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Annapurna conservation: The crux of tourism in Pokhara

Annapurna conservation: The crux of tourism in Pokhara

Tek Bahadur Gurung

 

1. Introduciton

Pokhara, being a hub of tourism in the western part of Nepal, covers the Annapurna and its peripheral tourism. Ever since tourism was the first hosted during 70s, Pokhara has been proclaimed widely in Europe, America, and the rest of the continents as ‘a paradise’ where people have to go once in their life experiencing the original beauty of the divine nature. The Japanese Monk EkaiKaeaguchi had acquainted Pokhara in 1899. He mentions in his book entitled “Three Years in Tibet” that he has never seen beautiful scenery like that in Pokhara during his entire travel to the Himalayas. Similarly, Dr. Tony Hagen, the Swiss Geographer, who visited Pokhara in 1950, appreciates it as one of the most extraordinary and stunning places.

Surrounded by the very famous mountain ranges which include Fishtail, Annapurna south, Lamjung, Ganagpurna, Dhaulagiri, Lamjung and Manaslu, the greater Pokhara is similingly positioned in a bank of georgeousSeti, embracing magnificent Fewa Lake. Thousands of tourists, pilgrims, holiday makers, researchers, and visitors come to Pokhara every year to enjoy and experience its beauty. The top peaks of Fishtail and Annapurna, as the giant towering hosts, are always standby to welcome their guests. The hypnotized smile emanated from Mt. Machhapuchhre, sacred temperament borrowed from Fewa Lake, and unique hospitality borrowed from Devi’s Fall, merged in a complex form make Pokhara. In this context, Pokhara is indescribable in words as words sometimes fail to identify the essence and reality of the spots like tranquility of Annapurana Base camp, the very challenging Thorong-la, a cultural and historic Lomanthang and windy valley Jomsom. Sometimes an image created in words remains unable to reflect the original scenery and hidden beauty and fails to quench the thirst of human heart. From such perspective, Pokhara is prettier than the image created in whatsoever eloquent words and phraseds.

 2. Annapurna Conservation Area Project

Annapurna conservation Area Project (ACAP) oversees sustainable tourism and biodiversity conservation programs in 57 Village Development Committees (VDC) of five districts which are located in the north side of Pokhara in western development region of Neapl. This is the largest protected area in Nepal2. Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) is rich in biodiversity and is a treasure house for 1,226 species of flowering plants, 102 mammals, 474 birds, 39 reptiles and 22 amphibians. After 1986, ACA came under ACAP within National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC). ACAP covers a region of 7,629 sq. km. ACAPwere first tested as a pilot Program in the GhandrukVDC in the same year 1986. After being notified in the Gazette as a “Conservation Area” in 1992, ACAP’s program covered the entire area.

There are several features that make the Annapurna region a unique place in the world. It contains the world’s deepest river George named as Kali-Gandaki-George, which is 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, and a valley with fossils from the Tethys Sea dating 60 million years ago. This region contains the world’s largest rhododendron forest, especially in Ghorepani and the highest altitude fresh water Lake named Tilicho located in Manang towards north of the Annapurna massif.

The biological diversity of the Annapuna region is equally rivaled by cultural diversity. It is also the home to over 100,000 residents of different cultural and linguistic groups. Gurungs and Magars are the dominant cultural ethinic groups in the south, whereas Thakali, ManangeGurung and Loba are dominant in the north. Each of these groups speaks their own dialect, and have unique cultures and traditions. Besides, there are also Brahmin, Chhetri, and other occupational castes in comparatively smaller numbers. From religious point of view, Hindu, Buddhist and pre-Buddhisfollowers are prevalent across the region. The natural and cultural features of Annapurna Conservation Area have made it the most popular trekking destination in the country. This area draws more than 60 percent of the country’s total trekkers. Tourism, over the years, has been firmly established as one of the most important and competitive sectors of the local economy. There are over 1,000 lodges, teashops, and hundreds of other subsidiary services to cater to the thousands of trekkers, pilgrims, and their supporting staffs.

The soaring number of visitors, whose fuel consumption is twice more than that of the local people, has exerted immense pressure on forest resources already stressed from the growing local population. Similarly, litter, particularly the wastes produced by trekkers, and hoteliers, is another major concern. It is estimated that an average trekking group of 15 people generates about 15 kg of non-biodegradable and non-burnable garbage in 10 days trek, producing tons of garbage in mountain regions annually.

The multifaceted problems of Annapurna conservation area have been addressed through an integrated, community-based conservation, and development approach. It is an experimental model which has been in the vanguard of promoting the concepts of “Conservation Area” through an “Integrated Conservation and Development Programme” approach in the country and abroad.

Additionally, Annapurna conservation area is the first protected area that has allowed local residents to live within the boundaries as well as own their private property and maintain their traditional rights and access to the use of natural resources. It is also the first protected area, which has refrained from using the assistance of army to protect the dwindling natural resource base on which the region fully depends. Instead, it invests whatever financial resources are available for community development and social capital building in the region. The NTNC receives no regular funding support from the government for the operation of ACAP, but has been granted the right to collect entry fees from visiting trekkers. Collected revenue is ploughed back to implement conservation and development activities in Annapurna conservation area. Additional funds are raised from national and international donors. This is an exemplary achievement of an ability of the non-government institution to manage a significant portion of the protected area within a system in Nepal.

