An internationally-acclaimed engineering firm has confirmed that structural damage in two popular trekking trails in the region following the earthquake of April 25 and aftershocks thereafter is very minimal.
The study, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), also declared that Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Sanctuary trails are safe for trekking.
Submitting its report to MoCTCA on Thursday, officials of Miyamoto said only 3 percent i.e. 6 out of 250 accommodations along the trails have suffered minor repairable damages. “All 30 bridges on the trails are safe. Only around 250 meters track on the trails needs to be rerouted,” the report states.
The study was funded by SAMARTH-NMDP — a program supported by UKAID.
Speaking at a program organized in Kathmandu on Thursday, Kit Miyamoto, team leader of the assessment group, said Annapurna Region is open for business for autumn. “However, there are some areas that have been identified as having a particularly high hazard level due to their existing features or geometry. For example, very high rock slopes and areas with evidence of historic large rock fall and slope instability,” said Miyamoto.
The study team has suggested carrying out a detailed risk-assessment study of some areas. “It is recommended that a detailed hazard and risk assessment is undertaken at Bagarchhap to better understand the slope stability and rapid deposition risk to villagers and tourists staying in the area. Until such time as this is complete, we recommend that the risk present at the village is considered intolerably high for overnight occupancy,” the report stated.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Kripasur Sherpa said the independent assessment will help to clear negative message about Nepal in the international market. “Now we can tell the world that trekking in the region is completely safe,” he added.
The team has also recommended placing ‘Landslide Hazard No Stopping for 2 km’ signage on either side of the new regolith landslide north of Bhratang. It has also suggested to the government to re-route the section of track that is located at the scarp of the large rockslide between Kimrong and Chomrong or Jhinu Danda which is located within two meters from the edge of the failure. “The track should be located at least 100 meters upslope from the edge of failure. The section of track that requires re-routing is approximately 250 meters long,” the report adds.
BUDGET FOR TOURISM (2015/16)
The government has put development of airports and rebranding of country’s tourism after the devastating earthquake of April 25 in its priority.
Minister for Finance Ram Sharan Mahat presented the budget for Fiscal Year 2015/16 on Tuesday. Through the budget, the government has unveiled plans to invest in expansion of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), and construction of regional international airports in Bhairahawa and Pokhara, and small airports in rural hill districts. The budget, however, is silent on the development of second international airport in Nijgadh of Bara. But it has allocated budget for construction of an expressway to link Nijgadh with Kathmandu and develop Nijgadh as a smart city.
The government has allocated Rs1.75 billion for TIA expansion plan. Similarly, it has set aside Rs 2.50 billion for the upgradation of Gautam Buddha Airport of Bhairahawa into a regional international airport. The airport is expected to be completed by December 2017.
Similarly, the government plans to start construction work on regional international airport in Pokhara after distributing compensation to landowners in 2015/16.
In a bid to ease traffic congestion at TIA, the government has said it would encourage domestic airlines to provide services from airports outside Kathmandu.
# Unprecedented investment in airports
# Rebranding of tourism industry
# Rs 1.75 billion for TIA expansion
# Rs 2.50 billion for Gautam Buddha airport
# Upgradation of airports in Rajbiraj, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi and Biratnagar
# Rs1.01 billion for tourism promotion, reconstruction
# Safety audit of quake-hit areas
# Work on Buddhist Circuit from next fiscal year
# Feasibility study of Salleri-Chaurikharka-Mt Everest tourism road
The government has also allocated funds for upgradation of facilities at airports in Rajbiraj, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi and Biratnagar.
Similarly, the government has earmarked Rs 1.01 billion for reconstruction of heritage sites and places of cultural significance as well as for tourism promotional activities. The government has also unveiled plan to conduct safety audit of tourism destinations in quake-hit districts to boost visitors’ confidence. Budget has also been allocated for development of Lumbini and Janakpur. “The Greater Lumbini master plan will be executed and initial works on developing the Buddhist Circuit will be started in the coming fiscal year,” Mahat said, presenting the budget.
Likewise, the government has also earmarked funds to conduct feasibility study of Salleri-Chaurikharka-Mt Everest tourism road and for development of the Great Himalaya Trail. It has also given continuity to the facility of 100 percent tax exemption for entrepreneurs willing to build resorts near Rara Lake in Mugu district.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Kripasur Sherpa has said that efforts should be made to bring tourism, which suffered severe setback due to the devastating earthquake of April 25, back on track from the autumn season which begins in September.
Inaugurating an interaction on ‘Role of Stakeholders and Media in Tourism Recovery’ organized in Kathmandu on Wednesday by IMAGE NEPAL – bi-monthly international travel magazine to celebrate its 27th anniversary, Sherpa said both the government, private sector and mass media should work in tandem for early tourism recovery. “Media has a greater role to play in tourism recovery as we need to disseminate positive messages about Nepal to our major markets,” he added.
Similarly, Tourism Secretary Suresh Man Shrestha said the government’s policy and programs for 2015/16 unveiled on Wednesday has prioritized tourism sector. “The focus of the new policy and programs is infrastructure development,” he said, adding that the ministry has been focusing on organizing fam trips of media and celebrity to Nepal.
On the occasion, Minister Sherpa honored tourism entrepreneurs Ambica Shrestha, Tek Chandra Pokharel, Ang Tshering Sherpa, Chhabi Phuyal, Rajan Simkhada and Kami Sherpa as well as the magazine’s long serving employees Kishor Man Singh Basnyat and Bishnu Bhattarai.
Speaking at the program, Hari Raj Joshi, editor of IMAGE NEPAL, said the tourism industry should treat tourism-based media as their partners and extend necessary support and cooperation accordingly.
Chief Administrator of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Ramesh Kumar Adhikari suggested tourism entrepreneurs to devise innovative programs to engage foreign tourists. Similarly, Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) President Ramesh Prasad Dhamala said the ministry should devise programs and policies for the tourism industry in consultation with travel trade associations. “It would be unfortunate for the tourism industry if leading travel trade associations are overlooked,” he added.
Young entrepreneur Rajan Simkhada said the government should put focus on infrastructure development to bring more tourists. “We have comparative advantage over our neighbors in terms of tourism. We have raw materials (for tourism) throughout the country, we only need to exploit our potentials,” he added.
Similarly, Ang Tshering Sherpa of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) said the government should focus on promotion of adventure tourism. DB Limbu, coordinator of Joint Tourism Coordination Committee, and Devi Prasad Pant, president of Journalists Association for Tourism-Nepal also spoke on the occasion.
Image Nepal Publications group currently publishes four publications — IMAGE Nepal bi-monthly, TOURISM NEWS DIGEST – fortnightly, TND Yellow Pages and Kathmandu City Map.