Kathmandu, October 16
The government move comes after national mountaineering stakeholders expressed serious concern about the transparency of millions of rupees the country’s oldest alpine club annually collected by issuing permits to the world climbers.
Referring to the recent decision by the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation said it authorised the Department of Tourism to issue climbing permits with effect from today, ending a nearly four-decade-long NMA’s monopoly on 33 mountains ranging from Mt Chhukung Ri (5,550m) to Shigu Chuli (6,501m).
After ending its major earning resources, the ministry, however, said that NMA’s administrative and operational cost would be managed by government. Depending on the range and altitude of the peak, NMA has fixed permit fee up to US$ 250 for each foreign climber. After its establishment in 1973, NMA had been handling 15 expedition peaks and 18 climbing peaks since 1977.
Being a non-governmental, non-profit and non-political organisation, NMA has been mandated to work as a national alpine association to promote mountain tourism, climbing sports and protect mountain environments.
NMA President Ang Tshering Sherpa said he was shocked by the government’s decision. “It’s just a ploy to destabilise the country’s adventure tourism,” he said, dismissing charges of embezzlement of climbing royalty. “NMA is consulting lawyers to decide its next move,” he said. Sherpa said the NGO annually collected over five million US dollars as the fees from climbers attempting to summit 27 peaks, while six other peaks were declared royalty-free last year.
Of 15 expedition peaks, nine mountains are situated in Solukhumbu.
A version of this article appears in print on October 17, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.