Ropeways: connecting rural communities

January 12th, 2018

By Sanjib Chaudhary and Ganesh R Sinkemana

If you look up at the steep hills mounting over the Budhiganga River at Taptisera in Bajura district, you’ll believe why people call them ‘bandar ladne bhir’ – meaning cliff where even monkeys slip down.

There are three options to get to the top of the hill – a dangerous vertical climb of one and half hour, a strenuous trek of three and half hours and a six hour long tiring hike along the ridges. In addition, you’ll need to cross the Budhiganga River to get to the foothills before you begin your climb. And not only the water is chilly but the depth of the river is also another thing to worry about. You don’t know how deep the waters might be until you step into it.

Reducing the travel time to less than two minutes
However, this seemingly unsurmountable height and distance has been reduced to a descent of one and half minutes, thanks to a gravity goods ropeway (GGR) installed recently at the bank of the river.

A gravity goods ropeway carriage. (c) Practical Action/ Ganesh R Sinkemana

The GGR was installed by BICAS (Building Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Capacity of CSOs in Agriculture and Forest Sectors) project in coordination with government and other stakeholders. The project, supported by European Union, focuses on building the capacity of 45 local organisations to promote inclusive and sustainable growth and increase the income of 7,000 households from agriculture and forest-based enterprises in the remote mid and far-western districts of Kalikot, Mugu, Jumla, Bajura and Bajhang.

The GGR operator and chairperson of the users’ committee, Prem Saud, says, “It has made it easier to bring the produce from the upper part of Mana village and has encouraged the residents there to produce at commercial level.

Prem Saud, the GGR operator at Badimalika Municipality. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

In return the items of daily need reach the otherwise rugged terrain at nominal charge. Prem charges Rs 2 per (1 USD = Rs 101) kg to get the items to the upper station from the bottom station. The vegetables and other agricultural produce now get to the roadside in Re 1 per kg which is way cheaper than employing a porter who would demand at least Rs 500 – 1000 per load of 50 kgs.

The agricultural produce from the villages reaching market in no time means people are encouraged to produce more, eventually shifting to commercial farming. In a way, a ropeway acts like an enabler for inclusive business – integrating the smallholder farmers into national markets.

Suitable transportation for mountainous topography

Considering Nepal’s topography, gravity goods ropeways have proved to be a life-saver for communities where road construction is very difficult. The aerial ropeways, built to connect communities living high up in the hills to road-heads, operate by gravitational force. Two trolleys, running on pulleys, go up and down simultaneously on parallel steel wires – while the one with heavier load gets down to the road-head due to gravity, the other with lighter weight goes up to the upper terminal .

According to studies, aerial ropeways are three times cheaper than the equivalent road construction in Nepal and installing a gravity gods ropeway costs around Rs 2,500,000. While descending through the hilly tracks take two to three hours of walking to reach the road-head, the same load can get to the lower terminal in less than two minutes. This reduces the drudgery of the community people and saves a lot of time.

Women have many responsibilities,” said Sita BK, a midwife from Mana village. “For example, I have to do the household chores, cooking, farming and carrying loads. Here the GGR has helped because we no longer have to carry our rice up from the market.

Shanti BK (45) receives goods from Tipada Bazaar at the upper station of the GGR at Mana village, Bajura.

About 50 per cent of Nepal’s population still lives at least four hours walk away from the nearest dry-season road. Looking at Nepal’s topography the importance of installing ropeways, at places inaccessible to build roads, is obvious.

Replicating the technology beyond borders

In spite of the manifold benefits of the technology, only around 20 gravity goods ropeways have been serving rural people in Nepal. The first gravity goods ropeway was successfully run in Marpha, Mustang to transport apples from orchards to road-heads by Practical Action in association with International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in the year 2001.

Practical Action has also built gravity goods ropeways in Samtse, Bhutan and has been invited to Myanmar and Nagaland, India to survey and help construct the ropeways.

7 responses to “Ropeways: connecting rural communities”

  1. Jamie Deprospero Says:

    very well prepared. it was nice to read. Giving onto onward for Additional of it. Try to keep up the good work

  2. Aaron Vale Says:


  3. James Brynteson Says:

    very effectively written. it was nice to read. Giving onto forward for Much more of it. Try to keep up the good task

  4. Shankar Chaudhary Says:

    First class job! Thanks Practical Action. Thank you SANJIB Ji for sharing your piece with us.

  5. Laldinliana chhangte Says:

    We require ropeways for our bamboo garden to lift bamboo from 5000 meters.
    Pls advice us for low cost ropeways.

    Many thanks
    Prop king marketing,
    Aizawl, mizoram
    Phone: +91 9774019868

  6. Ganesh Says:

    @Dina. Recently we have designed Ropeways for Nagaland which costs about INR 1.5 million for 500 m span. If you send us GPS coordinates of your proposed site we will be in better position to suggest you the type of ropeway you need for lifting the bamboos.

  7. John Pepper Says:

    Hi, Excellent article. I’ve been to Nagaland recently in the Tening District to help a new NGO in its start-up. One of the issues faced in the area seem to be exactly the same as those faced by the people in the article – namely transport of agricultural produce, water and people in mountainous terrain. Perhaps you can contact me to see what can be done to work together. Thanks, John.

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