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In 1880, G.H.D.Gimlet wrote

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In 1880, G.H.D.Gimlet wrote: The filth of the city is abominable. Along the sides of the streets and lanes, which are paved with brick or stone, lie deep gutters, a foot or eigh teen inches wide and of about the same depth, filled with stagnant, stthkjng black mud, into which every sort of refuse finds its way. These gutters are iievef thorou^ily cleansed. The foundations of the city must be saturated -With the filth of more than thousand years;

Henry Ball an tine, another visitor, reported jn 1885: Oh the opposite sicte from theesplanadelaythecapitalcityof50,bfX)inhabitahtswedgedmbetween the Bagmati and yishnumatt, extending up fj-omthe point Where these streams unite, andpresenting a most picturesque appearance outwardly, but in wardly reekirig withfilth;adty which has dunghills for its foiindations,stagD ant pools for ornamental lakes, whose streets do duty for drains and latrines, where the widest thoroughfares are harrowlanes wretchedly paved, only fit for inoculated pedestrians. Such is Kathmahdu with its ever present effluvia and stench, so that it is no wonder that during the summer just closing ten thousand, or one fifth of its population had fallen victims to cholera;


January/February 1995 HIMAL



Being Previous...

Doig's Kathmandu


athmandu residents have become a little disinterested in their home valley. But ask most visitors or returning natives what it is about the place they find most memorable, and the answer will invariably be the colours.

That explosion of emerald as the aircraft suddenly breaks through monsoon clouds on final approach, the ochre-and-white dolls' houses on the edge of terraces, blinding white cumulus towering over purple hills on the valley rim, terra-cotta temples reflecting the pale sun of a winter afternoon...

Desmond Doig's artist eyes were mesmerised by this beauty and light. It was love at first sight, and his view of Kathmandu is coloured by this affair.

When he died in 1983, the artist and writer left behind a folder-full of sketches and watercolours and the text for a book which languished in a publisher's attic in England. Ten years later, Desmond's friends in Kathmandu have helped retrieve the manuscript and artwork and publish My Kind of Kathmandu.

In the text, Desmond is constantly "being previous"—some sixth sense must have told him that by the time it saw the light of day the book itself would docu­ment a previous Kathmandu, an ex-Kathmandu. It was a Kathmandu that was already, in the late 1970s, decaying in front of his eyes as its colours faded, to be finally smo­thered by malignant concrete monochrome. The Valley's transformation in the decade since Desmond passed away has made this book one artist's celebration of what was Kathmandu. The pages of My Kind of Kathmandu are like a pilgrimage to the past and a glimpse at the vanishing treasures of Asia's Florence. They fade even as we talk.

Desmond knew what was going on. He fled Calcutta to escape the squalor because, as he said in a conversation in 1981, he was "neither a charity"worker nor a revolutionary". But in the late 1970s he saw the blight was spreading to Kathmandu as well. In his text, Desmond grieves for a Kathmandu where the "desire to be modern hashit... and the rich arehurtlingto pull down their centuries-old houses and replace them with concrete and glass".

He yearns for a less-concrete Kathmandu of as recent as the 1960s where there were no straight lines, the streets were still flagstoned and the houses were "all mellowed brick and russet tile and weathered wood". Toyotasand Datsuns had not madetheir appearance and out-of-the way shrines of Dhum Barahi, Maiti Devi and Kwa Bahal were still shrouded in hoary legends and awaiting discovery.

Call it romanticism. But then Desmond was a

My Kind of Kathmandu

An Artist's

Impression of

the Emerald


Desmond Doig

Indus, 1994


Price: NRs 2072

Review by KundaDlxIt

K. Dlxl! Is Asia-Pacific

EcHoroi Inter Press


romantic. His drawings studiously avoid the ugly. The loving linesof the portrait of Sweta Bhairav meti-culously detail the tufts of grass growing out of the tiles, but blot out the squalor of the adjoining square.

