A road through Tsum Valley
Last November hikers walk towards Lapu Besi and Machha Khola (those who didn’t take the wonderful, high trail to Lapsibot) would have noticed the road building going on. Where is it going you may wonder. The answer is Tibet (China).
In 2010, the government’s Western Regional Road Directive under Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Development of Nepal announced this plan to construct an international road connecting Tibet (China) and India and the route selected would pass through Tsum.
If you don’t know about Tsum (map link), Tsum is located behind the Ganesh Himal peaks you can sometimes see from Kathmandu. The local people there are called Tsumpas. They are mostly of Tibetan origin and speak a unique oral dialect. Like Upper Mustang, prior to 2008, the valley was closed to outsiders due to the proximity of the politically sensitive Tibetan border to the north of Tsum. Until now, it takes a daylong bus journey and at least five days walking to reach Tsum from Kathmandu. As a result, the unique culture of Tsum has remained intact and unchanged for centuries, with minimal influence from the outside world.
“This motorway represents both a great opportunity for the Tsum people and also a period of great change,” says Sonam Lama, an architect from Tsum. If you’ve hiked in Nepal already, you’ll know how how it goes with road building. Budgets are limited and the path of least resistance is usually taken.
There are two sides to every story of course. You can possibly imagine your own life if you lived 5 days walk from the nearest road, and all that would entail. The road building is inevitable.
What some people are asking, Sonam Lama most notably, is, what about the enormous wealth of cultural heritage that has stood for centuries along the trails that would form the most likely route for the road?
this film explores that, and watching it (worth the small fee) will give you a very interesting insight into life in Tsum. Fond out more about Tsum from http://tsumnubri.org/)