Time to Halt Mountaineering: Let the Himalayas recuperate

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Dilli Raman Dhakal

Nepal is home of thousands of snow-capped mountain peaks. The Himalayan range occupies most of Nepal and extends into the Tibet region of China.  The Nepal-Tibet border roughly follows the line of the highest part of the range better known as the Great Himalayas, featuring several of the world’s highest peaks: Sagarmatha, the highest point on earth 8,848m, Kanchenjunga 8,586m, Makalu 8,463m, Dhaulagiri I 8,167 m, Manaslu I 8,163m, Annapurna I 8,091m nestled  with hundreds of other mountain peaks spreading from the eastern to the western end of Nepal border. Nepal is blessed with the finest natural beauty one can ever imagine.

People all over the world are desperate to have a glimpse of Sagarmatha, the highest mountain on earth and the wonderful high mountains. Mountains have glorified Nepal in such a manner that words hardly can better explain. Nepal is called a paradise on earth because of the Himalayas, its diverse ethnicity, rich culture and a wide variety of flora and fauna.  The stunning landscapes i.e. mountain, hill and terai, rich biodiversity, and mesmerizing lakes have further added the natural assets providing a wider window of prosperity.  However, the sad part of it is much larger because of unplanned, unchecked and mismanaged use of the great Himalayas.  Nepal has hardly harnessed the benefit of her rich natural resources.

Modern Mountaineering and Trekking

The modern mountaineering in Nepal started in 1953 when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Sagarmatha.  The country witnessed foreign mountaineers and trekkers arriving only after 1953. History shows that it was a self-propelled private initiative that encouraged tourists. The government initiative was not visible for encouraging, managing and systematizing mountaineering and trekking business in the country until 1972 when the tourism master plan was drafted. The private organizations such as Hotel Association of Nepal was created in 1966,   Nepal Association of Tour &Travel Agents (NATTA)  in 1966, Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) in 1973,  and Pacific  Asia Travel Association Nepal Chapter (PATA Nepal) in 1975. These were the pioneer non-governmental and non-profit organizations formed in the country well before the Tourism Ministry was created.

The Tourism Ministry was created in 1978 while the Department of Tourism was formed only recently, that is in 2071 BS. The Tourism Act was enacted in 1978. This is a clear manifestation that government initiative towards the promotion of tourism in Nepal remained well behind private initiatives. With regard to the mountaineering, the role of NMA remained instrumental. The NMA’s objectives state the following 7 broader objectives: Explore Mountain peaks and promote for mountain climbing tourism; Issue the climbing permits as agreed with the Government of Nepal; Protect and promote mountain people, culture and heritage; Develop and promote skilled human capital for supporting mountain climbing; Develop Sports climbing tourism in Nepal; Emergency Rescue, Rehab and Humanitarian support for needy individual/community, and, preserve natural environment in the mountain region for sustainable future.

The objectives of NMA may have been set as agreed by the government because of the government’s inability and knowledge managing mountaineering. During the initial years, using the expertise of private parties was needed and understandable, but with the changed context, the government must have taken responsibility for managing mountaineering. It’s strange that till this date, the NMA issues permits to 27 mountain peaks. The mountains belong to the nation so the permits should be issued by the government itself.  There should be one window policy on issuing expedition permits. The job of issuing permits can’t be handed over to an NGO. Likewise, the issue of trekking permit is creating serious confusions. The TAAN issues permit to most trekking routes, while for some, permits are issued through immigration department. This practice must stop and the NGOs be given more promotional role rather than regulatory responsibility.



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