Tourism in Nepal I. IDENTIFICATION 1.
The Issue Situated between China and India lies the small land-locked country of Nepal. Sl ightly larger than the state of Arkansas, Nepal contains eight of the world's ten highe st mountain peaks making it a popular destination for adventurous tourists. Nepal i s among the poorest and least developed countries in the world. The country's population reached more than 21 million in 1994 yet the per capita income is one of the wor ld's lowest at $160 a year. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing a l ivelihood for over ninety percent of the population. Nepal is also a producer of cannabis for both the domestic and international markets as well as the transit point for heroin i nto the West. With the growing number of tourists, however, the Nepalese Government is trying to exploit this resource as well. One Nepalese ecologist says "There are now three religions in Nepal -- Hinduism, Buddhism, and tourism." The influx of tour ists has had dramatic effects on the environment and on the local communities who come in to contact with the tourists. It is no longer uncommon to find discarded rubbish al ong the trekking trails. Just as common is the soil erosion during the monsoons as a res ult of severe deforestation, also caused by tourism. "Tourism is not only the goose tha t lays golden eggs...it also fouls its own nest," says a Nepalese scientist. 2. Description The Nepalese portion of the Himalayas was "long remote from the main pathways of international tourism." The first Americans and Europeans did not enter the regi on until 1950. Up until 1964 only mountaineering expeditions were permitted to visit the area. In 1971, scarcely one thousand visitors came to visit. "A decade later five time s that number visited, and by the end of the 1980s tourists numbered more than 8,000 annually." In 1993, the figure "was closer to 300,000." The Nepalese Government hopes to attract a million people within the next ten years. More than ninety percent of these tourists are trekkers, coming mostly from the United States and Western Europe, but also from Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. With the steady stream of visitors, at least $60 million in foreign currency has been generated each year. One person who is fearful of what this may do to the local cultures and to the environment is Sir Edmund Hillary, now 75. Hillary believes that explorers have an obligation to protect the very things which they come to marve l. He was a driving force behind the creation of the Sagarmatha National Park and h as
The World Wild life Fund estimates that "only 20 cents of every $3 spent by an average trekker each day reaches village economies. they are no longer considered "authentic" and new "ever more remote locations" must be found. Most tourists come to Nepal to trek through the mountains. are searching for "authenticity. Adventure tourists. notabl y the West. little money goes to the local communities.
. A trek for tw elve clients will contain a support staff of approximately fifty members. all of it left by foreign climbing groups. primarily in the developing world. the more it is desirable." This means that the mountain treks are slow journeys which pass through the landscape. Galen Rowell wrote of the Himalayas. plastic bags." Adventure tourism attracts people who desire to see exotic and unknown places. This means that unless precautions are taken. Becaus e these groups pay to make arrangements. Hence.the growing pollution of a priceless heritage. "allowing tim e to explore both nature and village life. rely upon local guides and families. The idea behind "adventure tourism" is that the more r emote a location is." Individual trekkers. hospitals. and half-empty food cans. degradation will inevitably occur. Trekking may be arran ged by a service and done in a group or on one's own. bridges and water systems for the Sherpas. About one-half of the trekkers who come to Nepal." The core problem is that the environment and communities begin to change as a result of their newfound popularity. the environment and local communities are affecte d. The rest goes for goods imported from outside. It is a familiar and sickening sight to old Himalaya hands . whose culture is threatened the most. however. Perhaps the most visible impact of trekkers on the Himalaya is the growing amoun t of rubbish left behind. Regardless of how one travels. frozen into the ice cap of Tharpu Chuli. the name given to tourist s who seek this type of tourism. There. clinics. film cartons. Individuals instead rely on the villages along the way for food and lodging. lies a miniature garbage dump. The local cultures become influenced by the presence of the trekkers and become modernized in their own way. wads of tissue. Group treks are typically prea rranged and paid for abroad or in the capital city of Kathmandu. Mountain trekking is part of a new type of tourism called "adventure tourism. discarded candy wrappers. The solitary splendor is dazzling .established a trust which builds schools. T hese treks generally last between twenty-two and twenty-five days.until I glance down at my feet. Th is means that more money is dispersed to the local communities. come with commercial groups. The other alternative i s to trek individually without the services of a trekking company.
