Nepal | July 11, 2020

EDITORIAL: Mending matters

The Himalayan Times
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There should be rescue teams consisting of medical and security personnel who can carry out rescue works should strong blizzards occur

It has now been a year since the strong, deadly Hudhud storm wrecked havoc in the Thorangla Pass area of Manang and Mustang districts. At least 48 foreign trekkers, Nepali guides and their support team lost their lives. This  15km route from Manang’s Thorangpas to Mustang’s Muktinath is regarded as one the most dangerous trekking trails as there are no human settlements in the area, and it  takes at least 10 hours for trekkers to traverse it. Moreover, there are no exact figures of those who were affected as no proper records have been maintained. The death toll could be higher and more than 500 suffered injuries and eight persons have yet to come into contact. The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) is now all set to set up two check posts and several shelters in the Muktinath area of Mustang district. Strong blizzards in this route make rescue attempts a daunting task. There was no shelter in the route which caused dozens of trekkers to lose their lives in the calamity.

Also blamed for such tragedies is the lack of up-to-date weather forecasts. These should be made readily available and timely so that the needed precautions could be taken to avert further disasters and trekkers would not lose their lives. It has been decided to make available a week-long weather forecast and other relevant information regarding this route. It is necessary to keep the records of trekkers, both Nepali and foreign, who are trekking on this trail. It was because of the lack of such records that still the full extent of the disaster is not known. It is assumed that many of the trekkers have disappeared. Moreover, foreign trekkers should be allowed on the route only with competent guides. The lack of such guides is also known to have caused the huge, tragic loss.

Besides, there should be rescue teams consisting of medical and security personnel who can carry out rescue works should strong blizzards and avalanches occur. The check-posts are supposed to keep the information of the trekkers that would assist the rescue teams to swing into action at short notice thereby minimizing casualties. Everything possible should be done to make trekking in this area safe for both Nepalis and foreigners, and the country could do with investments meant for their safety. The investments made for safety of the trekkers will not go to waste. Furthermore, since much wrong information about this tragedy was spread worldwide, many visitors are refraining from coming here for treks. They should be assured about their safety and that the government will take all the necessary measures and also the check-posts and shelters are built where they are required. The earnings made by the ACAP are handsome and when it comes to the matter of security to save precious lives there should be no compromise. Meanwhile, the concerned are being lambasted for not putting the various safety measures needed in place. These accusations should be taken up seriously in the larger interest of mountain tourism in the country. Delay in doing so would not augur well for adventure tourism in Nepal.

Open university

A public pledge had been made by the government more than a decade ago, and repeated from time to time, in order to make law on an open university. At an interaction programme on ‘Open University Bill-2015’ the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on women, children and social welfare, Ranju Kumari Jha, said the country would soon get the Open University Act. At long last, a Bill on Open University has been tabled in the parliament. According to her, the parliament would soon pass the bill with some modifications.

An open university makes it possible for those who cannot attend regular university classes to get higher education. Open University particularly provides an opportunity to rural youths to study for a university degree which would not otherwise be possible for most of them. An open university opens the door to higher education for all provided they have the interest and the readiness to work hard for a university degree while pursuing their normal vocations. In Nepal, there is at present a branch of a foreign open university. But a Nepali open university would design courses suitable to the needs of Nepali students and whose degrees are therefore likely to be more useful. And its fees would be cheaper too. 

A version of this article appears in print on October 15, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.

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