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December 17, 2020

Impact of climate change and Covid-19 on Mountain tourism

On the occasion of international mountain day (December 11), the group of five -Nepal Institute of Development Studies, Climate Alliance for Himalayan Communities, Himalayan Climate Initiative, Public Youth Campus TU, and Highlights Tourism jointly organized a virtual dialogue on the theme, “Covid 19, Climate and Career in Mountain Tourism”.

The virtual dialogue also focused on “Mountain Biodiversity” for mountain sustainability, which was attended by the three key distinguished speakers who are well known in the tourism sector, namely Veteran Mountaineer and Chairman of Climate Alliance of Himalayan Communities, Ang Tshering Sherpa, Tourism expert and former Executive Officer of Nepal Tourism Board, Prachand Man Shrestha, and Journalist and mountaineer (team leader) of the first female media persons expedition Mt Everest on May 23, 2018, Rojita Buddhacharya among others.

The pioneering personality of hospitality industry in Nepal and chairperson of Dwarika Group of Hotels Mrs Ambica Shrestha had presided over the virtual dialogue, while Honorary consulate general for Slovenia, Aswin Kumar Shrestha, Honorary consulate general of Poland, Lok Man Golcha among others were present on the occasion.

This was second series of virtual dialogue to brainstorm and identify the ways and means to cope up with the adverse affects of Covid-19 and climate change on career of mountain tourism in the country.

Shilshila Acharya, the Chief Executive Officer of  Himalayan Climate Initiative started the virtual dialogue by saying that the virtual dialogue has been much contemporary as global warming and climate change impacts are firstly suffered by the Himali natives as climate change has caused fragile environment in the mountain regions which is evidenced by the Paris agreement. “The Covid-19 has further added to our worries about adverse affects of climate change. So youths should go for sustainable tourism in the days to come,” Acharya said.

Speaking during the virtual dialogue which was moderated by Anita Gurung – Highlights Tourism’s Creative Editor,  Ang Tshering Sherpa, the veteran mountaineer born in Khumbu region said that the Covid-19 had very badly impacted the tourism sector including mountain tourism, wherein the working Sherpa, guides and porters have been rendered jobless and their livelihood has become a major problem.

He also said that the climate change has had a profound impact on lives of the Himalayan people and biodiversity which may lead to any unprecedented natural calamities in future including fast melting away of Himalayan glaciers.

He warned against the pollution of the Himalayas and stressed the need to protect the ecology in the Himalayan region and precautions to be taken against outburst of glacial lakes.

He was of the opinion that the government should make provisions and arrangement for the jobless Sherpas and guides to get certain soft loans without interest and collateral for their sustenance for the time being.

He also said the climate change has caused water scarcity and food scarcity which must be dealt with collectively by private as well as government line agencies.

Talking about protecting and cleaning the Himalayas, he indicated that saving the Himalayan means saving humanity and ourselves, our future generation because these Himalayas are the water tower for 1.4 million people in South Asia which is the world’s forth of the population.

If the water tower is empty, it will not only be an environmental problem, but it will be a human problem and political problem. Therefore every one of us should think sustainably.

Similarly, speaking during the same program, the tourism expert and former executive director of Nepal Tourism Board Prachand Man Shrestha said that the impact of Covid-19 and climate change had created a sense of anxiety and uncertainty in the tourism sector especially in mountain tourism.

According to him the climate change and Covid-19 has not only adversely impacted the national economy, but also the socio-cultural roots of the country.

For him, the year 2020 year would be remembered as the black history in the tourism sector. Climate change and Covid-19 has also impacted the fragile environment and cultural vulnerability.

He further notes that both climate change and Covid-19 have negatively impacted several sectors leading to increased complexity in travel, spatial dispersal, more cautious tourist behavior, a destination with low tourist density, thereby causing a shift in the paradigm of tourism activities such as the need for more innovative product tending to be technical savvy, city-centric entrepreneurship,  short duration, and small groups, decentralized approach, policy liberalization, and broader Himalayan destinations.

He also suggested certain way forward to improve the mode of functioning in tourism which included institutional collaboration, coordinated crisis management, spatial dispersal, safety hygiene protocol, innovative tour products, generating markets, fair mechanism in sharing the benefits, global and regional institutional collaboration.

Similarly, the first female media person who climbed Mt Everest on May 23, 2018, Rojita Buddhacharya also said how as a child she had dreamed to jump into the Moon from Mt Everest and she did succeed in stepping on the highest peak during which she had realized that how sincere and dedicated and committed were the Sherpa guides who would risk their own lives to save the lives of the mountaineers while climbing the Mt Everest.

Rojita focused her description of her journey to the Everest top such as how she reached Everest camp 1, Camp II and South Cole etc. She described how South Cole is polluted with garbage.

She pointed out to the reports that Mt Everest could have around 30 tons of garbage. She added that how climate change had impacted the Khumbu Icefall to melt away while returning from Everest height. The walls of the base camp were also getting shortened.

The most remarkable thing she hinted was that a mountaineer should develop an emotional relation with the mountains like Sherpa. She also remarked that actually Sherpa are the hidden Gods of mountains, who can save the lives, while climbing peaks.

She suggested that the government should make coordination with the Sherpa to do anything in the mountains as they have the right knowledge about mountains. She said that Corruption virus is more dangerous than Covid-19.

She also hinted that Sherpas would worship the mountain before climbing mountains which was the most appreciable part on them.

The chair of the session Mrs Ambica Shrestha said it was the best way of celebrating the mountain day which is being observed under “Mountain Biodiversity”.

She hinted that how climate change has caused water scarcity. She also indicated that how climate change is not within the hands of Nepal. She also said mountains are the source of water not only for Nepal, but also for India and China. So, India and China also should focus on mitigating the adverse effects of climate change to avert its aftermath affects in future.

Shrestha also suggested that the youths of Nepal such as Rojita should continue to dream and do something in the tourism sector. She also remarked that Nepal has all-natural and cultural resources to capitalize on with innovative and technical savvy concept to boost our tourism.

“We have to give a good message around the world about what we are doing to revive the tourism and not just complaining about Covid-19. It is a universal problem these days. We should use new technology like youtube and social media to spread our new ideas. We can bank on other sectors too by taking the challenges of the present situation. Let’s be safe and let’s get victory over the Covid-19.”

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