Editorial

Chitwan blues

  • Tourists are abandoning the popular jungle safari destination due to concerns about road safety

Apr 11, 2017-Tourists have started tossing out the popular jungle safari destination of Chitwan from the list of must-visit destinations in Nepal because of road safety issues. This has dampened the confidence of Chitwan-based travel traders, who were expecting a brisk business in the ongoing tourist season.

Tourists who visit Pokhara and Lumbini generally like to go to Chitwan as well. These three destinations, popularly referred to as the Golden Triangle in Nepal’s travel lingo, offer striking diversity within a short distance. But they have been hard hit by poor highway conditions. In particular, the sorry state of the 36-km Muglin-Narayangadh highway has led many tourists to abandon Chitwan. The highway, which witnesses a movement of around 8,000 vehicles daily, is one of the country’s busiest.

Last week, two people were killed and as many injured when a flood of rocks buried four vehicles at Ghumaune area along the highway. Similar accidents have taken place on the landslide-prone Muglin-Narayangadh stretch in the past.

The government started expanding the highway in April 2015. But the project that was expected to be completed in two years is still unfinished. The expansion drive, according to authorities, was affected by the April 2015 earthquakes and the Indian blockade, which chocked supplies of fuel and construction materials.

But it has been more than a year since the supply situation normalised. The government’s inability to wield authority in this regard will cause further damage to the tourism sector, which suffered heavy losses due to the earthquakes and the trade blockade.

The tourism sector makes a significant contribution to the country’s economy and provides jobs to hundreds of thousands of people. In 2016, the industry injected around Rs85.2 billion into the economy and provided jobs to around 427,000 people, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Indirectly, the tourism sector made a contribution of Rs177.9 billion to the country’s gross domestic product and provided jobs to 945,000 people.

If the number of tourists visiting Chitwan falls due to road safety concerns, these figures are likely to take a dip because the district is home to the country’s most visited national park. Delay in road expansion will also cause severe inconvenience to countless common people who cannot afford air travel. So there is no room for complacency about expediting the highway expansion work. It is imperative that the government take this issue seriously and push the contractors to complete the work as early as possible.

Published: 11-04-2017 08:14

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