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Ban on travel business lifted in Annapurna

- Ghanashyam Khadka, MYAGDI

Sep 19, 2017-The government has scrapped restrictions on operating small businesses such as hotels, lodges, restaurants, teashops and campsites inside the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), a state-owned designated protected area.

The internationally-renowned Annapurna trekking circuit is located in the ACA. Other famed destinations here are Annapurna base camp, Machhapuchchhre base camp, Dhaulagiri icefall and sanctuary, Guerrilla Trail, Hidden village sanctuary, Khopra and Khayarbaraha.

Over the years, new trekking paths have sprouted in the ACA. These trails located on forested land, however, lack proper tourism infrastructure. The number of tourists, especially adventure tourists, visiting these trails is growing day by day. Many locals have lately started catering to these visitors by running small businesses on land belonging to the state.

The government has now stepped in to curb encroachment of state-owned land inside the ACA. In this regard, the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) has launched a roadmap to regulate businesses that set up shop on public land in the ACA.

As per the roadmap, state-owned land could be leased out to locals who wish to develop tourism infrastructure in the protected area through competitive bidding. Such infrastructure, according to the NTNC, should be built at altitudes lower than 4,200 metres and promote local culture. Also, tenants have to pay an annual fee to renew their contracts.

“We hope the new measure will help in the development of places where tourists can eat, sleep and rest. Also, the decision to legalise operation of businesses in the

protected area is expected to regulate the sector,” said Anand Subedi, administrative chief of the ACA Project Ghandruk.

Many newly opened trekking trails in the ACA, where no human settlement is present, have drinking water facilities and rest houses. On one route, the Nagi-Khropa

trekking trail, community schools have leased land from the Forest Office to operate community hotels and restaurants.

On routes like the Dhaulagiri trekking trail, however, locals have opened restaurants and hotels haphazardly.

The situation is similar around Annapurna base camp. Many parts of the newly opened trekking routes in the ACA lack proper tourism infrastructure like hotels and restaurants.

“Many people have built tourism infrastructure in the ACA without taking our permission. Others are planning to conduct businesses in a similar manner. If we intervene indiscriminately, it could be counterproductive to the tourism sector. But we also cannot remain mute spectators to gross misuse of public property,” said Chief Bidur Kuikel of the ACA Project Ghandruk.

“We are happy the Tourism and Forest ministries have coordinated to formulate a guideline. This is expected to contribute to sustainable development of tourism in

the region.”

Published: 19-09-2017 08:35

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