Elsewhere, Desmond was there before the rot set

in. Bucolic scenes of Swayambhunath from the Ring

Road capture the texture of the fields, trees and hills that

have now been washed away by Kathmandu's trans-

Bishnumati sprawl. Ten years after Desmond's eyes

and fingers scanned the scene, the spot is unrecognisable.

Desmond's roof of the ChobarGanesh temple still glistens

in the afternoon sun, and is not coated in cement dust. The

hill beyond does not yet carry the scar of a limestone


There is an evening view of Patan's old bridge sitting on "a forest of wooden legs" as the Bagmati flows silently belowreflect ing the sun set off JugalHimal peaks. The water and colour evoke a languid sky that has long disappeared under Kathmandu's smog. The dream-like quality ofbright afternoon light on GaneshHimal framed in red-yellow cottages and harvests suffused in gold is impressionistic—recording for posterity the light and colours that struck the retina of an artist's eye a decadeor more ago. The sepia dawn on a Bhaktapur street is timeless. Desmond wrote as well as he painted, and does not try to hide that he is looking at Kathmandu with the blinkers of an outsider, tourist-guide's eye. But as a perfectionist he would have frowned at the sloppy editing, distracting proof errors and odd words that appear disconcertingly in bold throughout the book. As artist, he would be pained by the ungainly size, poor layout and uneven printing which stand out despite the publisher's lavish efforts.

The text weaves in the tale of two coronations (Mahendra and Birendra), introduces us to celeb expats like Boris Lissanevitch, Han Suyin, Barbara Adams, Marshall Moran SJ, Col. Jimmy Roberts and local luminaries like Field Marshal Kaiser Shumshere and Prime Minister Tanka Prasad. It reveals the secrets of Thecho village's mustard presses, Taleju's barking bell, the hill of the camphor tree, and a temple where a god lies sleeping... On the rare clear evening these days when the cement plant is not belching dust, you can still stand below the Bridge to Ye Rang and see what Desmond saw: "The snow ridge to the north turning from silver to gold to rose and fading lavender and the flaming sky reflecting in the shallow river."

Sometimes in the midst of Kathmandu's mad
dash into a nondescript future, the past shines through
the smog and grime. k

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Scholarly books, maps and guides on ' Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and the Indian Himalaya




Civilized Shamans 1 Buddhism in Tibetan Societies by Geoffrey Samuel

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Jhankri: Chamane de 1' Himalaya

(In French Language) Eric Chazot

Proceedings of the International Seminar on Anthropology of Nepal: People, Problems and Processes Edited by Michael Allen

Tales of Turquoise: A Pilgrimage in Dolpo Cornneille Jest

Nepal: A Guide to the Art and Architecture of the Kathmandu Valley Michael Hirtt


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Vol 7 No 1 through Vo! 7 No 6

The 1994 Himal Index makes accessible to readers and researchers information on articles and news items appear­ing in the last six issues of Himal magazine. Regular departments such as Voices, Himalaya Mediafile, Abominably Yours and Abstracts are not included in the Index, 'Bx1 in the list below refers to box-items within larger features.

A computerised index of Himai'm diskette or printed form (WordPerfect 6) is avaliable at Himal Office. This Index contains details on Himal's total output to date—35 issues {Vol 0 through Vo) 7 No 6) and has all the tools (or retrieval and sorting using UNESCO's CDS/ISIS library package. Data input by Piush Mani Dahal.

Jsn/Fet 19M Voi 7 No 1 (Red)

745. Axing Chijsko
Aryal, Manisha

Bui: Forest Policies and Ihe Seeds of Discord

B*2: The Skeplios Chipko


Chp ko/Act iv is m/Urtarakhand/Fores I

  1. Portraits t>[ Nepal
    Bubfiski. Kevin

  2. Tailing Gyatso on Saddam Hussein and
    Gorman U-Boats

Dalai Lama'lnterview

74*, Discussing the "Tinkering Approach"

and the "Grand Plan"

Pistes h, Sanjasu

TiboL'Dev slop menVConfersnoe

  1. Ladakh on the Schedule
    Srinivas, Smrilp

  2. Peace Conference in Shillong
    Meg halaya/Nlorlheast/Conlerence

  3. Phoenix Journal

762, Zapping Poop with Solar Power Conservalion/Solar

753. A Nalivs by Any Other Name...
Pradhan, Rajendra

Bxi: The Government vs. the Indigenous PeoplB(s)

