A garland of hundreds of flowers … land of knowledge, peace, of Tarai, Pahad and Himal…” the cheerful melody of Nepal’s national anthem echoed across the school yard in Besisahar on a sunny morning recently.
One of the most vivid proofs of Nepal’s political transformation in the past 10 years is the national anthem. The country has gone from war to peace, from monarchy to republic in less than a decade. And here in Lamjung the transformation is even more apparent: the once sleepy backwater of Besisahar today looks like a boomtown. It is now a trading hub, the staging post for new hydropower projects, and a bustling market on the new road north to Manang.
“Telecommunication, hydropower and the road are the biggest developments in Besisahar after the war,” said Meena Gurung director of Radio Marsyangdi. Indeed, Lamjung was badly affected by the conflict as money for development was diverted to security, and the violence delayed infrastructure projects and drove many out.
The end of the conflict revived tourism, and despite the negative impact of motorable roads on the Annapurna Circuit trekkers flocked back. Remittances from migrant workers have also added to the district’s income, and new shopping centres have opened in Besisahar to cater to families with disposable income.
Besisahar has also emerged as an education centre, with 12 new schools and colleges catering to the needs of high school graduates from the district’s hinterland. Indeed, this once-sleepy town is looking like a city with tall buildings now blocking the view of snowcapped Lamjung Himal.
The Armed Police, which used to patrol with guns ready in pickup trucks, are today trying to regulate the long queues for fuel at petrol stations. The Army, so visible 10 years ago at checkpoints, is nowhere to be seen.
“The main engine of Lamjung’s economy is hydropower, and as businessmen we have big hope they will create jobs,” says Ram Kumar Shrestha of the Lamjung Chamber of Commerce, adding that each 25MW hydropower project employs more than 5,000 local people.
In 2005, there were no ATMs in Besisahar, today there are more than 13 regional financial institutions and branches of national banks. “With higher income for hydropower and remittances, Lamjung is being transformed and people have more purchasing power,” said Bhesh Bahadur Pandey, chairman of the Pacific Development Bank here.
The other reason for the growth is that the Dumre-Besisahar road is now jeepable till Braka in Manang, and plans are afoot to widen and pave it. There is hope that after the initial fall in trekking numbers,the roads will boost the economies of Lamjung and Manang once the impact of the earthquake and blockade wears off.
Back after 10 years Seulki Lee
Lull in Lamjung Hemlata Rai
Small is feasible Ramyata Limbu
Walking with the times Kunda Dixit