In our travels in different parts of the world we’ve always learned to appreciate just how good Australian Roads are. Seems the World Bank needed a new country to loan money to and so increase the reliance on them under the guise of ‘wanting to improve Nepal’s roads and open up the country’ and here’s what happened…..I warn you though, it’s not funny!
The World Bank (WB) surmised that for Nepal to be on the way to development a priority would be a good road from the east to the west of the country linking up all the major sites on the way. This is obviously a sensible idea but the staggering thing about the project is that it demonstrates just how much it is possible to ruin a good idea.
When the route the road would take was being decided the WB in all its infinite wisdom opted to neglect the advice given to it by the locals (what do they know?). The WB wanted the road to follow the river through the country as rivers carve their way through mountains and therefore there would be less difficulty constructing the road. The Nepalis advised against such a route because the areas surrounding the river are the areas where most landslides occur (especially in monsoon season). The WB (as it always does) decided that it knew best and insisted that the road had to be built along a specific route, by the riverside.
The net result of this is that many are killed and injured by landslides every year on this road (around a hundred deaths in 2003 alone). The landslides also wash away huge chunks of the road and mountainside too which means that the costs of repairing the road are a constant drain. But is doesn’t end there. The frequency and severity of landslides has increased along the roadside because building the road where they did meant a large amount of deforestation. The WB were forewarned by the Nepalis about the effect this was likely to have but again chose to ignore it (the roots of the trees bind the soil together thus steadying it and preventing landslides).
After the problem became noticeably worse the WB decided to give another loan in order to replant as many trees as possible along the route. They insisted (for reasons best known to themselves – most likely because they were cheapest) that eucalyptus trees should be planted. These are not indigenous to Nepal. The outcome of this scheme was that the fragile ecosystem was put out of kilter by the non-native trees. But it doesn’t end there either.
The WB has now given a third loan to Nepal which is to be used to rip up the eucalyptus trees and plant native Nepali trees. All of this may seem to just be negligence or incompetence but it isn’t – it’s much worse than that. People die every year because of this incompetence and not just in the immediate way brought on by landslides. In a country where average earnings are $200 per year the average person simply cannot afford to be burdened with paying their share of three huge World Bank loans, two of which shouldn’t have been necessary and one of which was botched. Incompetence on this scale costs lives.
The details in this entry are taken from the website http://michaelgreenwell.wordpress.com/