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Pokali waterfall service society
By Dr Khagendra N Sharma
I happened to read two articles on the prospects of the development of the Pokali waterfall watershed of Okhaldhunga district in the issues of the 6th and 8th February, 07 of the Jagaran Times. Almost obsessed by the overwhelming political literature on present Nepal, I felt excited to turn to the concept of development.

I was born and brought up in the hills of Ilam and am familiar with the problems and prospects of development in the hills. I have never been to Okhaldhunga, but the two articles mentioned above made me feel that I know the district almost from my heart. The truth is that I had only read the poem entitled Mero Pyaro Okhaldhunga by poet Siddhicharan on the beauty and love of Okhandhunga during my school days.

Although I did not write any poem myself, that poem had aroused a deep sense of love for my own district in my mind and I spent six important formative years of my career in the service of Ilam, as the founder principal of its college. I was exposed to the issues of development in Ilam where I was also motivated and involved in a lot of activities other than the running of the college. Sharing this experience, I want to speculate on the development prospects in the Pokali waterfall area of Okhaldhunga.

Although Ilam had the initial advantage of being exposed to the development prospects because of its proximity with the Darjeeling area of West Bengal, Okhaldhunga is situated in the central eastern hills and can have the future advantage of sustained growth centre. I have not seen any leader or planner with this focus of development in the context of Okhaldhunga. But, looking at the central location of the district, this is a definite prospect. Ilam had the initial push because of its cash crop potentials particularly that of the tea plantation, cardamom plantation, ginger plantation, potato farming, cattle raising for dairy, all of which were export oriented. Lately, it is trying its hands at the growth of tourism. Ilam has natural attractions that can allure increasing number of tourists. It has also got some religious places that can attract tourists.

Going through the two articles in the Jagaran Times, one feels that Okhaldhunga is blessed with the most attractive natural marvels. The Pokali waterfall is just one. The district headquarters is the obvious one which inspired Siddhicharan Shrestha to compose the immortal poem on its beauty and love. A stretch of imagination comes into my mind connecting Okhaldhunga Bazaar with the Pokali waterfall, approximately two days leisurely walk on foot. If this stretch is made motorable, a vast array of socio economic development can be launched with the local resources alone. The Pokali fall is the obvious attraction for the outsider tourist, but the people living on either side of the road can make the most unexpected economic gains from the road.

The road connects the centre not only with the ultimate destination but also with the outreach along the road. Every road has a hinterland with plenty of resources and products. The road is the booster of the resource use and the products. The present state of the products may be rudimentary. But the road brings in qualitative changes or improvement in the production process and quantum, delivery services and marketing. If there are cottage level indigenous industries in the region, their quality will be improved, their quantity will be vastly increased and their potential market will be expanded several times. Similarly, in the case of agriculture, the subsistence level farming can be converted into a market based cash farming, hugely improving the economic status of the farmers. There is the prospect of agro-based industries.

One obvious prospect is that of development of tourism. The Pokali fall is so fascinating that it will attract a horde of tourists. But the mere attraction of nature is not enough. Tourism needs a range of infrastructure. The first is the road which we presume there will be in the near future. But there is a greater need for the accommodation of the incoming tourists. Hotels are the priority need. Good food and comfortable lodge will attract a large number of tourists. Resorts are the present fashion. They can run a number of entertainment and adventurous activities in and around the resorts. If good and comfortable resorts are made, we can expect national and international tourists. They can arrange a number of local cultural shows as part of their entertainment programmes. They can make tracks on either side of the 130 metre fall where lovers will spend imaginative moments of their life. You can go on imagining. The sky is the limit.

But who will take the lead? The central level politicians have no spare time from their politics of indulgence in power. The local level politicians are dependent on their central leaders. No visionary leader ever looks back into the villages. The villages need a lead, but a true lead is not forthcoming. When the shape of future of Nepal itself is not structured, the future of local structure is all the more foggy. In such a state of affairs, the leaders are not expected to take a deterministic step in local level development. That is the fate of local development now.

But there is a ray of hope in the case of the Pokali fall and its watershed area. Enthusiastic local youths of Okhaldhunga presently studying or working and residing in the capital have taken a due initiative to form a society called the Pokali Waterfall Service Society (PWSS). There are several inspirational features in the society. There are 14 founder members under the inspired chairmanship of a tantric student named Guru Kedar Baral. All the 14 members are young and energetic. Their composition is inclusive in nature with three women, two dalit and two Sunuwar members/ office bearers. With less than a year in existence, they have already published a calendar which could be the beginning of the tourism promotion activity. The Society is now articulating its future strategy. They can augment their work by working in collaboration with the development agencies some of which are named below.

Until a new local governance structure is developed under a new constitution, the District Development Committee (DDC) is the proper local governance unit that can decide the development activities within the district. Above the DDC, the Ministry of Local Development (MLD) is the central government agency that coordinates the local development programs and provides needed resources. Apart from that, a number of international governmental, intergovernmental and non governmental agencies are also involved in different programmes of local development. To take some examples, CARE/Nepal has been involved in a number of watershed management programs; SNV of the Netherlands and GTZ of Germany

are involved in different local development programs; UNDP has been supporting a number of local development programs.

The PWSS is a non governmental initiative that will harness support from all the possible sources. DDC is urged not only to support it but also to develop it as a model to be emulated by the other regions of the district. The government is urged to give it the needed resources and other support. The donors are urged to extend their helping hands in the development of the Pokali watershed area. The intellectuals are urged to develop a proper focus on the parameters of local or regional development. The hoteliers or resort owners are urged to expand their business in the rural areas, and give this venture a realistic consideration. Tourism must flourish in the private sector. It

will be the good policy of the government to promote such people oriented programs.
Posted on: 2007-05-12 22:11:28 (Server Time)

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