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Brief Introduction

Namobuddha Municipality, Kavre, 1 No. Province, Nepal – An Introduction

The Namobuddha Municipality is a newly designated entity under the new Constitution of Nepal, which empowers local government through constitutional provisions and elected representatives. It is a municipality in the Mahabharat mid hills of the country, just east of Kathmandu Valley, with high ridges, great rivers and productive mountain flanks and valleys. The population of the municipality is 29,519, made up primarily the Tamang ethnic community and the Parbate hill community. Namobuddha Municipality is one of six designated ‘urban municipalities’ of Kavre Districts and lies adjacent to the Dhulikhel and Panauti towns as well as the Panchkhal Valley.

Under the rights and responsibilities set by the new Constitution, the Namobudhha Municipality under Mayor Tanka Prasad Sharma and his team of elected representatives from 11 wards as well as civil servants are committed to using their five year term (ending in 2022) to support economic growth, environmental protection, cultural heritage preservation and dramatic enhancement of social sector including education, employment, public health and public transport.

Culture

The population of the municipality is divided between the Tamang ethnic community, the Newar ethnic community and the Parbate community (including Bahun, Chhetri, and Dalit), which gives a rich tapestry to the municipality, which has both urban and rural parts. Flowing through north-south through the municipality is the Indravati river, the easternmost tributary of the Sapta Kosi river, itself the largest tributary of the Ganga. The Indravati is fed by the melting snows from the southern flanks of the Jugal Himal range, known as the Panch Pokhari area.

Culturally, the most significant treasure of the municipality is the Namobuddha shrine itself, linked to the Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gautam, the historical Buddha who was born in Lumbini, Nepal. The shrine is a focus of pilgrims from all of Nepal as well as Buddhist countries of the Himalaya and worldwide. The new municipality itself takes its name from the Namobuddha shrine, and it is the intention of the elected representatives including the mayor to ensure that the spirituality of the shrine and its environs are preserved even while making way for the citizens of the municipality to benefit from the shrine as an ‘economic resource’. The presence of the shrine also makes the municipality as a focus for Buddhist clergy and several monasteries.

The municipality is proud to be the place where the great historical king of the Tamang people had his palace, on a high ridge on the eastern side of the Indravati River. The place is said to have been consecrated by Guru Padmasambhava, and there are many sites here linked to the Bodhisattva.

The lives and rituals of the Parbate (Khas) and Newar communities add further highlights to the cultural richness of the municipality.

Geography

The high ridges of the municipality are rich in floral and faunal biodiversity, with community forestry having protected the woodlands. From the ridgelines and northern slopes, the high Himalaya is visible on a line from the Khumbu Himal in the east, onward westward with Gauri Shanker, Jugal Himal, Langtang, and Ganesh Himal. Even though the valley floor is rich in water, including the flow of the Indravati and the Rosi, the mountainsides are water-deficit. The earthquake of April 2015 shifted the rock strata so that many natural springs that the locals relied on have dried up, creating a challenge for the municipality.

Climate-wise, there is a great difference in elevation, with the valley floors being about 3000 feet MSL and the heights reaching 6000 MSL or above. This means that the winters are especially cold in the heights, and even the valley can be cold because of the natural fog that rises from the rivers. While mid-winter can be cold, the climate in the rest of the year is warm and sub-tropical.

Services

When Nepal first experimented with local government in the 1990s, Kavre District led the other districts in its ability to carry out development activities. It became the first hill district where roads connected to every village, and the district was also ahead in agro-forestry. Naturally, Namobuddha was also a part of this progress. The opening of the Sindhuli Highway (BP Rajmarg) linking Kathmandu Valley to the eastern Tarai means that the Bhakundebesi township is part of this busy artery. While this allows the municipality easy transport connectivity in both directions, it is also bringing traffic jams and pollution and is fast-pacing urbanization, which can be a challenge.

The key challenge to the newly elected municipality and its leaders is to ensure the empowerment of local communities, create a sense of self-help, even while working to provide high-quality services to the population. The municipality, therefore, will be concentrating on public health, public education, public transport, agricultural outreach and environmental health. To achieve this, the focus will be on providing potable water, introduce rural public transport to the far corners, introduce lift irrigation where feasible and drip irrigation where not, enhance the quality of community (government schools), and ensure healthy living through preventative and curative services.

Economy

Namobuddha Municipality has fine economic prospects because of its extensive natural resources, cultural richness and its geographical location on the Sindhuli Highway, which promises a boost to economic activity. The northern mountain flank of Namobuddha, from Phulbari to Patlekhet villages, is the national center of certified organic farming, and the ‘farmer’s markets’ of Kathmandu Valley mostly have to products sourced from this flank. There is even a modest export of organic produce from Patlekhet to Singapore. The Municipality will work with the local farmers to promote and market organic produce nationally and internationally.

Among the many specific agro-forestry products specific to the Namobuddha Municipality is the bodhicitta seed, found especially on the Tamil region, and considered valuable as Buddhistic beads. Other agroforestry products that can be promoted in the municipality include oranges, kiwi and even a particular variety of ‘midhill mango’. Dairy production is another strength of the municipality.

Tourism potential of the municipality can be divided into four categories. The first is ‘pilgrimage tourism’ linked to the Namobuddha shrine as well as the sites linked to Padmasambhava on the Timal region. There are many temples of note in the region, such as the Shiva shrine at Mathurapati. The second is trekking tourism, as yet incipient, which includes trekking from the Panauti heritage town to Namobuddha, from the Indravati Valley floor to Timal, and from Timal to Muday in Sindhupalchok District via the great mountain of Sailung, which also is a part of Tamang folklore. The third is heritage tourism linked to the ancient town of Dapcha, a ridgetop village that was on the main route out of Kathmandu Valley to the points east, a route used by administrators as well as invaders, and pilgrims and lay folk. Dapcha is populated by the Newar traders and craftsmen, and much of the old buildings are awaiting restoration and development as a prime tourism spot. The fourth variety of tourism in Namobuddha Municipality is linked to resorts providing high Himalayan panorama, local culture and cuisine and natural habitat. The Namobuddhar Resorts is a pioneering resort of this type, and there are others being planned. On the whole, the focus of the mayor and municipality will be to learn from the experience of mountain tourism in nearby Dhulikhel and Nagarkot and ensure high-quality tourism which will also provide economic returns to the local inhabitants at a satisfactory level.