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Kathmandu's Big Facelift Ahead of the 2014 SAARC Summit

The preparations for the 18th SAARC Summit are in the final stage of completion. Image by Sumit Shrestha. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2014)

The preparations for the 18th SAARC Summit are in the final stage. Image by Sumit Shrestha. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2014).

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:

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:

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.

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:

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:

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.

The Singha Durbar (Lion Palace) getting its main entrance gate restored. It is the official seat of government of Nepal. Image by Sumit Shrestha. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2014)

The Singha Durbar (Lion Palace) getting its main entrance gate restored. It is the official seat of government of Nepal. Image by Sumit Shrestha. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2014)

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:

Kriti Bhuju, a writer, shares a similar thought:

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:

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.

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