The tourism-related activities in the protected areas which consist of national parks, wildlife reserves and conservation areas are now under purview. Although there was no legal framework the government had imposed a ban in July 2012 prohibiting the private sector from operating hotels, resorts and tourism related activities in these protected areas. The government did so by not renewing the contract period to operate them after the period of their contracts was over although the government faced stiff opposition from the private sector conducing tourism activities in these areas. More than half the tourists coming to Nepal visit the national parks based in the Terai region and also the wildlife reserves and conservation areas. The tourists making such visits number about 200,000 every year. As per the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act the government is all set to bring out a Tourism Concessional Manual for the protected areas.

It is high time to spread the word around that Nepal is now a safe place for tourists, trekkers and mountaineers

In consultation with the private sector it will invite bids for running various tourism-related activities in the protected areas by making specifications pertaining to them there. These activities would include permitting the opening of tea shops, curio shops, forest resorts, tented camps, safaris and boating, among others, in the protected areas. Meanwhile, the hills and mountains, renowned for adventure sports in the form of sky diving, rock climbing, hot air ballooning, paragliding, mountain biking, bungy jumping and also rafting, could do with more promotion. The government is looking for bids to be made from the private sector, and it looks likely that the contract period will be extended and renewed after the Tourism Concessional Manual comes into effect. The manual is expected to further promote Nepal as an ideal destination for tourists and, at the same time, lead to better conservation of the protected areas, also enhancing the visitors’ experience, increasing revenue for the community through tourism and also the taxes levied by the government. Incidentally, Nepal possesses four wildlife reserves, 10 national parks and six conservation areas which have helped the conservation efforts of Nepal’s unique flora and fauna.

Meanwhile, after the April 25 earthquake the tourism industry is in trouble as many tourists left the country and other visitors cancelled their bookings. However, the flow of tourists is gradually picking up in Nepal. The famed Annapurna trekking circuit has now even seen a couple of foreign visitors. This popular trekking circuit did not suffer any damage from the strong tremors. There is every possibility that the tourists will flock back to trek here if they were to know that this trekking route has not been affected by the disaster. It is worth noting that even after the massive destruction caused by an avalanche in this trekking route last year, the site witnessed a significant increase in the number of visitors after a few months. As many as 130,000 tourists had trekked this route in 2014. Thus, it is high time to spread the word around that Nepal is now a safe place for tourists, trekkers and mountaineers.

Excuses galore

The buildings made unlivable by the April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks have to be demolished without any delay in order to ensure the safety of people and surrounding structures. Such buildings come tens of thousands in the Kathmandu Valley alone. A few hundred such structures not more than three stories have been brought down by the security personnel, and some other organizations and volunteers are also contributing their mite. The authorities cite lack of staff, trained ones at that, and lack of equipment for the delay in the demolition work.

Now, after one and a half month, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has just asked the Central Natural Calamity Relief Committee for sophisticated equipment to demolish high-rise buildings and seriously damaged houses. The equipment in view is the import of a five-tonne manually operated concrete cutter. This particular kind of equipment and other necessary machinery, tools or materials were either short or non-existent with the government agencies. As for KMC, it was supposed to possess such equipment also because it was necessary to pull down illegally built high-rise structures. But it did nothing.