T> ibaVEthn icity/Di so r i min at ion

754. Slave Wages on the Trails
Soott. Doug

B*t: The No-Pain-No-Gain Trekking Anli-


Porter/Trek/Wana/M ountaineering

MarWpt 1094 Vol 7 No 2 (Purple)

755. On lha Way Up

uiiit, Kanak Mani

756. Notss from the festival
Prasad1, Anmole

FilnvDoou mentaiy/Festival

757. ...because they are the re
Verma, Sanjeef

756. Delinquent Documentary

Dbqt, Kanak .Manl

Fi Im'Doeu mantary/Lynx/Crttique

  1. Tibetan Renaissance
    TibetfCuHure/Relig ion/A mnye Machen

  2. Brother to Another Planet

Siosphsre/T ham/Arizona

761. Tourism a Genetic Resourcel
Bioph ilia'Natu raTour is m

761. Himalayan Cyberspace Tiwari, Ashutosh E-MaiVTibet/Oharams hala

7*3, Gorkhali Honours Gurkha/Recruitmenl/World War/Victoria Cross

7M.KhimtitoQo Hydropower/KhinrtiWater

  1. Northern Forests on the Way Out
    Ghaley, Padam Singh

  2. Wealth of Study

Northeasl/FSajiv Gandhi FoundatiorVFellowship.

7(7. Rimpoche Wrangle at Rumtek ReincarnationMagyu/Religion

768. The Original irekkar and the In-llighl


Toni Hagen/Dubby Bhagat/Flighl

76S. The Storm Raged All Night Long Rai, India Bahadur


  1. Hostage in Thimphu
    Bhandari. Bhakti Prasad
    Bxl: The House of Punishment
    Refugee^ hutanfPrison

  2. Mistaken Amiquhy
    Messerschmidt, Don
    Antiq us/Sou Iptu re/Ag h ori

772. A False Harmonising ol Himalayan

Jhaveri, Nay no J.

Deg radationf E nology/Critiq ue

773. Bahuns in the Nepali Slate
Sha/ma. Prayag Raj

B rahmartf Eth n city/ Janajati

May/Jun 1994 Vol 7 No 3 (Gray)

  1. A Fate Other than Msrginaiily
    Gyawali. Dipak
    Periphery/Economiy/P lains

  2. Tho Next Great Earthquake

Bilharn. Roger

Eart hq u ake/Ssismicily

  1. Tarai with Blinkers
    Meyer, Kurt W.
    Ftesearch/M Shiia'Tti anVC rili q u a

  2. Teacher
    Tselen, Kesang

  3. The Loss of a Mother's Son
    ShroH. Satis

  4. Stories from the Heart of Nepal
    United Mission&tory/Education

  1. Nagas descend on Kathmandu

  2. Shahtoosh
    Wildtife/AntelopetndangueoVChang Tang

  3. Nar Bahadur Bhandari

Sikki m/Etod ionftsaambly

703. Some Tea and PestBtdes Please Darjeeli na'Garmany/Pestioide/Fertilisor

  1. Disastrous Sedimentation
    KulekhanirSed imentation/RBervoirA^kiudburst/

  2. Austrian3 an Vamdrok Tso
    Frimmel. Martin
    Dam/Panchen Lama/ReservoirrTibel

786. Discord in Dharamsala Gadd^Dharamshala/Riol/Tibet

7fl7. Are Tame Rhinos Real Rhinos? Research/Rhino/TourisnVCh itwan

TBS. Deconstiucting MythsAbout People of India Tribe/Ethnog raphy/Diversity/flesearch

799. Dhupi Not Welcome in Darj Darjeeling/Tree

  1. The Value of Dung

  2. Cranes Don't Come Here Anymore
    Sberian Cranes/Rajasthan/Migralion

  3. Cost-Benefit of a Health Caie Centre

Jul/Aug 19MVol7Ht>4(Orma«)