The lodges and teahouses may use "up to four times as much fuel wood a day" as does a local's household. called Sky Treks. and then return to the bottom again. take their pictur es. and ma nagers." Others have estimated the amount of fuel wood
." Add to th at the fuel wood needed for the daily hot showers and for the bonfires to keep them war m and "the impact on the forests is devastating. In addition to the trekkers who are consum ing gross amounts of fuel wood. Over the years. for those who do not desire to hike up the mo untains. and other support staff" who are traveling with the trekkers and who need fuel wood as well. Tourists instead ride helicopters to the top of the mountains.It is estimated that over the past forty years. is deforestation. and perhaps greater problem than all of the rubbish.(this does not include such items as abandone d helicopters)" have been dumped on Mount Everest alone. administrators. there are also the estimated "150. More and more people are staying in the lodges and the number of lodges has quad rupled since 1976. Many visitors come to Nepal expecting to see massive forests along the slopes of the Khumba. the influx of tourists has encouraged changes in the use of fore sts for fuel wood and construction materials. They consider "fuel-wood use by mountaineering and trekking groups to be one of the main environmental threats" to the parks. The demand for fuelwood from tourists has always been a concern for the park planners. The forests have typically been used by th e Nepali for fuel wood. Often the reverse is true. cooks.000 to clean up. However. porter s. "It has been estimated that four times as much fuel wood is needed to cook a mea l for a Western tourist than for a Nepali due largely to differences in diet. Massive amounts of fuel wood are needed by the teahouses and guest lodges as wel l. "from tin cans and beer bottles to oxygen tanks.. (The helicopters are a ne w form of tourism.. the consumption rates between Nepalis and tourist s greatly differs and this is where the problem lies. eighteen tons of garbage." One trekker alone consumes five to t en times more fuel-wood than one Nepali. A second. They do not come expecting to find Western amenities. Western amenities assault the visitors in the teahouses and guest lodges they fi nd along the trails while the forests are all but gone.000 guides.) Other estimates place the accumulated rubbish at fifty tones which will cost approximately $500.
the park authorities of Sagarmatha (Mt. they banned the use of wood for cooking and bonfires. their elimination would destroy the beauty that many of the visitors came to see. In addition. One of the most famous conservation areas is the Annapurna Conservation Area Pro ject (ACAP) created in 1986. In the Annapurna Conservation Area. However.used by one trekker per day to be more firewood than the average Nepali uses in an en tire week. the trekkers provide much needed revenue that can be used for further conservation and development programs. and hunting res erves in 1976. through tourism and involving the local people. cultural revitalisation and sustainable econ omic development. The project is based on the belief that properly managed tourism can bring benef its both to the land and to the people. All expedition and trekking groups now must use kerosene stoves to cook. clear days of October and November or during the secondary peak season that extends from March through ear
. As a result." ACAP managers and developers believe that mountain trekking is a f orm of education which can be used to benefit the Annapurna region. conservation areas. The progra m helped the local lodge owners see the benefits of halting deforestation. This must surely chan ge if the country wants to preserve the forests it still has remaining. While t he trees did provided needed fuel wood. a program was created to link conservation a nd development benefits. ACAP "was designed to minimize the negative impact from tourism and promote conservation and the socioeconomic development of the region . The program "organized lodge owners and all ag reed to honor a requirement that trekking expeditions had to bring in their own keros ene. Everest) National Park were beg inning to see how extensive the deforestation. there have been n o restrictions on the fuel-wood used by loges and teahouses. as a result of tourism. the Nepalese Government began to establish wildlife reserves. was becoming. The first three of these protected areas are recognized by the Internation al Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) now the World Conservation Union. By 1979." ACAP is unique in that it calls for the participation and management by the loca l people." As a result of the burgeoning influx of tourists. national parks. Most tourists come to Nepal either during the "cool. "Tourists are regarded as partners in fulfil ling the goals of biodiversity conservation.
