Nepal: The Aftermath

Mushfiqul Alam

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Since April 25, the date of the first earthquake (which registered a devastating 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale), 80 miles east-north-east of Kathmandu, when several thousand people were immediately killed, 2.8 million displaced, and at least 75,000 injured, millions of dollars in the form of private donations have poured into Nepal by way of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Even so, many millions more will be required if the nation is to fully recover. 

 

Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese have been made homeless, with over 500,000 homes destroyed. 31 of Nepal's 75 political districts have been affected and, with the monsoon season fast approaching, the risk of water-borne disease remains high. Making potable water available remains a considerable challenge.(Much of it needs to be trucked in over dangerous and difficult terrain to remote destinations.)

 

On May 12, another huge earthquake struck, registering an almost equally astonishing 7.3 magnitude, followed soon after by six aftershocks that registered magnitude of five or higher. 

 

 

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   Photographs © 2015-2019 by Mushfiqul Alam  

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As it would be for any third world nation struggling against the forces of globalization that inevitably result in government corruption and the subsequent destruction of village life, including the destruction of local culture, folklore and a traditional relationship with the natural environment, Nepal is fighting for its life—not forgetting the incursions of transnational corporations with infrastructure project contracts that further force indigenous populations into a desperate urban existence. Already reeling from spasms of hyper-growth, Nepal's situation has suddenly been made profoundly worse now that huge numbers of the Nepalese citizenry have been forced to live in tents. 

Map created by the USGS (United States Geological Service) in the public domain. 

Sandwiched between India and China and located directly on a major tectonic fault, Nepal, a developing nation of 27 million people, has been devastated over the last month.

 

Not only have landmarks, temples, hospitals and schools been destroyed, but basic infrastructure like roads and electric power supplies have been severely disrupted, requiring forced and rapid evacuations that only add to the strife and confusion.  

 

While anticipating and dealing with aftershocks, victims and rescue workers continue to comb through the seemingly endless wreckage and debris for other survivors. Rubble often topples down on those attempting to recover personal belongings. Daily cremations are too many to count. 

Nepal is an intriguing place, to say the least. (Linguistically, historically and culturally, it is much closer to India than China.) 80-percent of its population practices Hinduism, it has abolished the death penalty and is the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, including full legal rights for those citizens designated as a "third" gender (neither male nor female designation required).

 

Over the last ten years, its literacy rate has increased, its average family size decreased, which, along with other indicators, were promising signs for its future. However, politically, Nepal is still tied in almost semi-colonial fashion to India, evidenced by left-over historical arrangements, for example, the arrangement that allows the Nepalese to serve in the Indian Army—within the traditional Gorkha regiments, which are made up mostly of Nepalese citizens—or the arrangement that allows them to work in India without special permission.

 

But it's not only by virtue of its unique landlocked location within the geopolitical scheme of things that the colliding economic, cultural and military influences from its neighbors—China, India, and Russia—are so complex.

 

These looming and encroaching expansionist forces are quite similar to those of the geological collision that has taken place in slow-motion over the centuries between the Eurasian continent and the Indian subcontinent, and which produced the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. 

 

While China, India, and Russia are the three BRICS nations (the other two more distant members being Brazil and South Africa) whose political show of cooperation with one another has recently begun to assert itself in this part of the world, it is still the United States that supplies Nepal with much of its important military hardware by way of India—as evidenced when the Nepalese government battled the Maoists during its civil war—especially when it began to escalate in 2001. 

 

But as the neoliberal crusade around the globe being waged by the United States and other Western powers expands from the Middle East, Ukraine, Chechnya and the Caucasus region, across the "stans" and toward Xinjiang in China, in the grand game of what the vying powers now openly acknowledge as the battle for the heart of central Asia—where oil, gas and important minerals reside—the pressure has increased upon smaller, though no less strategically vital, nations like Nepal.

 

And while appearing to be collaborating economically via the BRICS partnership, India and China are actually in a dead heat competition over who can throw more money and assistance at the suffering Nepalese as a way of gaining control and influence—not forgetting the United States' interest in the region, by way of the predatory IMF (sharpening its pencils as we speak), and USAID, the too-well-substantiated CIA front that makes its presence felt in every corner of the developing world, and who most recently has been caught making political and violent mischief in places like Cuba, Ukraine and Chechnya, illegally backing anti-government dissidents. 

 

With so much at stake for transnational investors around the globe, we can only hope that the ruling powers might remember to also address the Nepalese people's long-term needs—at a minimum—during this period of loss, devastation and recovery.

 

Meanwhile, candlelight vigils have become all too routine. The people of Nepal, now living in tent cities, live in fear of landslides, chronic homelessness, water and food shortages, outbreaks of disease, economic deprivation, as well as aftershocks—or even worse, another earthquake. 

 

 

 

                                                                                         Article © 2015-2019 by James Williamson

 

 

Mushfiqul Alam is a freelance photojournalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His photographic journey began in 2012. Since then, he loves to tell stories through his photographs, generally covering contemporary issues and daily life. Mushfiqul's photographs were commended in the Sony World Photography Award 2015 competition and he has already exhibited in notable galleries in Dhaka.

All Photographs Copyright 2015-2019 by Mushfiqul Alam  

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You can see more of Mushfiqul's work at www.mushfiqphotos.com/ 

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