Through the Lens: Life and Politics in Asia | Environment

A Warning From Nepal’s ‘River Man’

In 20 years, Nepal may not have any undammed rivers left.

Vishal Arora

Megh Ale is known as the “River Man” in Nepal, one of the world’s richest countries when it comes to water resources. Three-fourths of the country is in the Himalayas, home to numerous rivers and streams, but, Ale warns, in the next two decades it may not have any rivers left without dams.

Elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007, Ale is a river guide in Kathmandu and the founder and president of the non-profit Nepal River Conservation Trust. In this video, Ale shares the story of Nepal’s rivers as he walks along the banks of the River Bagmati in Kathmandu, which he describes as the country’s “holiest and the filthiest” river. Ale also raises concerns about another river, Karnali, the longest and the “most pristine Himalayan river” left in the country. Karnali may not remain free flowing for long, as a private engineering firm in neighboring energy-hungry India seeks to build a dam on the river to provide hydropower.