• Lou J

Let’s Clean Up Nepal 🇳🇵

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

Nepal. The birthplace of Buddha. A beautiful landlocked country, bordered to the north by China, and to the west, south and east by India. This is a country rich in both history and culture. When most people think of Nepal they conjure up images of the most famous landmark of all – Mt Everest in the world renowned mountain range known as the Himalayas. With 8 of the top 10 highest mountains in the world in this mountain range, the area has long attracted trekkers and mountaineers. Whether they are a part of an expedition attempting to summit Mt Everest, or a trekker visiting one of the amazing treks through the area, the subsequent increase to the population and demand for services has a massive impact on the area. Let’s take a step back and imagine you are a trekker, perhaps ticking something off your bucket list. You arrive in Nepal and make your way to the start of your trek, be it EBC, Annapurna, Manaslu or another. You buy a few bottles of water and make your way to your first village to stay overnight. You have finished your water along the way. You notice that many people before you have discarded their plastic bottles, as well as other rubbish, along the way. This distracts your eyes from the beauty of the area. You decide not to add to this waste and carry your rubbish to the village and dispose of it there. You stay overnight in a welcoming tea house and enjoy a delicious dinner followed by a bottle of water or soft drink. The next morning after breakfast you buy more water bottles and head off on your next journey. Meanwhile the tea house has the general waste from your stay. That includes the water bottles from the previous day, packaging and food waste from the ingredients for your meals, rubbish you may have left in the bins there such as tissues, wet wipes, packaging from snacks, and who can forget the used toilet paper in the toilet bin (as in many places TP can not be put in the toilet, instead it is collected and disposed of). But how does this tea house deal with the rubbish of one trekker? Then multiply that by the number of trekkers that stay each day, each week, each month. And by the number of accommodations in the village. All that rubbish adds up. With most villages not having a recycling station or rubbish collection service, much of this rubbish is either burnt, dumped in a river, or added to landfill. Sadly once the trekker has put the rubbish in the bin they feel the ongoing issue is not their problem. But it is. It is everyone’s problem.

Mountains everywhere. Including mountains of rubbish. What should we do? The answer is ‘Let’s Clean Up Nepal’. Please meet my dear friend Raj. He is on a mission to clean up his beautiful country. He has started up ‘Let’s Clean Up Nepal’ and is active in educating and getting the message out to locals and foreigners alike to stop throwing rubbish on the ground or in a river, stop burning rubbish, and to and embrace the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles. Here is his request: “If all hikers carry out all their belongings then tomorrow our mountains will not be the same as they are today. So please, each and every beautiful traveler, ‘Leave no trace’ and help is to make our mountains clean and beautiful.”

It all started when he was working on a trek through the Annapurna region. His client was a bit slower so when he got ahead he would stop and wait. While waiting he started picking up the rubbish that had been discarded by others in the area. From this an idea was born. Here are his words: “Let’s clean up Nepal” started by accident over two years ago. I was trekking to Annapurna Base Camp with an older French woman who was fairly slow. I had more time to look around and noticed a lot of garbage on the path: bottles, cans, wrappers and lots of plastics. It really broke my heart, so I started picking up the trash. I used to go mountain often but this time had different feelings for nature and environment. I changed myself first to change other people’s mentalities.I was also shocked to see that there were no bins on the path, so we had to carry the garbage to the guest houses. And there, I realized there were no recycling possibilities.This is how it all started!I talked to other guides, porters and tourists as well as people in the guest houses and the word spread quickly. Some joined to help, and everyone’s efforts were appreciated. You have to be positive: every little step counts.”

Loaded up with rubbish

Rubbish scattered about Since then Raj has continued cleaning up the mountains as well as arranging clean up events in Kathmandu. Since 2017 he has arranged 20 Clean Up events. His infectious happy demeanor and passion for a cleaner Nepal have resulted in clients on his treks, as well as tourists and locals in Kathmandu joining him on this journey to spread awareness and educate everyone about the small steps we can all take to keep Nepal clean. Before clean up

During cleanup

After cleanup

Sadly he has come up against some difficulties. However he is working hard to change the mentality of everyone and is having the most success with tourists and the locals appreciate the efforts. There is little or no support from local government to assist. Despite this he pushes on with his passion and desire to make a difference.

The main aim of Let’s Clean Up Nepal is essentially to changes people’s mentalities about the disposal of garbage. Traditionally rubbish has been burnt, buried or thrown in rivers. With recycling not being a well known or supported initiative in Nepal, Raj is doing his best to educate people about ‘Leave no Trace’, and also investigate opportunities of implementing recycling in Nepal. Raj also has other projects that he has initiated. He arranges educational trips to schools and villages in rural Nepal. His projects include: Educational support for needy children in remote areas Raj is a co-founder of one village project, supporting 15 needy children under a project in Sindhupalchowk. One village project is supporting needy children to receive a better education. They are helping children with whatever they need such as educational fees, food, financial support, clothes, ,stationary etc. Tree planting

Water filters for remote communities

Oral hygiene education in schools

Sanitary hygiene education and provision of reusable washable sanitary pads. This project is one close to my heart. I work for a gynaecologist and understand womens health and reproductive health well. It is sad to hear that in some villages in Nepal girls and women have no access to sanitary pads and have no option but to stay home from school or work while bleeding. Currently I am fundraising in Australia so I can help provide sanitary kits for my ‘sisters’ in Nepal. I hope to use the money, partly to pay women to make the pads, thereby providing an income to them. And then to make up sanitary kits with reusable/washable pads, waterproof covers, underwear, and soap. All contained in a discreet bag.

