Plenty of well-meaning organizations say the best way to support quake-ravaged Nepal is to spend your tourist dollars there, but many local tour operators have concerns. File photo
KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Himalayan tour operators are criticizing a new government-sanctioned report that declared one of the country’s most popular trekking circuits safe for tourists after massive earthquakes ravaged the country in late April.
They say the study was hastily conducted, without enough fieldwork to back up the findings.
The report, funded by the U.K. and conducted by structural-engineering company Miyamoto, found that the Annapurna circuit was not as badly damaged as initially feared, the BBC says.
The government welcomed the report’s conclusions that very few trails in the area needed repairs after quakes on April 26 and May 12 killed more than 9,000 people across the tiny mountain nation.
Several companies and associations that facilitate trekking expeditions across the Himalayan mountains surrounding Nepal, however, are less enthusiastic. Most say they were not consulted for their input, despite their intimate familiarity with and practical knowledge of the region.
“Such assessments need to have the involvement of stakeholders like us to have any credibility,” Ramesh Dhamala, president of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), told the BBC.
Nepal Mountaineering Association president Ang Tshering Sherpa added that the report was “totally insufficient” because only one week of fieldwork was carried out.
Their criticisms come just over a month after U.N. officials voiced their fears over the safety of several quake-damaged World Heritage Sites reopened by the Nepalese government.
Speaking to the New York Times in June, Christian Manhart, the head of UNESCO Kathmandu, said that his organization had encouraged authorities to delay the reopening of certain monuments — including some of the country’s most popular attractions — because of concerns that some buildings were still unsafe or vulnerable to looting.
He also told the Times that Archaeology Department director general Bhesh Narayan Dahal implied to him that he was under pressure to reopen damaged monuments in order to collect entrance fees to support reconstruction efforts.