In the middle of Nijgadh forest is a fertile 1,000 hectare plain where approximately 7,000 people live. Most of the residents of Tangia Basti are Tamangs, but there are also Magars, Dalits, Bramhins, and Chettris. All moved here as part of a government tree planting project in the 1970s. Each family was offered 1 hectare of land, which they have been cultivating for decades. But they were never given official deeds to their land.
All residents of Tangia Basti have heard about the Nijgadh International Airport. In the concept sketch that adorns a signboard at the entrance to Nijgadh, some 7-8 kms away, the Basti has been replaced by a runway. The concept note currently being presented in lieu of a detailed project report proposes displacing Tangia Basti residents and constructing the airport’s first runway there.
But no one has actually spoken to the people of Tangia Basti directly about any of this. They feel their fate hangs in the balance, but the uncertainty and lack of knowledge is even worse— will the airport be built? If so, how long will it take? Will they get jobs? When, and where— if at all— will they be resettled? They have been asking for the last 30 years.
Despite this, it is not the fact of the airport that bothers the Basti’s residents. They have heard rumors that the airport will bring the area development, generate employment, and change their lives for the better.
The Basti is completely cut off from the national electricity grid, and there is no telephone service. Residents have installed hand pump sets for water and solar panels for electricity in their homes. Parents collectively pay to hire teachers for a primary school and another school that goes up to standard 8. Students who go to Nijgadh for secondary school have to pass through sal and teak forests, where elephants and tigers lurk. The Record talked to the people of Tangia Basti about life in the settlement, and what they think of the Nijgadh Airport.
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Ever since I arrived in Nepal in 1975 as a Peace Corps volunteer, I have been taking photographs of the country and its people. In the 1980s, I traveled across Nepal by foot with a tripod-mounted camera. The photographs I took during this period captured village and farm life continuing much as it had for […]