Trekking Are you looking for a guide? Raj can guide you on any trek in Nepal and also has experience on climbing peaks up to 7000m. Raj will guide anyone and encourage them to be ‘green travelers’ and pick up rubbish along the way. ‘Pack in, pack out’ is the motto and everyone is encouraged to reduce their waste, carry out all their rubbish and pick up rubbish along the way. After starting this initiative himself, he was approached to be an Ambassador for ‘ My Green Trip’, a not for profit organization from Switzerland who encourage travelers to pick up rubbish whilst they are traveling.

Thank you to all the people who have trekked through Nepal and collected rubbish along the way, or attended ‘Let’s Clean Up Nepal’ events with Raj. You are all amazing ‘Earth Warriors’. The support of these people is much appreciated and Raj hopes for continued support in the future. Without them it is impossible to have success on theses projects, so every step counts.

Dreams for future Raj will continue to clean up mountains and educate as many people as possible about the need to manage waste more effectively to protect the environment. He will also continue on with health projects in schools and villages – oral health, sanitary health and clean water. A big project he would like to initiate is an ‘Eco Village’ or ‘Smart Village’. The main focus will be: 1. Identify problems such as pollution, the amount of garbage, the unhealthy practice of burning plastic and throwing rubbish in the river thereby polluting a valuable resource. 2. Create infrastructure for dealing with waste. At the moment many villages do not have bins in the home or on the streets. There is no rubbish collection service, nor recycle initiative. 3. Educate people that pollution affects everyone. Pollution of the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink is hazardous to our health, and that of our family. What would he like to promote so change will come about ? 1. Initially a meeting with community leaders to let them know of options available to them, and to encourage the villagers to actively become involved in more effective rubbish handling and recycling. These meetings should be regular occurrences to identify priorities in the region to tackle first and then subsequent ones. Having the community leaders support these initiatives will be of great benefit in convincing villagers to become actively involved too. 2. Set up waste disposal areas for the village. This would include areas to drop off recycling like paper, cans and glass; as well as a general area for other rubbish. 3. Educate households to manage their rubbish better. For example to sort their rubbish into separate bins in the home; wash and recycle what they can (cans and glass);create a compost area to dispose of organic material such as food scraps, garden refuge, shredded paper etc. A good compost area will result in a healthy compost material to use on home gardens. It is a natural method of recycling organic material into a rich additive for the soil and will help plants grow and protect plants from disease. 4. Encourage villagers to keep their village and river clean. A working bee to clean up the area every few months not only benefits the area but also brings people together for a common goal. Street bins in the area need to be taken to the waste collection area and sorted. 5. Arrange rubbish and recycle collection every 6 months or so from the collection center. To pay for this, all households pay a small monthly fee. The rubbish and recycling will be collected by truck where possible and sent to Kathmandu. 6. Educational signs around the village on how to deal with rubbish; as well as plastic reduction strategies. 7. Solar lighting 8. General village support systems like organic farming; plant more trees and vegetables and eat/trade the produce; rain water tanks to collect and store rainwater; support for the elderly and disabled; help each other more; fire prevention in forrest areas; encourage cloth bags instead of the use of plastic bags to carry purchased products; creation of safer paths for children to use to/ from school. Another long term project Raj dreams of is a ‘community based, one stop, preventative health center’ project. As well as providing medical care for issues such as oral health, women’s health, back and joint care (injuries due to heavy manual work such as farming or being a porter), it will provide education on better lifestyle choices for all such as: • First aid • Dental hygiene • Feminine hygiene • Importance of clean water • Garbage disposal • Exercise to prevent injuries • Nutrition • Yoga and other exercise classes • Organic agriculture • Kitchen hygiene Ideally the center would also be able to provide a lab for basic blood tests. As Raj says: “Many Nepalis have an unbalanced diet combined with a heavy manual work load in strenuous conditions, difficult climate and polluted environment. Most people lack basic knowledge about hygiene, how to move and bend, how to carry big loads to prevent back injuries and lack basic knowledge of nutrition needs. As a result, people get sick easily, are seriously handicapped by their mid-age and die young.Every year millions of Nepalis are affected by stomach related diseases, debilitating back, knee and neck pain, heart issues, kidney failure as well as all forms of cancer.” And some final words from Raj: “Lets act now for a better Nepal. Together we can climb higher and reach further. If you can change yourself there is no need to change the world. It will automatically reap the benefits.”Contact details Email: raazshrestha2010@gmail.com Facebook: Let’s Clean Up Nepal Instagram: @letscleanupnepal Contact number: +9779841036152

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