Government to set up mountain tourism workers’ welfare fund
The government is planning set up a welfare fund for mountaineering tourism workers to help mountaineering and trekking workers at times of rescue and emergency.
Speaking at a programme organised by Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) here today marking the first anniversary of the tragedy on April 18 last year, tourism secretary Suresh Man Shrestha said that Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has decided to set up Mountain Tourism Workers' Fund in commemoration of the Nepali climbers, who lost their lives to a devastating avalanche on the Mt Everest last April.
As mountain tourism is the country's valuable product and source of national income, the government is committed to do everything that is needed to assure safety and security of the foreign visitors, he added. "The government is also preparing to install early warning system to provide timely and effective information on climate."
After the tragedy last year, the government is also under pressure to make mountain tourism safer as the Mt Everest and mountain tourism are not only identity of the country but also contributor to the government coffer.
"Minimising the risks of mountain tourism should be the major agenda of the government," said director general of Tourism Department Tulasi Prasad Gautam, on the occasion. "Some 10 per cent of the fees raised from Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) cards would be allocated for the fund," he said, adding that the government has already endorsed the decision and the fund is going to be set up within a few weeks. "Last year’s disaster was a ‘lesson learnt’ for us. It has exposed a bitter reality that we need to do a lot to ensure climbers’ safety."
Likewise, NMA chairman Ang Chhiring Sherpa said that mountain tourism has become very risky and the government should guarantee pension for those associated with it.
Some 16 high-altitude guides including Ankaji Sherpa, Tenji Sherpa, Ash Bahadur Gurung, Astaman Tamang, Chhiring Wangchu Sherpa, Dorjee Khatri, Pasang Karma Sherpa, Pem Tenzi Sherpa, Den Dorji Sherpa, Ang Chhiring Sherpa, Tenzing Chhoter Sherpa, Nima Sherpa, Phurba Temba Sherpa, Phurba Wangel Sherpa, Chhring Dorji Sherpa and Mingma Nurbu Sherpa lost their lives to Mt Everest’s deadliest avalanche on April 18 last year.
The fund will get 10 per cent of the TIMS card that has been made mandatory for trekkers and mountaineers before setting out on trekking and mountaineering missions.
A foreign trekker has to pay Rs 1,000, while a mountaineer has to pay Rs 2, 000 to obtain the TIMS card. Likewise, trekkers in groups and FITs from SAARC countries will have to pay fee of Rs 300 and Rs 600, respectively.
According to the proposal, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN), and a joint fund of NTB and TAAN will receive 30 per cent each and the rest will go to the welfare fund. The government had collected Rs 180 million from the TIMS card last year.
Earlier, TIMS fee for trekking in the Mt Everest, Mt Langtang and Mt Annapurna regions was $10 for tourists travelling in groups and $20 for those travelling independently.
More than 40 per cent of foreign tourists visit Nepal for trekking.