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Khokana village losing its uniqueness

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1 Khokana village losing its uniqueness on Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:06 am

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By DEV KUMAR SUNUWAR

KATHMANDU, May 30 - Sixty-five years old Hira Lal Dongol, no more does his past-days business of visiting the market by carrying Kharpan (Basket carrier), nor visits the nearby community run mustard oil mill, even though he happens to be one of its 150 shareholders.


Time was when every single member of household in the village would go to the market with Kharpan on their shoulders daily.This used to be a pleasant moment for everybody then. But those are the days gone by. “Everything has changed now,” said Dongol.

It is not Hira Lal Dongol alone who has left his old business; almost all the other villagers have done the same. “Due to increase in competition in the market, we are compelled to opt for modern technology and business methods,” said Hari Shyam Dongol, treasurer of Neubutole Oil Mill. “No one is interested in using the traditional mills, as it requires more labor, time and huge investment in the processing of oil.”

A modern mill run on electricity throughout the process of making mustard oil, from heating the mustard seed to pressing it and so forth is seen by all as more efficient nowadays. Traditional mills using wooden presses and firewood to heat the seed have become obsolete, says Dongol. Although, traditional methods used in the making of mustard oil results in better quality and taste, almost all the villagers have now opted for the modern technology.

The statistics of Khokana Village Development Committee show that there are altogether four community run traditional oil mills each having 200 to 300 shareholders still in existence, none have been functioning since many years now. Instead, there are eight-privately run modern mills, which are ever more in demand. Half liter of oil coming out from modern mills sells for Rs 75, whereas Rs 100 formustard oil made through traditional means costs Rs 100.

Khokana, 7-km away from the Ring Road, is a medieval Newar settlement. Because of its unique features of being a historical village and its mustard-oil seed industrial heritage United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recently proposed to place it in its World Heritage Site list. But,the steadily disappearing traditional technology and way of life of the village have been a source of disappointment all those who want to keep Khokana unique, says Bhim Raj Shakya, a secretary of Khakana VDC.

“We are making efforts to preserve its historical character and to turn it into a tourism hub but this is difficult,” said Shakya. “We have done nothing, except telling them to operate community run-mills again and design their houses in the traditional style. That alone cannot help raise adequate interest in the importance of indigenous technology and traditional building methods.”
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