Lessons from the disaster

Muhammad Ibrahim Ibne Towhid finds out why a group of four cyclists from Nepal are currently on a world tour

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For the entire world April 25, 2015 began like any other day. Little did the people of South Asia know that a disaster was on its way!
A powerful earthquake struck in the morning between the Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu and Pokhara city. The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale, was also felt in nearby countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Nearly 9,000 people died and most historic sites of Nepal were severely damaged, including temples and monuments.
The United Nations said more than eight million people were affected by the earthquake which roughly comprises of a quarter of Nepal’s population and was the biggest earthquake in the past 80 years. A second strong earthquake of magnitude 7.3 hit eastern Nepal, near Mount Everest just days later on May 12, 2015 which again killed more than 100 people and left thousands injured.
More than two years later, the country is still rebuilding and aid agencies say millions of people still remain homeless.
But such a disaster can be a learning experience, and pave the path to raising awareness, as can be understood through the motives of a cyclist team from Nepal. The team hopes to raise awareness among people about the importance of the environment and how we should do everything within our means to conserve it.
Dirghayu Nepal is a Nepal Government registered non-governmental organisation, with its head office in Srijanachowk Pokhara. Initially established with a motto ‘Involve, Inspire and Enable’ to work in the field of child-rights, healthcare, education and environment, it is run by a team of experts and energetic members. The members of the organisation conducted immediate and intermediate earthquake relief programmes after the country was struck by the disastrous earthquake.
Ajit Baral (28) is a passionate cyclist and a photographer by profession. He met other cyclists, Saroj Gurung (30), Surendra Sharma (38) and Yam Gurung (30) while working at the relief programme. Baral works as a photographer at the tourism magazine Discover Nepal Pokhara while the other three are involved in the agro tourism business.
Being a passionate cyclist, Baral used to travel to places with his elder brother. As his brother is currently concentrating on his higher degree as a doctor, Baral was intently looking on partners for cycling long distances with him. Later after the four met, they decided to pedal for a cause. They believe that although earthquake is a natural disaster, the losses from earthquake and other disasters can be minimised by taking good care of the environment.
Last year Baral had individually stepped out of Nepal and went for a world cycle tour carrying the message that saving the environment matters. In a duration of one and a half year, he covered 17 countries including Nepal, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and USA.
After returning to Nepal he joined the other three members and planned for a five years-long group world tour, planned to be carried out with two breaks. So on June 5, 2017, on the world environment day, they started their world tour by cycle.
Bangladesh is the second third stop of this phase of their trip as they travelled from Nepal to India and entered Bangladesh from the Benapole border reaching Dhaka on June 29.
While talking to New Age Xtrta, Ajit Baral, who is better known as Cycologist Ajit Baral, says, ‘When I was travelling to different parts of the US, the cyclist groups there entitled me with the term ‘cycologist’. As I travel different parts of the world I advocate environmentalism and create awareness among people about HIV/AIDS. Currently in Dhaka, three of my friends are helping me in this noble cause of awareness creation with the slogans Save the environment to Save the world and Awareness against drugs addiction.’
‘As I was coming to Dhaka by cycle from the border area, I found many lakes being filled. This is a problem in my country as well. In order to minimise losses from a natural disaster, we need to plant more trees and stop lakes and other water bodies from not getting filled,’ adds Baral.

The team will be leaving for Myanmar within this week and then travel to Thailand, Laos, Tibet and other countries to advocate their message. They are using google maps to track their ways and know the directions.
Saroj Gurung, another member of the team, says, ‘During our stay in Dhaka, we held tree plantation campaigns and cleaning programmes with different environment groups. We held seminars with the two groups ‘BD Clean’ and ‘Dhaka Clean’ in order to share about ways to save the environment. On July 5, we also took part in a human chain against the disease Chikungunia in front of the press club. Later we cleaned different areas near the Secretariat and Osmani Auditorium as part of our cleaning campaign. Our other plans include collaborating with cyclist groups in Bangladesh and interacting with student bodies.’
Cycling is a tough job at times due to the changing weather and then comes the cost for travelling to different parts of the world. While sharing how the team is managing everything, Surendra Sharma says, ‘Every place we go, we inform our embassy. Nepalese embassy is helping us in a number of ways. Cycling to different places is kind of surviving by taking help from others. We are managing our food and accommodation cost from our own expenses. However, people are sometimes helping us. The Nepali community in the places we visit, try to help us in any way they can. From Bangladesh, we will be flying to Myanmar as there is no direct road connection. We will be disassemble our bicycles and carry them with us. Once we land, we will travel by cycle again.’
Yam Gurung shares with New Age Xtra, ‘We believe that motivating even a single person is a great achievement. We are here because one never knows what kind of consequences may occur from a calamity in the future. We look forward to others sharing our cause and work on different projects to protect the environment. We are coming to the people to trigger the cause and be an inspiration. Cycling is eco-friendly, we are doing that. We want others to cause less pollution, plant more trees and save the water bodies.’

Ajit Baral and his group are on a mission to inspire others and trigger the desire among people to save the planet from destruction. They are not posting their activities in the social media regularly because they want to present a compilation. The places they are travelling to and the things they are doing are all being recorded. After they complete their tour, they plan on making a documentary that they will share with the world.

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