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Nepal security assessment
Updated Sept, 2012
The world is a mess, Nepal is also. However, in summary: so far it has always safe to trek and travel in Nepal, there may be strikes, delays and inconveniences—there may not—BUT you have never been a target. You are safe from orchestrated political violence, even Americans, so come have an adventure.
The bleak future
The country has been in a slow motion death spiral for more than a decade and, with the failure to finalize a new constitution (even after years of extensions), the country is in limbo. For the short and medium term with the blatant corruption and complete lack of morality displayed by virtually all politicians the country is doomed to utter mediocrity.
Currently the economy is kept alive by remittances from overseas (approximately 10% of the population is working overseas) as industry is not developing here. Inflation is running at around 7-15%; the unemployment rate is horrifying, and the list of serious flaws goes on. Administratively everything is blocked by politicians, and the chance of reviving democratic local government at the district level, and at the very important VDC (Village Development Committee) level in the near term is zero.
The problem is and always has been "the fox guarding the hen coop" with the politicians writing the rules to govern themselves, and they cannot even under pain of death see beyond their own pocket. The country has been waiting in vain so far for the leaders to introduce universal law and order unfortunately the current crops of politicians are actually incapable of truly solving the current problems. Even the unbiased International Crisis group says the political parties "are badly run and ideologically impoverished organisations with few policy goals, unclear agendas and chronic leadership crises".
Naturally there are are frustrations everywhere. There has been no progress on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to start to heal the families of the disappeared (ie brutally tortured then murdered) people who still have no information despite both sides agreeing to release information within 60 days, several times many years ago, and the laundry list is endless. Expect occasional disturbances and strikes but normally these don't have too much effect on trekking plans.
Come trekking, there are no unusual conditions (other than the above) to be aware of.
Despite huge hydropower potential, Nepal can't produce enough electricity for itself. So in Kathmandu during spring and autumn there is load shedding (ie no electricity) for around half the day and up to 18 hours in winter. Even in the monsoon when raining, there are still scheduled power cuts of several hours every day.
It is also a city on the edge in other ways. The air pollution is disgustingly bad and dangerously unhealthy, the rush hour traffic is to the point of virtual gridlock and the city can't even dispose of its rubbish satisfactorily. Despite these rather big issues, the historic old parts and the tourist ghetto of Thamel still have a chaotic charm.