Saturday, April 14, 2018

A River Flows through Kathmandu: the Bishnumati (Nepal 2017-13)

Two rivers flow through the Kathmandu Valley. The main one is the Bagmati, which separates Kathmandu from Patan. It is considered holy by both Hindus and Buddhists. It rises in the Himalaya north of the Kathmandu valley and, after a major right and left turn in the city, flows generally south towards India through the Lesser Himalaya. The Bishnumati River also originates north of Kathmandu and flows through the western part of old Kathmandu. It joins the Bagmati in the southern part of the city about 3/4 mile south of Kathmandu Durbar Square. Both rivers are a mess. They have received  untreated sewage for decades, trash, old car bodies, and general detritus of a city without pollution controls.
Bishnumati River, view N from Swayambhu Marg Bridge

The view north from the Swayanbhu Marg bridge is rather discouraging. The river smells (OK, stinks), and there is trash and sludge in the water. The gravel berm or levee on the right in the water is perplexing. Is it to prevent flooding of some feature on the banks? A stream comes in from the left near the bridge in the distance. Possibly the berm is designed to prevent the flow from striking the bank on the right and causing erosion. Also note the broad gravel/sand bank on the left. The city maintenance workers should remove this gravel to allow the river greater flow capacity during flood.
Bishnumati River, view S from Swayambhu Marg Bridge

The view to the south is also discouraging. But there was a tractor digging in the gravel bank. I hope they intended to truck the material away. There are major brick works south of Kathmandu, and almost surely there are plenty of clay pits and excavations that could accept this excess riverine sediment.
About 1 mile west of the Bishnumati River is the Swoyambhunath Stupa. From the east, you ascend several thousand steps to the temple complex on a hilltop. It is a crowded scene with vendors, tourists, and Buddhists from many countries. The woods and general grounds are pretty trashy. Monkeys live in the woods and thrive picking food scraps.
I will only show two pictures from the main temple grounds of the Swoyambhunath Stupa. The site has shoulder-to-shoulder people. Many of the old buildings were terribly damaged by the 2015 earthquake. Most were made of unreinforced bricks, and the walls tumbled down in the earthquake. We saw construction crews laboriously rebuilding structures by hand.
The first three photographs were taken on Tmax 100 film with a Leica IIIC rangefinder camera with 50mm f/2.0 Summitar lens and a medium yellow filter. The scenes at the Swoyambhunath Stupa were from a Nexus 4 phone.

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