Oil Crisis Adds Challenge for Nepalese Hemp Startup

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Dhiraj K. Shah of SHIV
Dhiraj K. Shah

Disappointment over Nepal’s new constitution has spurred southern Nepalese to shut down the Nepal-Indian border, halting transportation of fuel and basic goods from India and leading to a challenge for hemp startup Shah Hemp Inno-Ventures before it gets out of the blocks.

“I don’t know when the country will resume normalcy,” said Dhiraj K. Shah, SHIV’s founder. “We were hopeful that by now the situation would get better, but with every passing day it’s becoming more and more difficult.”

The fuel crisis brought on by the border blockade, has stopped delivery of building materials, delaying whatever reconstruction work was under way in a national rebuilding process that’s drawn deep criticism both inside Nepal and internationally.

That’s set up a barrier to Kathmandu-based SHIV’s plans to reconstruct the village of Sanopalati in Sindhupalchok District, one of the areas most devastated by the April 2015 quake.

“Full-fledged reconstruction has not started due to confusion over the government’s policies, but whatever work was going on has also now stopped,” Balbhadra Giri, Chief District officer in the Sindhupalchok district told The Nepali Times.

SHIV has developed a project to use Nepal’s abundant hemp fields as raw material for a mass-scale home-rebuilding initiative, and the Sanopalati project is planned as a showcase. The company’s strategy is to meet demand among middle-class Nepalese who likely would be squeezed out of relief programs coming through NGOs and governments but who could afford to rebuild with hemp from Nepalese fields.

“This is the last thing the people of Nepal need especially as winter is coming and imports are needed to provide not only fuel but other basic materials to build shelter with,” said Steve Allin, Director of the International Hemp Building Association, which is working with SHIV on the Sanopalati rebuilding project.

But Shah sees the current difficulties as only delaying his efforts. “I came back to Nepal to reconstruct it with hemp,” he said. “This is my life’s mission and I’m ready to fight for it to the end.”

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