Sat, 03 Jun 2023

Kathmandu [Nepal], April 8 (ANI): Villagers living close to the Nepal-China border, Mugu district are pushed to poverty after trade with Beijing came to a halt, reported The Kathmandu Post.

In early 2020, the border closed, and hundreds of households in this northwest corner of Nepal were pushed to the edge of poverty.

Residents of the remote Mugu district bordering China pointed out that Beijing's erratic trade policy is one of the key reasons for their poor quality of life, reported The Kathmandu Post.

Tshiring Kyapne Lama, chairman of Mugum Karmarong Rural Municipality, said around 45 per cent of the locals in the rural municipality were living in extreme poverty.

"The number of people living below the poverty line has increased from 38 to 45 per cent in a year," said Lama.

Mugu has seen rapid population growth which has put a strain on local natural resources. The production of medicinal herbs has declined due to overharvesting, reported The Kathmandu Post.

Tibet used to provide Rs3.5 million worth of goods to Mugum Karmarong Rural Municipality in Mugu as a gift every year.

"That too has stopped," said Chhewa Gyalzen Tamang of Daura Serog village. "For the past three years, there has been no support." He said that infrastructure development had boomed in Tibet. "But we are still in a poor condition."Locals say it is easier to travel to Tibet than Gamgadhi, the district headquarters. Tibet is a two-day walk with a load of goods, but the trip can be made in one day without cargo. Meanwhile, it is a three-day walk to Gamgadhi from their villages, reported The Kathmandu Post.

"The quality of life across the northern border is a lot better," said Tamang.

Many villages in Mugu are yet to be connected by roads. In the absence of motorable roads for transporting food materials, locals have to pay exorbitant prices for food.

A 25-kg sack of rice costs Rs7,500 in the village. That's Rs300 for a kilo of rice. Inflation has added to their woes, reported The Kathmandu Post.

"Life is difficult for poor people like us," said Gara Tashi Tamang of Mugu village.

"The Nepal government has been frequently talking about constructing a cross-border railway, but it will be more than enough if they build a road linking us to the rest of the country," said Lama, chairman of Mugum Karamarang Rural Municipality.

Locals lament that election promises to develop roads have only remained in the manifestos of the political parties, reported The Kathmandu Post.

The 332-km road from Surkhet to the Nepal-China border through Nagma and Gamgadhi, and the 85-km Gamgadhi-Nakchenangla road are considered to be pride projects of Karnali province.

But progress has been discouraging. Only 17 km of track has been opened on the Gamgadhi-Nakchenangla road so far. The Rs 800 million road project was launched more than a decade ago and was supposed to be completed in five years, reported The Kathmandu Post.

"As people have been prevented from travelling to Tibet, cross-border trade has stopped and many of them have been pushed into poverty as a result," said Lama.

The population of the Mugu district increased from 55,286 in 2011 to 64,549 in 2021, according to the latest census report.

But in other remote areas, it is the other way around. Out-migration has emptied the hilly regions while the Tarai plains have become overpopulated.

Many people have moved to Jumla. They return once a year to collect wild yarsagumba (cordyceps), a caterpillar fungus dubbed Himalayan Viagra and prized for its supposed aphrodisiac properties, reported The Kathmandu Post.

"Forest fires, droughts, haphazard collection of herbs, lack of conservation and climate change have affected the production of herbs," said Pranil Devkota, information officer at the Division Forest Office in Mugu.

For generations, the villagers have been dependent on Tibet for importing foods; but the closure of the border for the past three years has made life difficult for them, reported Kathmandu Post.

"We have been struggling for our daily meal after the disruption of supply from Tibet," said a local resident Sonam Tamang. "We have to walk for two and a half days to reach the nearest market to buy rice." (ANI)

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