793. House of Cards
Discit. Kanak Uani

Bxi: Kalhmandu and Thimphu BxZ: Garganda to Beldangi Bx3: The View from South Block Bi4; Rongthong Kunlay Dorji Bx6: "I Don't Know BhularV Ret ugees/Geo-Polhies/Media

794. Lyonpo Dawa Tsering
Interviaw/Dawa Tsering/Bhutan

795, Shame on SAARC

Cupla. Anirudha

S AA nC! Retugee^ hutan/UNHCR

79S. On the way up Dnit, Kanak Mani

797. When a GLCF Bursts its Banks Mool, Pradeep Kumar GLOF/RoJwalingTso Rota

79B. Noriheasterners Resist the Lollypop Trbe^Northeasl/DanVGrah msputra

799. Snow Leopard Menace Gurung, Gehendra/Ale, Som Snow Leopard/Manang'Film-makincj'Research

300. MeghalayaCoal CSE/Down To Earth Fsatures Khssi Hills/Meg.haJaya'Mining/Coal

801. Elephant Corridars in Western Tarai E (ephant/Tarai/Corbett

902. Dabur wants Taxus baccata CSBDown To Earth Features Taxus/Oabur/TaKol^Yew

Trees and the Caste Barrier Shimla'ForesVCaste

Wangyal, Sonam

605. Back Breaking Rotors

(Jpadhyay. Akhiiesh

Kh umbu/Helicopters/Porters/Tourism

606. The Price of a Rooster
Prasad, Anmole

807. Writing in Monochrome Ramble, Charles fiaviaw/Travsl Literature/Guides

805. The Northern Passage
Shrestha, Manesh
Feak/Exped ition/Mountaineering

Sep.'Oc11994 Vol 7 No 5 (Green)

609. Euddhiiibi: Intelligentsia Has No Clothes

Gyawali, Dipak

Intelligent^ ia'lnte II set uais/Soc isty/C hangs

810. Speak Truth to Power Shaha, Rishikesh Politics/Stabil ity/lntellectual

311. A Generation Lost Trwari. Ashulosh Education/lntellectual

612, Contemporary Concerns

Sharma. Pitamber

Nationals nVLiberaliaation/l ntelleetual'Gender

813, The Road to Nowhere"
Malla, Kama) Prakash

814. Hunter and the Hunted
Magar, Ranaprasad GhaKi
Hunting/Magar/Dhorpatan/Tou rism

SIS. Is Khumbu Garbage Tamed? Upadhyay, Akhilssh Sherpa'Gaibao&'Khunibu/Trek/Tourism

  1. Rupshu Opens to Its Fate
    Gupta, Ranu

  2. Blama the Mountains No More
    Himalayan Degradation/Floods

616. Broadcasting Tongue Twister Shrestha, Manesh Ethnicity/Language/Radio

  1. Placenamos
    Wangyal, Sonam

  2. Busing it to Lhasa
    Shrestha, Manesh

H ig hways/Trade/Tfeel

621. BLs, RLs, BCs and Sikkims Communal Politics

Kazi, Jigme N. Elections'Ethnioity/Sikkim'Polilics

822. Uttatakhand oul of UHar Pradesh

Nautiyal, Navin Uttarakhand/Uttar Pradesh/ AetivisnVStatehood

  1. Kali with Crows
    Isaacson, J. Morton

  2. Kitting Fields of Kashmir
    Bidwai, Praful

  3. Save the Nepali Tiger
    McDougal, Charles

Bxi: A Buffer tor the Tiger Tigers/Reserves/Poach ing/Wild lile

828. 'HimaJ- equals Cluster. Chain, Group

Thapa. Deepak

M ountai ns/Ranfles/Peaks/Tamli nology

Nav/Dac 1994 Vol 7 No 6 (Blue)

