Print Edition - 2017-01-26  |  MONEY

Resorts to be allowed back in Chitwan National Park

- Post Report, Kathmandu
Govt forms a high-level committee to recommend the operation modality of the resorts inside the park

Jan 26, 2017- The government has decided to allow luxury jungle resorts to return to Chitwan National Park (CNP) after pushing them out five years ago citing possible damage to the environment.

Convinced that the tourism benefits outweighed potential harm to nature, Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Shankar Prasad Bhandari said they had formed a high-level committee to recommend the operation modality of the resorts inside the park.
The committee was formed a month ago and is led by the director general of the Department of National Parks. It is scheduled to submit its report next week. 
“Based on the recommendation, we will prepare a new guideline to allow them to operate inside the park.” 
When asked whether the old jungle resorts that were given their marching orders in 2012 would be allowed to return, Minister Bhandari said that resorts would have to meet the standard set by the guideline in order to be 
permitted to operate inside the park. 
“The entire process will be transparent.” He said that the objective of the government in allowing luxury jungle resorts inside CNP was to attract high-end tourists and increase the potential tourism benefits. 
He added that there had been much criticism against allowing luxury resorts to operate inside the park due to the risk of harming the wildlife habitat. “But there is not one evidence of damage to the park’s ecology.” 
Basanta Raj Mishra, executive chairman of the Temple Tiger Group, said that Nepal was the pioneer in wildlife tourism in Asia, and successful wildlife conservation was the key reason behind the large number of high-end safari-goers. “Because we were inside the national park, it greatly contributed to anti-poaching efforts and tracking rogue predators.” 
Currently, Temple Tiger and other resorts are operating outside CNP. “It’s a vast difference operating inside CNP. When we were inside the park, we were unable to supply rooms; and when we came outside, we have to search for tourists.” 
The jungle resort used to charge $400 per room night inside the park, and now their tariff has been slashed to less than $100. 
The government had extended the resorts’ lease contracts for three years in 2009, considering Nepal Tourism Year 2011. With the three-year deadline ended in July 2012, six resorts, namely Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge, Machan Wildlife Camp, Chitwan Jungle Lodge, Gaida Wildlife Camp, Island Jungle Resort, Hotel Narayani Safari and Temple Tiger Hotel, were thrown out from CNP. 
CNP was the second most popular safari destination after Africa, and the jungle resorts provided jobs to 3,000 persons including 60 elephant drivers. More than 300 resorts are located around the periphery of the protected area. 
The pioneer in jungle resorts, Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge, was founded by a British tourism entrepreneur Jim Edwards in 1964, nine years before CNP was established in 1973. The other resorts opened in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Published: 26-01-2017 09:26

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