Monday, February 28, 2011

Planned Communities in the Kathmandu Valley

Yesterday I went to a village in Lalitpur district called Sainbu Bhaishepati. Located about 30 minutes by bus from Jawalakhel, this is a typical small town in the Kathmandu Valley.

It has a main street, lined with small storefronts:

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It is surrounded by fields, where people harvest wheat, mustard greens, and other vegetables:

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Homes are in multi-family structures like this typical one, which is unfinished but well lived-in:

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You can imagine my surprise, then, when I saw this, a very different vision of multi-family living, just off the main road:

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Planned housing developments appear to be cropping up all over the Kathmandu Valley, with names like Park View Horizon, Central Park, Grande Towers, Imperial Court, and, simply, Sterling.

After living and working in China, I well know that striving countries have long been importing gated communities from the U.S. (and, for the record, Beijing is definitely beating out Kathmandu on the name factor; Champagne Villas remains my favorite to date). I was, though, surprised to see so many planned developments in Nepal, which is the poorest country in South Asia and which ranks 148 out of 162 countries in terms of GDP per capita.

The few communities that I have glimpsed close-up appear to be only partially occupied or stalled in development. That, combined with the faux Spanish or Tuscan architecture, has made me do a double take: am I really in Nepal or am I in southern California, Arizona, Nevada -- or China?

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