I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!
February 28, 2017
Greetings and good evening:
I am copying and pasting an itinerary for the week ahead that I sent in an email earlier tonight, along with some expanded annotations on my research:
My itinerary is as follows:
March 1: Take bus to Sundarijal (1460m). Walk to Chisopani (2215m). Sundarijal is home to a major water pumping station and is located where the Bagmati River leaves the foot hills to enter the KTM Valley. It is also the endpoint for the 27-km tunnel to divert Melamchi River water to the KTM Valley - a tunnel that is still under construction but is nearly 90% complete. I commence the walk by passing by a major, existing water works facility. This facility is in the process of being expanded greatly, and is expected to add an additional 170 million/liters per day once the Melamchi Diversion tunnels are completed. To date, 22.5 km of tunnels are complete, and another 4.6 km of construction remaims. After leaving Sundarijal, I hike upward, initially along the Bagmati River, through Shivapuri National Park to reach Chisopani, a village that sits on the ridge dividing the Bagmati and Melamchi watersheds.
March 2: Stay a second night in Chisopani. Day hike through Shivapuri National Park to Shivapuri Peak (2715m). Explore the upper catchment area of the Bagmati River and take field notes in a journal using a code file on water quality monitoring protocol from CEDEN (California Environmental Data Exchange Network). I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to volunteer with a local watershed-based NGO in California's Central Coast, and will use some of the skills and observation techniques I learned there to conduct field observations on hydrological and social changes that are taking place in the Bagmati and Melamchi river basins, both of which will likely be critical water supply sources for residents of the Kathmandu Valley in the 21st century.
March 3: Hike down the ridge to the lower Melamchi Valley. Spend the night either in Talmarang (960m) or Melamchi Pul (Bazar) (890m). Take field notes on land-use patterns in lower basin, below the diversion. Lower basin areas share much in common with other lowland areas of Nepal, and of northern India. For US readers, the research ares is located at roughly the same latitude as Central Florida, south of Austin, Tampa and Orlando, but north of Sarasota, Miami and West Palm. Here in the lower reaches of the valley, the growing season is year-round, Hinduism the the primary belief system(s), and valley areas have been densely settled and farmed for many centuries.
March 4: Bus or Jeep up the gravel road to Timbu (Bazar) (1580m). Timbu is the closest settlement to the diversion that has overnight lodging, sitting just above the planned infrastructure that will divert large volumes of water to the pumping station at Sundarijal. Timbu and nearbly Kakani, perched on a hilltop an hour's walk above Timbu, may well function as good locations for a longer-term Melamchi Valley base. I will look at the amenities available in each location.
March 5: Stay in Timbu or Kakani and day hike further up the Melamchi River canyon, passing through the hamlets of Doring and Dana. Following the river northward, upstream from Timbu Bazar there exist many Shepa settlements perched on low bluffs and hilltops lining the Melamchi canyon. These are some of the lowest altitude Sherpa settlements anywhere in Nepal. Above the year-round settlements lining the Upper Melamchi river canyon, lie seasonal grazing pastures. These will be explored and documented in more thorough detail on subsequent visits to the area.
March 6: Hike up to the eastern Melamchi Valley rim (Chisopani (nights 1 and 2) sits along the western rim) and spend night in Ghanghyul (2770 m)
March 7/8: Return to KTM via nearby road (1.5 hrs/walk) at Chimigyang. OR Spend one more night in Ghangyul and return to KTM the following day. At some point, I hope to take more detailed field observations of the Upper Melamchi catchment area, but that may be something that can wait until a later trip.
Understanding the broader process that drive social and environmental changes in both the Bagmati and Melamchi Valleys requires attention not only to the processes of rapid, and often unplanned, urbanization that is taking place in Kathmandu, but also to the shifts in the economy and in land-use patterns that are compelling so many people to leave for the city in the first place. One prong of this research will be to develop a deeper understanding of the development-environment dilemmas that arise from rapid urbanization in places like the Kathmandu Valley. Another will be to better understand the political and ecological changes that are compelling hundreds of thousands of people to leave rural life behind at a rapid pace. Existing work on climate change impacts suggests that arable land and suitable grazing areas may well contract and be pushed further upwards in years to come. Studies specific to the Himalaya region suggest that how these processes actually play out on the ground vary significantly from region to region, with notable differences in impacts even between valleys that are just a short distance apart. One goal of this research will be to examine how land-use patterns in each valley's catchment area change over time to better ascertain what effect social changes and climate change impacts have on the water supply for the Kathmandu Valley. Many goals to be revisited on a different day.
On a final note, all of the walking I will be doing will be through settled and inhabited areas at a relatively low altitudes compared with my previous treks in the Himalaya. The very highest settlement where I might stay is at 2770 meters (just over 9000 feet), which is well below the threshold where acute altitude sickness occurs and pales in comparison to the 6218 meters (20000 + feet) I I trekked to in northern India. Although cell coverage may not be constant, I expect service will likely be available in most of the places along the route, and I will never at any point be more than a day's walk from the nearest road.