The Limi Road

Abstract:

In 2010, a group of local politicians and businesspeople from Humla, Nepal, decided to take matters in their own hands and build a road to China. Taking high personal risks and working against many odds, the group has since constructed more than 100 kilometres of road. Connecting Humla to the Kailash region of Western Tibet, the road follows a disused trade route and crosses the main Himalayan range. Within a few years, this local initiative accomplished more than an ADB-funded and government-supported project in almost two decades.

Upper Humla, like many higher regions in the Himalayas, has never been able to meet subsistence needs. It has always relied on trade with the outside world. However, supplies brought in by caravans have largely been replaced by food aid managed by the World Food Programme and the government of Nepal. In this context, the question who is forging connections and who is in control of them is of utmost importance.

Thus, rather than beating the drum against the inefficiencies of big development, I take the ongoing story of the Limi road as a starting point to explore, in all their complexities, the forces unleashed, the political dynamics triggered, the geopolitics involved, and the obstacles encountered in this local effort to re-open a pathway and re-kindle old ties.