For most family members. During the expeditions the Nepali's hired to assist trekkers are fed. Employment in trekking has been predominate for men but the numb er of women earning income from trekking is on the rise. An increasing number of to urists "carry light day packs and eat and sleep in the lodges for just a few dollars a day. the Sherpa paid little attention to them. Nepal's forests will be gone by the year 2000. The cul ture of the Sherpas has been changed as well as the structure of the local economies. and kitchen crews. yet they believe that it is up to the park authorities to alleviate th em. "Tourism provides the single largest source of foreign exchange for the country' s development plans and the largest source of employment besides agriculture for N epali nationals. e specially the Sherpas (a Nepali ethnic group) who live around the trekking routes. is getting a bad reputati on as a result of all the trash." Tourism is also the major source of employment for many residents." A frequent complaint among the tourists is the lack of sanitary facilities. It also varies fro m community to community depending on the popularity and location of the village. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that if present rates of deforestation continu e. CULTURAL IMPACTS The influx of tourists have had a significant effect on the local communities. There has also been an increase in the employment and income generated from the establishment of tea houses along the trekking route. Employment from tourism is seasonal as a result of the weather.ly May." Economic Data Industry output was $60 million may be as high as 75% concentration in some area s. Now that the numbers have increased and the Sherpas' services are in demand (Sherpas have
. Saga rmatha National Park. leader s. but also because 86 percent of N epal's energy comes from its forests. porters. It is ironic that it is the tourists who are causing th ese problems. the income is earned through trekking as guides. and provided with equipment so they return home with a ll of their earnings. cooks. This is troublesome not only beca use of the soil erosion and habitat loss which result. lodged. Most people empl oyed by the tourism industry work only four or five months a year. the park which encompasses Mt. Everest. When the first trekkers came to Nepal.
" as they have come to be known as. "Trekking Sherpas. hence they are now able to purchase manufactured items rather than make their own. they have spent it on Western items. children dr eam of becoming guides and drop out of school the moment they get the chance to join an expedition. The Sherpas have not saved or invested any of their income generated from touris m. cooks. are no longer desirable since they do not provide the same income as trekking. since it generates less income. Wool is one item which has become scarce. etc. trekking has encou raged a "get-rich-quick" mentality. The wealth ava ilable from this job draws many youngsters out of school and into tourism. porters. This has meant that villages are changing from bein g selfreliant into beingdependent on "tourist dollars and outside resources to meet th eir daily needs. causing higher prices. Teaching and government jobs. It is ironic that many youngsters are l eaving school since one of the qualifications needed today in trekking is knowledge of spoken
." Villages are also becoming more dependent on cash rather than the traditional me ans of barter and reciprocal labor. This means that more food must come from outside an d that there is less of it. further degrading their traditional culture. have discarded th eir traditional dress for "imported hiking boots. Trekking is one of the highest paying employments in Nepal today. colorful wool sweaters. and a decrease in school attendance. all of the people dressed and lived in a relatively similar manner. the trekking Sherpa and his wealth is easy to distinguish from a farmer. Whereas there were always class divisions i n the past." The division of the village into trekking Sherpa and non-trekking Sherpa has res ulted in the creation of a new type of class. Other traditions are disappearing such as the custom of drinking Tibetan salt-and butter tea. The result has been a decrease in agricultural produ ction." More and more agricultural fields are left fallow as more men are leaving to seek wealth from tourism. Rather. The Sherpa now have access to cash. leaders. These crafts can n ot generated the same amount of income as tourism and the supplies needed are harde r to obtain. hence layers of cotton must be bought and worn to keep warm. Another affect of tourism is that local crafts are dying out.historically acted as guides.). and down p arkas. The price of butter makes this drink nearly unaffordable and the supply of tea is uncertain since tr ade has also been disrupted by the beckoning wealth of tourism employment. The higher prices are a hardshi p on those families who do not have income from tourism. Today donning the Western wear. once considered very prestigious. The Sherpa see money now when they see a "white face.
who often initiate the affair. The Sherpa wear masks. having a public side for the world to s ee and a private side which is true to themselves. keep another woman in the cities where they stay in-between treks. there is the disruption to the family life.
. To them. "climbing is simply a high-paying job . The youngsters may be even more valuable if they would continue their education rather than leave after a few years. The decreasing number of youn g men has meant that many women are burdened with raising the children and with the responsibility of the farm-work. Some Sherpa see themselves partly as actors and entertainers." Perhaps a far greater concern is the loss of life. Many of the trekking Sherpa who are married. who work twentyfour hours a day." The trekking Sherpa are also forced to reflect the image projected upon them by the Western visitors. to maintain the public mask. Other Sherpa are enticed by the forward gestures of Western women.and written Nepali and English. The young unmarried women are also disadvantage d since there are fewer young men. One must begin to wonder if it is justifiable t o endanger the lives of the Sherpas so that others may enjoy themselves. It is hard for the Sherpa. The men are often away from the home ten months of the year. "A number of Sherpa women have lost their husbands or fianc?s to foreign women. It is also ironic that the Sherpa do not enjoy the trekking." Finally. It is only when the trek has ended that they may unveil themselves and "engage in drinking binges and general hell-raising that may go o n for days.