Garbage in, garbage out


The good people of Okharpauwa in Nuwakot finally signed a ceasefire agreement with the litterbugs of Kathmandu last week to not refuse our refuse anymore. So, just as we had started getting used to living with garbage, here we are having to adjust to clean sidewalks all over again.

Pity, because rubbish heaps had become such an important part of everyday life that it had become a vibrant symbol of our nascent federal democratic republic, an emblem of our hard-won freedoms. So let no nation (especially neighbouring countries currently trying to move our border pillars) underestimate our resolve to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to safeguard our right to litter wherever we want within Nepal's sovereign territory.

The rotting rubbish was proof that we are well on our way to attaining Middle Income Status by 2025. The fact that we can throw away so much stuff means we have much more where it came from, which in turn shows that Nepal’s GDP is relentlessly rising.

The garbage dumps had also become important repositories of endangered species of plant, animal and fungal life. These biodiversity reserves were the last remaining refuge for the Greater Urban Holy Cow (Bos nipalensis) whose alimentary tracts evolved to allow them to digest styrofoam. By moving the rubbish we have removed the last habitat for endangered species, and their disappearance will be a loss not just to Nepal, but for the planet at large.

The absence of the friendly neighbourhood garbage piles also means that we have lost vital navigation waypoints that had replaced Google maps to help people find their way around in a city without street names and house numbers.

We can no longer give visitors directions on how to get to the Nepali Times office by telling them to take Tootle to Pulchok, and follow the smell of the decaying trash at the intersection, turn left after 50m, and we are the brick building above the momo shop. If you see another, bigger garbage pyramid blocking the road, then you have gone too far.

We now know that no two biodegradable garbage heaps smell the same. The one on our street has the bouquet of rotting water buffalo viscera combined with the aroma of fish scales in an advanced stage of fermentation, recalling the sophisticated odour halfway between mature gorgonzola and a freshly-cut wet toenail.

However, the Ass had noticed that the garbage mound at the gateway to Thamel has an even stronger olfactory quotient, clocking 8.5 magnitude on the open-ended Richter scale that can knock over innocent bystanders within a radius of 20m from the epicentre.

The Hotel Association has belatedly realised the tourism potential of charging an entry fee to drop by at Kathmandu’s garbage piles, which have become such popular selfie-spots for foreign visitors. It is upon us to restore the rubbish, and preserve this important part of the city’s cultural heritage.

The Ass