EDITORIAL: Uphill task
It has been eight months since the killer quake, yet the reconstructions works are yet to be initiated in many places where relief work is still going on at a lethargic pace
Things could not have been worse for Nepal as far as mountain tourism is concerned. Bookings to climb the lofty peak has declined by half to a third less in 2016 as compared to this year. In recent times the scenario of climbing Everest witnessed major disasters in which 35 climbers were killed in 2014 and 2015. These were indeed tragic for mountain tourism as a whole. These years have been very hard with no summits and many casualties that dissuaded many from climbing the mountain. However, some say that they have not hindered the climbers to make bids to climb the mountain as the risk associated with it is what allures the mountaineers from climbing the mountains sometimes again and again.
Things have been worse since the devastating earthquake of April 25 and several strong shocks after that. The quake not only killed almost 9000 but destroyed much of the infrastructure. The world’s tallest peak saw dangerous avalanches and destruction. The central and eastern parts of Nepal were more affected by the killer quake. The disasters hit many Sherpas adversely and also destroyed their homes, lodges and restaurants. Since they depend on mountain tourism to earn for their livelihood due to the sharp drop of mountaineers and visitors their livelihood is in jeopardy. Many guides who have already retired from their perilous occupation have been compelled to return to their former vocation. They even have to pull out their children who are studying in Kathmandu. And people have already been questioning what the concerned are doing with the money and equipment provided by donors. The government has been pledged to provide with $ 4.4 billion for the earthquake victims much of which has yet to be utilized. It has been over eight months since the killer earthquake yet the reconstructions and rehabilitation works are yet to be initiated in many places where relief work is still going on at a lethargic pace.
To make matters worse, the economic blockade by India has resulted in shortages of many essentials including, food, shelter and cooking gas. Many of the earthquake victims are living in makeshift tents and in the midst of the chilly winter season. The blockade has made it difficult for the government and
concerned agencies to respond. This has also deterred the would be climbers of Everest who pay a fee of $ 35,000 to $100,000 to have a go at climbing the peak. The cost of building materials for houses has escalated as they have to be air-lifted. Moreover things are getting out of hand because of the acute shortage of fuel due to protests at the borders. It has been almost three months since the blockade was imposed and among others, the adventure tourism sector is now in doldrums. This blockade could not have come at a worse time for the mountain people whose relief works are continuing albeit at a snail’s pace when there is every need to get to the reconstruction stage. That this is happening is frustrating. The country which is landlocked now is desperately trying to mitigate the effects of the blockade which is getting worse with the passage of time. It is now time for the government to respond with a greater sense of urgency.
The historic Ranipokhari Pond will get a facelift soon as the Kathmandu Metropolitan City has come up with a detailed design for the same. After the reconstruction of this pond situated on the heart of the core city area it will have lush green cover, a musical fountain, walking trails, pavements, benches and resting platforms. Around the pond open spaces will also be available for physical exercises, meditation and sports activities. This is indeed a praiseworthy initiative of the KMC. The pond will be developed in a manner to give a modern look keeping intact the archaeological texture.
There are hundreds of other such archaeologically important public places that need to be renovated and preserved to make the Kathmandu Valley a beautiful place to live in. One of the major problems is that the KMC does not get support from the public for keeping these important public places always beautiful, neat and clean. In order to do so, the KMC can charge a nominal amount as an entry fee from visitors. The people must be ready to pay for what they benefit from the public spaces maintained by municipalities spending millions of rupees.