Sunita Kumari Chaudhary quietly weaves together lengths of rope, binding them with grass collected from the riverbank in her village of Dang. She skillfully shapes the materials into a jewelry box. As she weaves, she’s instructing a small group of women how to work with the materials. The ropes that Chaudhary and the others are using were once the lifeline for mountain climbers tackling Nepal’s mountains and were then tossed.

Government initiatives to clean up discarded materials on the mountains have ramped up since 2019. The waste, including the ropes, is now finding new life, transformed by skilled hands like Chaudhary’s into items to sell such as boxes and table mats. “At first, I wasn’t aware that these ropes were collected from the mountains,” Chaudhary says as she expertly bends and coils a blue-colored rope into an oval-shaped box. To her left, a container holds her tools – scissors and metal nails. Scattered on the floor are several mats she’d made, each a vibrant mix of golden yellow, purple and blue.

“Later, I learned that [the ropes were] collected during a mountain cleaning campaign. And people like me, who are far from the mountains but belong to the indigenous Tharu community, are using our traditional skills to transform this waste into something entirely new.”

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Author: Tanka Dhakal, NPR, WHYY PBS

Image: Tanka Dhakal, NPR, WHYY PBS