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Nepal Is it only Dependency?

Anirudha Gupta

By Piers Blaikie , John Cameron, David Seddon
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1980, pp. 311, Rs. 80.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 2 September/October 1980

Thanks to the spread of science and the mass media, Nepal—alas—has lost its old-world charm. It has ceased to be a land of mystery with its gods and goddes­ses, its pagoda-shaped temples and snow­-clad mountains. The story of the conquest of the Everest by Tensing and Hillary has grown stale, and even the romance of Erica Leuchtag With a King in the Clouds excites no more. Nepal, instead, has be­come just another country to be indexed among the twenty-five ‘least developed countries of the world’. Commenting' on its future, a 1974 UN report opened with this bleak note: ‘Nepal is poor and is daily becoming poorer’. Following this came the grim warnings of the environ­mentalists. ‘The potential dangers for the ecosystem of the Himalayas,’ noted one of them, ‘ ... are too great to be put off until scientific proof of their existence can be furnished’. The authors of the volume under re­view (an economist, a geographer, and a sociologist) cite all these warnings, before spelling out what they see as Nepal's sui­cidal march towards the ‘brink of a dis­aster’. They say: The country is now in a period of crisis, a crisis whose major components, over the next decade, will include serious over-population rela­tive to employment opportunities, ecological collapse in the densely populated and highly vul­nerable hill areas (where 30 per cent of the culti­vable land supports 60 per cent of the country's rural population), and the elimination of certain important 'natural' resources (for example, timber), both in the hills and in the plains. These will be associated with an increased inability to pay for imported commodities, with growing food shortages, and consequently with the develop­ment of widespread unrest in both rural and urban areas, which together will threaten the viability of the prevailing political system and even Nepal's position as an independent state.   This would make anyone sit up and expect parts of the kingdom to tumble down the hills. I admit such warnings made me slightly uneasy. The unease grew because the authors appeared not only to be candid but also ably equipped with field-data to show how by stages they arrived at their conclusions. The book arose out of a research project the three undertook to investigate the economic, social effects of road-building in West­-Central Nepal. Quite early they became aware that the bulk of foreign aid ...

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