627. Angry Kills/An Uttarakhand State of Mind

Aryat. Manisha


Bi2: Regional Press

BX3: Dalit Dabao Andolan

Bx4: Vou Kumaoni, Me Garhwali

BxC: Women to the Back, Please


623. Dukha during the World War

Onta, Pratyoush

Bjc1:Dafending Bharat

Bx2: A Splinter in the Mother's Heart

Gurkha/Work) War/Hislory/Suflering

  1. Thick but Incomplete
    B»!ll an a, John V.
    Review/Tibet/G u ido

  2. How the Crescent Fares in Nepal
    Shainia, Sudhindra

M usIim/Hindu/ComrnunalisnVSecularis m

  1. The Soldier ("Sfcahi")
    Koirala, Bisweswor Prasad

  2. Said the Woodcutter
    Rao, Maj. Arun


  1. ChomoJongma in b/w

  2. At Last, aPopulation Breakdown
    Popu lation^ensus^thnioity

635. LobaArt Antiqua/Photograph'Mustang

836. Placenamas Wangyal, Sonam Kalimpong

  1. A Star was Born

  2. That Trse Can Do No Wrong
    CSE-Down To Earth Feature Service.
    Seabuckt horn.'H i machal/

839. Is this Rape? Forest/Timber/Tibet

340. Disaster on Pisang Peak Ghaley, Padam Singh Climbing/Accident/P is ana

641. Quiet South Asian Coup SAARC'EnvironmenVUNEP/Data

841A Trekking Peak - Sy any Olher Name O'Connor. Bill Trekkinp/AecidantfCli mbing

HIMAL January/February 1995





Himalayan beauty caught the eye of practically every major Indian daily, when two of the four first ladies of Druk Yul chose to alight from an airplane in Patna with thecrown princeon apilgrimage to Buddhist sites in Bihar. Well, if the Times of India, The Telegraph and The Statesman thought it was okay, who is Chhetria Patrakar to act squeamish? Herewith I present the queens. And speaking of pictures, check out the one of King Jigme Singye Wangchuk embracing P.V. Narashimha Rao soon after the Congress Party's devastating showing in the December polls. An ace at public relations, the Druk Gyalpo knows well the importance of friendship shown in times of troublehe made it a point to visit Indira Gandhi when she was out of power. The divi-dendsare His Majesty's forthe reaping.

For three decades we have played around with the term forest degradation without really trying to understand what it means. This point isconfirmed by forestry scholar Deepak KC, who writes in the latest issue of the newsletter Habitat Himalaya that "the deforestation and extent of forest degradation in Nepal are practically unknown". KC is to-the-point, "Although theterm 'forest degradation' is widely used, no standardized definition of the term exists to date. In the absence of scientific attempts to quantify and/or classify forest degradation, there is no basis for assessing the extent or rate of degradation of forests, comparing differentially-degTaded forests across time and space, and subsequent targeting of appropriate management programs fora certain class of degraded forests." That this is being said in 1995 is a shame on the very discipline of Nepali forestry and all who have practiced it in last four decades.

Hypothesis: if uranium is found and is beingextracted along theShivalikTange both in Himachal Pradesh and in

Pakistan, then it stands to reason that the rad ioacti ve lode i s also lurking about in Nepal, which is host to the entire eastern half of the Shivalik range (the Churia). Nepali physicist Binil Aryal, writing in Kantipur, considers that this hypothesis is proven. Gamma-ray spectrometer studies along the Tinbhangale Khola in Makwanpur District south of Kathmandu, he writes, ind icate that there is extractable quality uranium in Nepal's Churia. Right, so let's call in the IAEA and let Nepal consider signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty for starters.

The letters column of The Statesman, more than others, provides esoteric tidbits to sharpen the mind. A 12 December letter, from Kalyan Kumar Datta from Nadia discusses the proper address for the historic Buddha. He says that the name should he Siddhartha Gautam (the Buddha), "since Gautam is only a family name and Siddhartha was his personal name." Datta is firm that the common usage of 'Gautam Buddha' is incorrect

Two recent items proveonce again that the American media just cannot cover the Himalaya with any amount of diligence.TakealookataJanuary issue of Newsweek, which identifies the well-known wooden twosome of Shiva-Parvati peering out of a carved window at the Kathmandu Durbar Square as "Kathmandu dancers". Or how about John F. Burns's report in the 16 December New York Times on the death of eleven climbers on Pisang Peak in the Manang Himal (see Himal Nov/ Dec 1994). The main question is ho w all could have died in one incident, and suspicion is that the party was tied to

one rope. But Burns prints the story he has been fed by interestedparties: "...with bad weather closing in, the party began to descend. Below the summit, with the party roped together in groups of three and four, some members of the party began to slide on a steep, icy slope. In seconds, the entire party was swept 1,500 feet down the slope, then over a sheer 500-foot drop." How?! Sloppy, sloppy, Mr. Burns.

