New year, same difference

As we mark a new Nepali year, let us pause and think about what might lie ahead in Gregorian year 2081.


While Nepal’s calendar enters the eighties on Saturday 13 April, this is a good time to pause and think about what might lie ahead for Nepal and the world in Gregorian year 2081.

The world is too late to limit the global average temperature to 1.5°C. By 2081, ocean expansion and heat stress will lead to mass migration to higher latitudes and altitudes. Multi-disasters, conflicts and food shortages will stalk the planet.

At the present rate of birth rate declines, China’s population will have shrunk to 850 million. By 2081, there will only be half as many Koreans as there are today. Nepal’s population pyramid will have inverted by then, and total inhabitants will decline to 22 million.

The outmigration of Nepalis from the mountains to the plains will likely start reversing in the next few decades. The Gulf states will be too hot to work in. Half the remaining Himalayan glaciers will have melted off, reducing the dry season flow of our rivers. 

These are changes we know are coming, so we might as well prepare for them. Alas, the world is still in business as usual mode. Most politicians do not recognise the urgency of the crisis, and are haggling over who gets to sit in the best chair on the tilting deck of the Titanic.

Read also: Year of reckoning, Editorial

India, China, US

Meanwhile, 2081 BS will see elections in the two biggest democracies, India and the United States, that will have a bearing on the region and the world. Proximity means Nepal will be impacted more immediately by the outcome in India, where a third term as Prime Minister for Narendra Modi seems to be a foregone conclusion in marathon elections from 19 April to 1 June.

Nepal is already feeling the spillover of India’s election fever as shown by Hindu-Muslim riots in Sunsari last week, and the anti-secular pro-monarchist rally in Kathmandu on Tuesday. 

Under the Hindu-supremacist BJP since 2014, India has slid into dangerous authoritarianism, intolerance and systematic persecution of minorities. There is now not even a modicum of decency as opposition leaders are thrown into jail on trumped up charges, and their vilification amplified by a pliant mass media.

The West looks away as the BJP tightens control and squelches the media and democratic values, since India’s 8% growth is important for trade. New Delhi is even excused for breaking sanctions against Russia. India’s economic engine will pull Nepal along, but its politics could tear the intricate ethnic fabric of our society. 

Over on the other side of the planet, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are readying for a second face-off. Much like in Nepal, US politics also seems to be populated by tired old men reluctant to let go.

Read also: The F word, Editorial

Much like how photographs from Vietnam swayed domestic public opinion against the war, the daily bombardment of images of children maimed and killed in Gaza has turned US public opinion against Biden. His administration parachutes food into Gaza, while shipping more bombs to Israel.

The war may prolong Benjamin Netanyahu’s hold on power in Israel, but it may cost Biden a second presidential term. Trump will be no better on Palestinian independence, and his threat to pull out of NATO is already ringing alarm bells in Europe. 

Trump is campaigning on an anti-immigrant platform, and exaggerating the threat on the Mexican border. He wants immigrants only from ‘nice’ countries, and not from ‘shitholes’ like Nepal.

America’s domestic polarisation, Trump’s rejection of multilateralism, Biden’s unpopularity on the world stage because of Gaza, and panic in Europe over losing the American security umbrella to confront Putin’s Russia has geopolitically weakened the West. This means that for Nepal, the looming presence of next door India and China will be felt even more than before.

It was the West that traditionally pushed for human rights, transitional justice, democracy and the free press in Nepal. Now, we have to contend with two giant neighbours who do not believe in those concepts, and have in fact undermined them within their own societies. 

Read also: At home and abroad, Editorial

Here and now

Back in Nepal, the government has selected more than 400 Nepalis to work in Israel as caregivers. Nepalis continue to enlist in the Russian Army even as the Labour Ministry prepares to lift the ban on work permits in Russia.

The new UML-Maoist-led coalition has reaffirmed the transient nature of Nepali politics. Political allies become rivals overnight, and the RSP on whom many Nepalis had pinned their hopes is behaving like the mainstream parties it once vowed to hold to account. 

Public disillusionment with Nepal’s party politics has emboldened populist and nationalist forces that are set on dismantling the 2015 secular, federal republic constitution.

Such political disarray will not help us in Nepal face the challenges wrought by the climate crisis in the decades ahead.

Read also: Nepal’s corruption carousel, Editorial