Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, is getting a major facelift ahead of the 18th annual summit for the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which is set to take place on November 26 and 27. Established in 1985, SAARC joins eight South Asian countries to promote welfare economics and collective self-reliance, and to accelerate the region's socio-cultural development. This is the first time Kathmandu will host the summit in 12 years.
What's getting spruced up for the big meeting? Repair crews have been busy working on several roads and roadside houses, painting old walls and planting new trees.
Using a group-maintained Twitter account, Nepali journalists have cataloged some of the improvements to the city:
— Nepali Journalists (@jhyal) November 6, 2014
The main roads and streets look clean and beautiful, thanks to the city's efforts. For Nepalis, accustomed to the old appearance, the new look is quite unbelievable.
Anuj Ghimire, a zoologist and photographer, tweeted:
— Mr Zoologist (@Mrophiophagus) November 4, 2014
Glancing quickly, it was like, what country is this again?
The authorities are even painting some of the private buildings and walls along the main roads.
Hinting at the sudden generosity of the authorities, Suvek Shakya, a software developer tweeted a cartoon.
— Suvek shakya (@suvek_shakya) November 6, 2014
It's right [I should go to the airport wearing old clothes. Who knows! The government might cut a suit for me!]
Neglected for years, the nine-story-tall Dharahara tower (a monument erected to national pride by Nepal's first prime minister, Bhimsen Thapa) and the Ghanta Ghar clocktower now have fresh coats of paint.
The Kathmandu Post tweeted:
Workers paint Ghantaghar at Ratnapark in Kathmandu as part of the preparations for the upcoming Saarc Summit. pic.twitter.com/DCi55h4uta
— The Kathmandu Post (@kathmandupost) November 10, 2014
Besides the beautification of their city, Kathmanduites have another reason to be happy during the SAARC Summit: the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) will ensure an uninterrupted supply of electricity during the summit. (Typically, Kathmandu Valley experiences around 9-10 hours of power cuts every day.)
With a dash of sarcasm, many of the city's residents are looking forward to the electric luxury:
Thanx to SAARC Summit that is going to be held in Nepal At least no power cuts for a month n 4 days holiday. LOL
— CALM SRK fan (@kcrazy_4me) November 8, 2014
Renovations to the 110-year-old main gate of the Singha Durbar (the country's administrative headquarters) have employed cement, against the instructions of the Department of Archaeology, which called for using the same traditional materials that went into constructing the first gate.
Rabindra Mishra, a senior journalist with the BBC, wrote about some of the restoration work being done in haste. The authorities, for their part, say it's been too difficult to find better restoration experts in time for the summit.
Amit Agrawal, an entrepreneur living in Kathmandu, tweets:
— Amit Agrawal (@AmitAgrhere) November 13, 2014
Kriti Bhuju, a writer, shares a similar thought:
I wish SAARC summit is organized annually in Nepal. Wondering how will Kathmandu be if it is done so! #SAARCsummit
— kriti bhuju (@kritibhuju) November 11, 2014
The preparations for the SAARC summit seem to be a hit with Kathmanduites, but some already wonder what awaits the city, after the conference, when the repaired roads, buildings, and walls fall into disrepair again.
Achyut Luitel, a development professional, writes:
— Achyut Luitel (@achyutluitel) November 13, 2014
Kathmandu right now has been like [someone] wearing an overcoat from Khasa [China] over old clothes. It is certain to wear and tear as the SAARC concludes.