Some military details that have caught Chhetria Patrakar's eye this past month. One is the announcement that China and India have agreed to hold joint military exercises this summer in their first combined defence manoeuvres since they fought the border war in 1962. The exercises are planned to be held around Pangong Lake east of Leh, an Indian defence official told Reuters in Jammu mid -December. "It'spartof a friendly, mutual confidence-building measure," said he. If theLadakh mano­euvres prove successful, subsequent joint exercises are slated for the Nort­heast. I'm all for renewed bhai-bhaism, as long as we know where we're going.

The other item that caught my eyes is Manoj Joshi's piece in The Sunday Times of India on elite commando battalions of the Indian Army, which are being reconstituted as a new 'Special Forces' unit. The Special Forces are the outcome of the belief that India is likely to face more threats from low intensity conflicts rather than general war. Meanwhile, there is already a Special Frontier Force, writes Joshi, which is under the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence arm, but is officered by the Ind ian Army, Thi s force is successor to the 'Establishment 22' that was set up by the CIA in the 1950s, comprising of Khampas and raised for sabo fcage operations in Tibet. This force was disbanded after 1962 and reconstituted as the SFF.

Might as well empty my ammo while I'm at it. Here is another militaresque snippet from a mid-January Times of India piece by O.V. Vijayan, which relates an anecdote narrated by B.P. Koirala concerning his brief tenure as


January/February 1995 HIMAL

Prime Minister back in 1960. "Koirala suggested at a conference of his generals, in jest obviously, that the Nepalese army be demobilised. Even as a joke it was taken ill, Then he asked them if they could beat the Indian Army. The answer obviously was no. Could they take on the Chinese army? The answer was an even more embarrassed no. Then what was Nepal spending a fortune building its combat manpower and stockpile for?" More than four decades later, the question remains relevant...

"If the Hindu and the Buddhist belief of the rebirth is true, these brave mountaineers must be climbing somewhere today. Perhaps it is true, the Sherpa belief, that the mountain gods gather to themselves those they love." This is Harish Kapadia's deeply felt requiem to three Sherpas who died in an early expedition of which he was part, as described in High Himalaya, Unknown Valleys (Indus, New Delhi), Chhetria Patrakar has not met Kapadia, who is Honorary Editor of the Himalayan Journal, but from the writing he must be a cut different and above the stuff-shirt military men and former bureaucrats who have a lockhold on Indian mountaineering.

Someone hereabouts should subscribe to Travel Medicine News, a quarterly journal that deals with diseases that tourists encounter or bring into foreign lands. Our touristifying region is increasingly exposed to viruses, microbes and kitandus (say that nasalised) brought in by the Western traveller. In the latest issue of the magazine, Jonathan M. Mann, well known former chief of WHO's HP// AIDS programme and no w at Harvard, writes that "tourism and travel are inextricably linked with the history of infectious agents and epidemic diseases". Historically, travellers have been notorious carriers of smallpox, plague, syphilis and measles, and today HIV/AIDS, various STDs, meningococcal meningitis and others are added to the list. While the tourist might turn u p his nose at typically Third World predilections such as the Delhi

HIMAL January/Fobruary 1995

Belly, Jiardia and Hepatitis-B, perhaps the vectors that he/she brings in are more dangerous—just that no one talks about it.

