To Search The Secret Of The Forest

By Pietro Lo Casto

A complex relationship between man and nature defines life in the village of Tangia Basti, South Eastern Nepal. A sprawling forest surrounding the community provides and, at times, even takes away. Inherited cultural beliefs and mysterious rituals bind the lives of the inhabitants to the land.

A man climbs a tree to collect wood, hunts animals at night and knows his way miles deep into the jungle. A former Maoist soldier bathes in the river, he has found solace in the calm of the woods. An archaic tree sits silent, high as the sky, absorbing the darker spirits of the forest and preserving the natural balance of the community. A young girl with esoteric powers uses animal energy to heal those possessed by ghosts.

The community has been living in a state of uncertainty for more than 25 years due to the proposed construction of an airport. The village is completely cut off from the national electricity grid, houses have no running water and there's no telephone connection. In spite of this fragility, people have built roads and schools, grown resilient and created a lively existence.

If built, Nijgadh international airport could raze the very forest that is so integral to the lives of the people of Tangia Basti. Recently, there has been news that works on the airport will start before the end of 2020, even as the entire country is struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. If the airport construction begins, the future of this community will become ever more uncertain. How can the destruction of our very habitat be seen as our economic and social growth? How do we compensate for the displacement of a community? What kind of life lies beyond the forest for the people of Tangia Basti?