Thursday, January 28, 2021

Construction of motorable roads posing challenges to trekking routes

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Basudev Poudel
 

Pokhara, 13 January (2021) - Construction of roads in a haphazard manner, sometimes infringing on the popular tourist trekking routes, is posing a challenge to trekking tourism. 

Although Nepal has made an international mark in trekking tourism, this new problem is posing a challenge in recent days.

Hit by various natural disasters and recently dented by the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism sector which is trying to rise up recently, has been facing this new problem, according to the tourism entrepreneurs. 

The trekking routes are being destroyed with the construction of motorable roads in a rampant and unplanned manner these days. 

"Construction of motorable roads encroaching upon trekking routes has not only shortened the distance of trekking routes, it has caused concern as it is disturbing the 'unique experience' of trekking in a noise-free natural setting," Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN)'s West Regional Association president  Sushil Raj Poudel said. 

More than 70 per cent of foreign tourists visiting Nepal come for trekking and mountaineering purposes.

Poudel said the road expansion that is going on in an unplanned manner has added to their concerns that lest it ruins the trekking tourism itself. 

Haphazard construction of roads along the trekking routes has, besides increasing the risk of landslides, has posed serious challenges to the trekking tourism, Poudel expressed his concern.

The trekking tourism entrepreneurs have said that although they have drawn the attention of the local units not to construct roads in an unplanned manner by infringing on the traditional trekking routes that are popular among the foreign trekkers, their requested have gone unheeded. This has resulted in the trekking routes becoming shortened.

TAAN has been calling for declaring the trekking sector as a protected sector with the objective of preserving the trekking routes and promoting trekking tourism.

Hundreds of families living in settlements as Syong, Jagat, Chyamse, Dharapani, Dhikurpokhari and Chame, among other places lying close to the Round Annapurna Trekking Route, whose living is dependent on trekking tourism in recent years, are on the verge of becoming displaced from their profession due to the shortening of the trekking routes. 

The Round-Annapurna trekking route is among the world's 10 best trekking destinations. Before it used to take 21 days to trek along this route from Beshisahar to Naya Pul, but now it has been cut short to five to seven days with the construction of roads and vehicles reaching various places along this route. 

The route that starts from Beshisahar ends at Naya Pul in Pokhara passing through Muktinath, Jomsom, Tatopani Ghorepani and Birethanti. 

The Tatopani-Chitre trekking route which used to take two days on foot can now be traversed in three hours by vehicle these days. 

Similarly, the duration of trekking along the Naya Pul-Ghandruk trekking route has been shortened to one hour if one travelled by car up to Kimte.

Similarly, the trekking route towards Annapurna Base Camp, Ghandruk and Landruk via Dhumpus, as well as Naya Pool-Ghorepani trekking route have been limited to one or two hours trek. Earlier it took one or two days to reach the destinations via these trekking routes.

Tourism entrepreneurs said that protection of trekking route around Annapurna Base Camp as well as publicity of different trekking routes developed in recent period Pokhara Khayerlek, Pokhara Hiddenlek, Terila Pass, Gurung Heritage Trail was necessary. 

Though there are dozens of best trekking routes including Upper Mustang, Annapurna Circuit Trek, Annapurna Security Trek, Ghandruk Ghorepani Circuit Trek, Ghalekharka Circuit Trek, Round Manaslu, Ghandruk, Ghampus, Jomsom and Narphool, it is seen that the existence of the trekking route would be in crisis  in near future if the trend of haphazardly digging the road is not stopped.

Chair Poudel said that the TAAN Western Regional Association has forwarded activities to search alternative trekking routes at a time when the trekking route have been shortened due to haphazard digging of roads. 

He added that TAAN is organising trekking from Pokhara to Kholasothar via Yanjakot, Tangting, Naichu, Karapudanda and Dharmashala as well as Sicklace from Kholasothar via Teuche Lek, Koridanda, Hugukot and Kaphuche Lake. 

According to TAAN, other trekking routes linking from such places would be developed and expanded along with promotion of trekking routes. 

Chairperson of Madi rural municipality, Bed Bahadur Gurung, said that trekking is going to be organised with an objective of establishing new trekking routes and promoting these areas. 

He added, "We have believed that the promotional trekking going to be organised at the collaboration of TAAN will have significant contribution in overall tourism of the area."

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