EarthQuake Ghost and Travelling Nepal – Realities…

Travelling Nepal _ Saroj PandeyIt’s almost a month of 7.8M devastating earthquake (named Gorkha Earthquake) that occurred on 25 April with an epicenter in the village of Barpak, Gorkha northwest of Kathmandu. The earthquake was followed by few major shocks and more than double centuries of mild aftershocks mostly to the east of the original epicenter causing further damage. The most intense aftershock to date occurred on the 12 May with a magnitude of 7.3 and an epicenter in Dolakha, east of the capital Kathmandu. Among 75 districts, The Nepal government has designated 14 most affected districts, namely Gorkha, Kavrepalanchok, Dhading, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Sindupalchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap, Okhaldunga, Makwanpur, Sindhuli, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur. Additional nine districts were added later which suffered limited damages: those includes Tanahu, Kaski, Nawalparasi, Chitwan, Syangja, Parsa, Lamjung, Palpa and Parbat. The earthquake triggered an deadliest avalanche on Mount Everest which resulted to the cancelation of the Everest climbing season this year too. It triggered another huge avalanche in the Langtang valley, a popular trekking destination.

The series of aftershocks have halt the life of millions. Damages caused by such calamities is unmeasurable. The capital city lost its classic architecture. Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Patan Durbar Squar, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the Changu Narayan Temple and the Swayambhunath Stupa. Beautiful villages are flattened; they lost the identity that was established with years of hard work. Reports says few villages in some districts are no more livable in the future too due to risk of landslides anytime. Many innocent people became the victims as the death toll nears 9,000. And among these all saddest things, the warnings from economic experts about the economic aftershock is knocking Nepalese badly.

Nepal is one of the poor and developing nations of Asia with capita GDP of just $1,000. Unemployment rate is over 40%. Nepal’s economy is dependent on tourism and remittances. Remittances accounted for nearly 30% of the GDP and 8% from the tourism. Nearly 7% of the total jobs in the country are based on that service sector. Livelihood of most of the villages is based on traditional agriculture and after this earthquake, harvests could be reduced or lost in the affected districts. Monsoon is approaching but people are still in the physical and psychological trauma of the disaster. Farm land are affected by landslide and it certainly will suffer more during the monsoon. As per the estimation of USGS, the reconstruction costs could exceed $10 billion, that is half of our GDP. Nepal has made a target to achieve economic growth of 4.5 percent in the current 2014/2015 fiscal year which looks in vain now. Even ADB revised its economic growth forecast to 4.2%, 0.4% less than its projection for the fiscal year, after the earthquake. Likewise, inflation is also expected to surpass the government target of below 8%.

Almost all sectors have faced significant impact so does the service sector which includes tourism and hospitality; almost zero activities after the disaster and we have 3 months to the start of autumn tourism season. Its normal that such large-scale earthquakes reduces the number of tourists because of the psychological reasons and uncertainty about the service. Now, life is slowly moving towards normalcy and we have lengthy period for promoting unharmed areas and rebuilding less suffered areas. We hope, the earthquake is curbing tourism in Nepal very temporarily.

It was bitter to indicate Nepal as economically poor nation earlier but in terms of natural beauty and resources, its one of the richest nation of the world. We have eight of the ten highest mountains in the world including the world’s top – Mount Everest (8,848M). You can enjoy with the beauty of himalayas in different ways. Mountain flight is best option to roam around snow capped Himalayas and have the splendid eagle-eye view. You can also visit the places like Nagarkot, Dhulikhel, Sarankot, Poon Hill, Antu etc. and have a breathtaking view from the viewpoints or if you really love adventure and have a week or more holiday time can trek to the mountain bases and feel the beauty. You can even climb to the top in mountaineering season fulfilling government procedure. Similarly, we are rich in nature, wildlife, birds, plant, ethnic diversity and beautiful culture – and everything is still intact. Trekking destinations – Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Circuit, Gokyo Valley, Tilicho Lake, Upper Mustang, Dolpo, Khumbu, Jomsom, Muktinath, Manang Valley, Barun Valley, Gosainkunda, Panch Pokhari, The great himalayan trail; National Parks and conservation areas – Chitwan, Sagarmatha, Rara,  Shey Phoksundo, Khaptad, Shivapuri, Makalu-Barun, Bardiya, Annapurna, Kanchenjunga, Manaslu; Wildlife Reserves – Koshi Tappu, Parsa, Shuklaphanta; Scenic places – Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini, Kathmandu Valley (Kathmandu still have more to show…); Hill Stations – Bandipur, Basantapur(Taplejung), Kakani, Daman, Tansen, Ilam and many Pilgrimage sites are holding astonishing beauty to be revealed. Hotels and other facilities in these popular tourist destinations have not suffered damage, trekking trail is good. The glory is still there. The tasty food is still there. The history is still there. And Nepal is still amazing, vibrant and hospitable as before. Nepal has a lot to offer to the travelers, trekkers, adventurers. The marvelous all round beauty will make your trip remarkable one.

An important thing to mention here, transportation mechanism to reach those destinations have not faced any major problems. Most of the highways are functioning well and roads linking to those highways are operational too. Country’s only Intl.’ Airport is fully functional but rather busy due to foreign aid cargos; all domestic airports in different cities are operating well too. Communication channels are intact. Healthcare facilities are functioning very well and no chances of epidemic at all.

Langtang region and three UNESCO heritage sites – Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur Durbar square area has suffered severely so they need some time to recover. Nepal Government – Department of Tourism as well as UNESCO already started preliminary assessment of the heritages. The country will soon begin to repair the damage, or maybe, reconstruct them. Building stable infrastructure will be the major concern of the reconstruction process that surely give more benefit in the long run.

Nepalese respect all the countries, humanitarian organizations, rescue personals and volunteers and thankful for support during the crucial period. We won’t forget it till long time to come. The Gorkha earthquake hit Nepal almost after 80 years, it won’t happen every year. As we now need to move on towards the reconstruction we still need help from all nations around the world and this time we want to welcome you in our nation as a guest, it will support our rehabilitation process as well as bring back the famous smiles in Nepalese face. Nepal don’t want any long term impact on tourism industry and ready to welcome tourists in the coming autumn beginning in September. Nepal has a lot to offer you.

Nepal is ready to make you happy in the autumn 2015!

‘Hello September! Hello Nepal!’

P.S. If you love monsoon we welcome you early, Lets dance in the rain together… 😉

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