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Lost in Transition: Landless denizens of the Bagmati River

Galen Stolee | Nepal

Residents of the former Thapathali slums gather to discuss news about the government's resettlement plan. Many people here are former supporters of the current Maoist regime who, amongst a host of other issues, fought for land rights in their resistance against the former monarchy.

Last year, as part of an effort to clear up Kathmandu's Bagmati River for new development, the Nepalese government issued eviction notices to dwellers of the Thapathali slums, located along the river's north bank. When residents refused to move, police were brought in to raze the community to the ground. An estimated 1,250 people were rendered homeless, and almost a year and half later, the government has yet to fulfill their promise of locating new housing for this community.

Meanwhile, the 178 families that still remain have had to make do under ever-worsening circumstances, erecting temporary settlements out of everything from corrugated metal to discarded advertisement billboards, just a stones throw from where there houses used to reside. Without access to clean water or toilets, and with the fragile structures unable to stand up against the cold, heat, and rain of Nepal's climate, disease has become rampant throughout the community.

This story is an attempt to document the continued struggle for survival amongst the residents of Thapathali, and the incredible resilience and perseverance they embody.

My work focuses on the evolving relationship between indigenous cultural traditions and practices and the spread of globalization throughout the developing world. Rapid expansion of free trade, particularly across Southeast Asia, has brought new prosperity but also new challenges to the people living in these regions. While some have managed to assimilate their own values and practices into the larger flow, others have struggled to find ways to keep their traditions alive in the face of new economic and social realities. My aim is to document this story as a way of revealing what we've gained, what we're losing, and how we can find points of balance between the two.

Galen Stolee



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