Modi Khola Express 2017 – “Paddle it before it dries out” (Report, Results and Video)
By Kripa Dongol
The Modi Khola flows out of the Annapurna Conservation Area, fed by the snow on the Annapurna ranges up north. The iconic fishtail mountain – Machhapuchhre – can be seen from many sections on the river, a steady reminder of the distance these waters have travelled and the heights they have come from. Yet, the river is in peril as the construction of a tunnel to supplement power production at the Lower Modi Khola dam threatens to dry out the river, endangering fish habitat and as well as the local economy that relies heavily on tourism.
Kayakers however, did not miss an opportunity to rally around and get a collective run on this river before it dries out. Modi Khola Express, the 3rd of the Himalayan White-Water Express series organized by Nepal Kayak and Canoe Club, brought together about 30 kayakers from all around Nepal and the world to celebrate and compete on the Modi Khola. The previous two Express series were also held on the most iconic sections of the Bhote Koshi and Marsyangdi rivers, sections that are no longer running due to dam constructions. Kayakers spent 4 days on and off the river just a kilometer upstream of the tunnel construction, sharing stories of adventures and conservation.
The competition consisted of sprint challenges, Boater Cross Beer Challenges, a night Eskimo roll competition and Canyoning show. The fastest athletes faced off on the final day competing for a grand prize of fifty thousand Nepali Rupees. Devon Chalfant representing the USA bagged the first place, and Suman Tamang from Nepal came a close second – a mere .4 seconds behind the campion, winning thirty thousand Nepali Rupees. Surjan Tamang, Suman’s older brother, came in third winning twenty thousand Nepali Rupees. You can find the detailed result here.
The event was not without its own challenges either, as a new rule – formulated just a week before the event – required that the event be sanctioned by the Nepal Rafting and Canoeing Association. With preparation underway and athletes just days away from arriving, it was impossible to cancel the event and so the celebration continued with the support of local officials and community members.
The sight of a concrete wall on a river can mean many things – for some it signifies development, power and a source of income, for others it is a woeful loss. Modi Express was a celebration of white water, of athleticism and nature, but also an opportunity to have a conversation about the state of our environment. Event attendees interacted with locals about the impact of dams and the importance of conservation. Locals responded with an appreciation for kayaking and adventure tourism but also stressed the importance of development, something that the dams seem to have promised. We are yet to see what the dams will bring, but the kayakers will paddle on and continue their work on and for these rivers.
Check the Full Results Here