Old news, but interesting nonetheless. Last year, the British Mountaineering Club organised a conference on environmental and social development impactof mountain-related tourism in the 'greater ranges'. The term refers to the Andes and Himalaya, home to 55 million. The Conference was chaired jointly by Paul Nunn, Chair of BMC's International Committee, and Peter Mould, Chair of the Access and Conservation Committee, and was introduced by Chris Bonnington. Specialist presentations were made by Doug Scott, Steve Bell, Elaine Brook, PeteT Stone (Editor of The State of the World's Mountains) and Isobel Shaw from the Aga Khan Foundation. Notice something amiss? Yes, yes! There seems to have been no native Andean or Himalayan present!

Other than the fact that the ADB is in cahoots with Jakarta in trying to dump DDTwhichthelndonesiansthemselves would have nothing to do with on Nepal, it would seem that landlockedness has its pluses. This is because of the sheer difficulty of lugging low-cost high-volume wastes far inland when there are so many poor coastal countries willing to take in the trash for penny. Check it out: the world waste trade is proliferating as the 24 states of the OECD dump on the non-OECD among us. The Dutch export ten million tons of pig and chicken manure to Gujarat every year, toxic copper smelting furnace dust is shipped to Bangladesh by a US firm as part of a fertiliser consignment, and plastic, cadmium, nickel and zinc wastes, computer scrap, ash residues are finding their way all over the coastal entry points of South Asia, all part of the 300 to 400 million tonnes of hazardous waste that is generated globally every year. Trade and transit treaties be damned, as far as hazardous wastes are concerned, Nepal and Bhutan (andTibet??) shouldbepleased that they are bhuparibestitl

While onthesubjectof grueso me health hazards, chanced upon an advertisement in an adventure magazine placed by Katadyn Ceramic Water Filters, with claims that it will convert contaminated H2O into "safe, bacteria-free drinking water". The makers claim that their filter can tackle any of these yuck matters: Sepsis, Giardia, Micro-organisms, Rancidity, Spoilage, Muck, Bugs, Scurf, Decay, Retchedness, Soilure, Republicans, Bilge, Mire, Slime, Sludge, The Media, Crytosporidium, Vibrio Cholerae, Schistosoma, Sphacelus, Democrats, Feculence, Sordes, Corruption, Offal, Colluvies, Scum, Flux, Marcescence, Pseudamonas, Pus, Decomposition, Bog, Big Business, Purulence, Gleet, Nastiness, Struwwelpeter, Shigella, E. Coli, Gangrene, Mold, Rust, Necrosis, Guano, Putrefaction, Peccance, Slough, Salmonella and Turbidity. Republicans?

A massive infusion of World Bank money in India's forestry sector just reported: a cool U$ 54 million in IDA soft loans (35-year maturity period) handed over to the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education in Dehra Dun. The purpose is to reorient forestry research from basic to applied research, "making forestry research more production-oriented and user-friendly" by turn-of-century, fine-tune forestry policies, and enhance "consonance" between Government departments, ecological, wildlife and watershed agencies and the "affected local populace", reports The Statesman. That's a lot of money WB has shelled out, but then India is abig country. One major beneficiary of this largesse will be Himalayan woodlands, which make up a good chunk of what remains green in Bharat. But don't expect Sunderlal Bahuguna to applaud.

Khushwant Singh, in his column With Malke Towards One and All repeats with approval this proverb, contained in Lhamo Pemba's new anthology of Tibetan sayings translated: A big yak doesn't Mean bigger dung.

- Othetria Patrakar 37

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Rock Summit, Snow Summit

Diehard scientific positivism is confusing the public by constantly revising the height of Chomolongma. On behalf of the peoples of the world, it is time to call a halt to this tomfoolery.

by Deepak Thapa


n August of 1994, the China State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping reported its latest measurement of Chomolongma/ Sagarmatha/Everest. The venerable mountain, it was revealed, is shorter than the 8848 metres it has been credited with all these years. Tobe precise, the previous height of 8848.13 m as ascertained by the Bureau in 1975 had not taken into account the depth of snow on the summit. And so, when the re-measurement was done recently using a satellite-aided global positioning system and laser measurement technology, the level of snowwasalsodiscounted.Ofthe8848.82m that was calculated, 2.55 metres was subtracted for the snow deposit on the summit. This snow depth was determined by the tried and tested method of sinking a steel rod into the snow. Everest stands at exactly 8846.27 m, the Bureau reported.

