home. Maximum casualties result from crushed buildings. Those rushing to the streets are buried by falling cantilever balconies. There is no light or excavating equipments. Streets are blocked by debris. Most hospitals are damaged. The city wakes up to the horrific sight of complete devastation. When people get no food, medical care or help to rescue trapped relatives, there is looting and riots.

Magnitude 8 at 11AM on a monsoon morning after days of heavy rain: Kathmandu’s topsoil liquefies (like Mexico City in 1985), buildings collapse and the ruins “float” on ground that has turned into paste. The heaviest casualties are in collapsed government buildings, offices and schools. Airport runway is swallowed up by liquefaction and is unusable. Landslides wipe out all highways. International relief is dropped by parachute, but arrives days later.

The bad news is that even the best-case scenario points towards casualties in the tens of thousands and major damage to infrastructure. The government has drafted a disaster preparedness and relief plan, but the legislation is sitting on some desk in Singha Darbar.

With help from NGOs like National Society for Earthquake Technology and municipalities, some wards of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur have started to stock up on digging equipments, and drawn up emergency plans for evacuation, shelter, medical treatment and relief. But most wards have no plans at all. The reality is we are not prepared for the Big One, and it is going to be individuals and communities who have to look after their own.


Brailee Without Borders

for donation:

Dear reader,
Welcome to the website of Braille Without Borders.

Per WHO statistics, 161 million persons live with a disabling visual impairment, of whom 37 million are blind and 124 million are persons with low vision. Every 5 seconds someone becomes blind, every minute somewhere a child goes blind. About 90% of them live in developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Regions. 9 out of 10 blind children in developing countries have no access to education.

Braille Without Borders wants to empower blind people from these countries so they themselves can set up projects and schools for other blind people. In this way the concept can be spread across the globe so more blind and visually impaired people have access to education and a better future.

To realize these plans we need your support.

Thank you very much!

Sabriye Tenberken
Paul Kronenberg



Before the opening of the Project, blind children in the Tibet Autonomous Region did not have access to education. They led a life on the margin of society with few chances of integration. According to official statistics 30.000 of the 2.5 million inhabitants of the T.A.R. are blind or highly visually impaired. Compared to most areas in the world this is well above the average ratio. The causes of visual impairment or blindness are both climatic and hygienic: dust, wind, high ultra-violet light radiation, soot in houses caused by heating with coal and/or yak dung, and lack of vitamin A at an early age. Inadequate medical care also plays a role. Cataracts are widespread. Indeed governmental and private organizations have set up eye-camps where medical surgery is being performed and local doctors are taught to do the procedure. However, there is a large group of blind people that can't be helped this way. For this group of people the rehabilitation and training centre for the blind, has been established.

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Back to some natural healthcare, in Mustang, Nepal

Striking a balance
Brave effort to revive traditional Tibetan medicine in Upper Mustang

FROM ISSUE #484 (08 JAN 2010 - 14 JAN 2010) | TABLE OF CONTENTS

HAPPY GRADUATE: Rinzin Wangmo says it isn't just about the certificate. "I want to serve the local people as much as possible, as the other amchis do," she says.
"Medicine is passed down like a religious lineage, from father to son. It is also like a dance and a game. People offer what they know, sometimes adding new ideas from what they have seen and done. In our tradition, we learn to take from our teacher's ideas and our books to create new ideas, which come into full bloom like a lotus flower when combined with the soil of experience."

Gyatso Bista, Co-founder of Lo Kunphen Medical School, Upper Mustang

For brothers Gyatso and Tenzin Bista, Rinzin Wangmo could well be a lotus flower coming into bloom. She is the first government-recognised Community Amchi Assistant (CAA) of Himalayan Traditional Medicine (HMT) in Nepal. Teaching her juniors in Lo Kunphen Medical School and treating locals in the surrounding communities, she is carrying on an ancient tradition that might have been lost in Nepal if not for the efforts of the Bistas.

There was a time when there were about 30 traditional amchis (practitioners of traditional Tibetan medicine) in Mustang, approximately one for every village. Now there are only seven, the inevitable result of out-migration and a shift towards a cash-based economy that undervalues indigenous knowledge provided for free through masters and apprentices.

Expert amchi practitioners and hereditary physician astrologers to the Mustangi King in Lo-Manthang, Gyatso and Tenzin Bista, picked the threat to this millennia-old tradition early.

They then founded Lo Kunphen Medical School in 2000 and designed a two-year CAA curriculum for Class Eight graduates. Now they are looking to upgrade the HMT course to a Certificate in Amchi Medicine for CAA or SLC graduates.

HMT is based on the herbal and natural products of Tibet and the Himalaya, and is a rigorous discipline that has been practiced for thousands of years. Practitioners develop a close relationship with their patients, and attend to chronic conditions such as hepatitis and diabetes, incorporating diagnosis by pulse and urine analysis and holistic treatment combining physical and spiritual wellness.

In the age of modern medicine, some aspects of HMT - particularly its focus on Buddhist philosophy - may seem a little antiquated. But it is sometimes the only treatment available to locals in remote areas such as Dolpo, Upper Mustang and Mugu. What's more, the services are provided for free by practitioners, old and new, mirroring the ideal of the Bodhisattva who sacrifices personal benefit for that of the community.

Lo Kunphen's ultimate aim may be to produce HMT graduates to safeguard indigenous knowledge. But the Bista brothers appear to have grasped why HMT was under threat in the first place, and have sought to integrate traditional medicine's aims with modern requirements. With the help of the Japan Foundation, WWF-Nepal and US-based Drokpa, Lo Kunphen Medical School and the Himalayan Amchi Association also support the cultivation and conservation of medicinal plants.

It's widely acknowledged that Nepal has among the richest diversity of medicinal plants in the world. A strong, government-accredited community of amchis - linked with practitioners in Tibet, Ladakh, Bhutan and Mongolia - could prove essential to promoting sustainable utilisation of our ecological resources. This in turn could tie into a strategy for regional and international marketing of HMT that could provide the financial resources for its continued development, and that of the traditional communities that constitute its heartland.

Yoji Kamata


Free healtcare in Boud Gaya, Jan 3rd to 10th.


Environment protection is another scope of service in which SJHCC has made commendable contributions for the Monastic community. The maintenance of cleanliness, proper and systematic disposal of waste from the monastic community is undertaken by SJHCC. We have employed six green workers to clean the surroundings of the monastic community, collect and dispose the wastes.

Due to lack of scientific method to dispose the wastes, the present system of waste disposal causes health and environmental hazards. The committee has earmarked a project to improve the facility and dispose the wastes scientifically to minimize the hazards in the long run.