One would immediately like to question, when confronted with this assertion, why this micro-specificity down to the last centimetre about a mountain which by its very loftiness makes such an exercise seem slightly ridiculous. As we delve deeper, the exercise actually does begin to look farcical, as should any scientific endeavour taken to illogical limits.

In the case of Everest's height, it is certainly important to know the exact height of the mountain. However, it seems that our friends in Beijing have gone overboard in decreeing a specific height when, as we shall see, the debate has not even begun as to the approach tobetakento measure thelastfew inches and centimetres of mountain-tops. If the Bureau had chosen not to go to down to the second decimal point, there would have been no reason to fault it.

As we shall see, the only finding that the Bureau's scientists can justify is the following: "at a specific time and at a specific

Chinese methodology.

point under the snow at the summit pyramid of Everest, not necessarily the highest point, subtracting the snow accumulated (which fluctuates with season, snowfall, wind velocity), the elevation above sea-level was found to be 8846.27 metres."

That would have been the scientist's report, whereas it is the chaps at public relations that seem to have the upper hand. Which is why at every turn we are con fronted with banner headlines announcing "new height of Everest". Since the Sagarmatha summit is shared equally with Nepal, perhaps in future the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology should be consulted before announcements are made.

True Height

To state the obvious, all major Himalayan peaks have snow on their summits. This might not be true with certain lower mount­ains with extremely steep summit outcrop-pings, but generally it can be expected that thereissnowat the top. The problem tackled and inadequately answered by the Chinese on Everest is something that has to be considered as one gauges the height of every other himal. This is as best a place as any to consider the issues that are thrown up.

Since all Himalayan massifs have snow at the top, does the height of the mountain

have to include the thickness of snow invariably found on the summit, or does the 'true' height extend only up to the top of the rock that makes the mountain. Accepting the former is also conceding that practically none of the measurements made of mountain heights are accurate, bearing in mind the fluctuation in the amount of snow that accumulates on mountain tops. The snow's height at the summit would depend upon the strength of the Jetstream (that famous plume on Everest and other SOOOers, which is snow being whipped away by the high winds), time of year, angle of sun, level of snow precipitation, and number of climbers tramping about at thetop packing the snow. On the day 34 climbers were waiting at the Hillary Step for their turn on the tourist trail to the top, the height of Everest would have decreased by at least five cm.

Those who believe that true height should refer only to the rock tip under the snow have even more explaining to do. True, only the bald know exactly how tall they are, and immovable rock provides a scientific specificity that even packed snow could never match. However, rocks in the natural state do not form perfect pyramids that taper up to a perfect tip. Jagged points vie with each other for supremacy.

Admitting this, how can one be sure the end of the rod used on Everest by the Chinese scientists to plumb the depth of snow came to rest on the highest point of rock? The rod sunk into the snow could easily have missed a higher protuberance (if only by a centimetre) on any side.

Furthermore, where does one begin probing? Snow keeps on shifting following the mood of the winds. The (momentarily) highest point on a snow mound does not necessarily indicate that it is directly on top of the conical tip of the rock underneath,

HIMAL Januaiy/Febmary 1995


assuming such a conical tip exists under Everest or any other peak.

There are, of course, ways to find out the highest point of the rock lying under the snow, although the likelihood is that the Chinese did not try them on Everest. An expedition can be mounted with climbers equipped with shovels to clear the snow off the top and having accomplished this, the topmost rocky section of the mountain can beidentified.If shovels are too cumbersome, the climber-scientists could demarcate a 10 by 10 feet squareon the summit mound and poke (the aforementioned) rod all over to figure out the highest point. Another method would be to take a lateral sonogram of the mountain top.

The sheer impracticality of trying to decide on the true snow summit and rock summit, therefore, encourages us level­headed landlubbers to search for the Middle Path, which shuns misplaced scientific positivism on the one hand and those who couldn't care less on the other.

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