Table 1. Fact sheet of ACA

Area 7629 Sq.Km
VDC 57 (5 Districts)
Population 107000
Land use In sq.km In%
Forest 1160.50 15.21
Agriculture 234.1 3.07
Shrub land 308.37 4.04
Grass Land 1622.32 21.27
Barren Land 389.37 49.67
Sand Gravel 127.89 1.68
Snow Cover 34.84 0.46
Glacier 339.28 4.45
River 5.36 0.07
Lake Pond 6.96 0.09
Total 7629

Source: GIS unit of ACA

In order to manage various conservation and development efforts of ACAP more effectively, the whole ACA has been divided into 7 unit conservation offiices- Jomsom, Manang, and Lo-Manthang in the trans-Himalayan region and Bhujung, Sikles, Ghandruk, and Lwang on the southern flank of the Annapurna range. However, all the activities of these conservation offices are administered and managed from the head office located in HariyoKharka in Pokhara. The focus of Jomsom, Manang, and Ghandruk conservation offices, which area among the most popular trekking destinations, is under integrated tourism management, and the other development activities that benefit the local communities and the environment. The program priorities for Bhujung, Sikles, and Lwang are poverty alleviation and integrated agriculture development and agro-forestry. Similarly, while focusing in upper Mustang, which came under the jurisdiction of Annapurna Conservation Area in 1992, has been managing controlled tourism on a sustainable basis in promoting heritage conservation as the major tourist attraction (NTNC 2008). The Conservation Education and Extension Program is being implemented in the entire region of Annapurna conservation area and it forms the backbone of all its endeavors.

The first management mandate given by the government to NTNC to manage Annapurna conservation area ended in 2002. The government gave management mandate of additional 10 years to NTNC.and again in 2013, the NTNC has been given another 2 years to manage ACAP as well as develop its exit plan.

The NTNC believes that the areas such as the Annapurna conservation area will ultimately have to be managed by the local people themselves in perpetuity. Therefore, the focus is on building local capacity, both at the institutional and individual levels, to meet all the conservation and development aspirations of the people.

3. Annapurna conservation area management zone

Based on the management perspectives, Annapurna Conservation Area has been divided into four different distinctive zones which are intensively categorized as intensive use zones, protected forest special management zone, grazing zone, and wilderness zone (NTNC 2009). These four zones are briefed below.

a.     Intensive use zone

This is generally human settlement area where severe pressure on resources has been apparent for a long period of time. The human activities comprise agriculture, livestock, fodder, and fuel-wood collection Management implications include high and integrated interventions of plantation, improvement of the natural forest management practices, restriction on hunting, no commercial use of local resources, conservation education, alternative resources, and income generating activities.

b.    Protected forest grazing zone

This zone lies below the wilderness zone and just above the intensive use zone. Villagers cannot go for a one-day round-trip for fodder grass and fuel-wood collection to this zone. However, they seasonally use this zone for livestock grazing and timber collection for home use. The resources include alpine grazing pasture and mixed broad-leaf temperate forest. The management implications for this zone are to restrict the use of the resources. Only the local people (no outsiders) can use the resources from this zone seasonally.

c.      Special management zone

This zone includes those selected and isolated areas which recently, within the last two decades, suffer from serious environmental problems directly or indirectly due to tourism. These isolated areas include Ghorepani- Chhomrong- Annapurna Sanctuary, ThorongPhendi, Tilicho Lake, and Chame areas. This is a high priority area from conservation point of view. Intensive monitoring of all aspects of environment and tourism, and full spectrum of management and development efforts directed towards reversing present trend are to be implemented.

d.    Wilderness zone

This is the area above the current upper elevation limits of seasonal grazing, roughly above 15,000 ft(approximately 4,600m). the resources include high mountains, glaciers, rocks, and those pastures which have not been grazed to date or abandoned for more than a decade. The immediate management implication for this zone is to fully protect and not to carry any developmental activities.

3.1 How Does ACAP work?

To conserve natural resources of the area and to uplift living standard of local people through tourism and other income generating activities, ACAP works with direct support from the local people. People’s active participation, catalytic role, and sustainability are the three guiding principles that ACAP practices to achieve its mission “To Conserve, manage and promote nature in all its diversity balancing human needs with the environment on a sustainable basis for posterity-ensuring maximum community participation with due cognizance of the linkage between economics, environment, and ethics through a process in which people are both the principal actors and beneficiaries”.

Until and unless the basis needs of the locals are fulfilled, peoples’ interests towards nature conservation and environment protection are unthinkable. ACAP is aware of this reality. Moreover, basic infrastructure development is another part that a community needs. So, this integrates community development, women encouragement, agriculture and animal husbandry, health, conservation education, tourism, natural resource conservation with one another and designs its activities. Each activity links with another. For instance, health program is related to education, education is related to social development, social development is related to tourism and tourism is related to socio-economic development.

To carry out these activities, ACAP has formed many VDC-based committees under 7 offices in the fields. Conservation Area Management committee is the leading committee through which all the activities are carried out. Mothers’ group, forest management sub-committees, tourism management sub-committees, and green force clubs are formed according to the conservation area management Regulation 2053 B.S (1997 A.D). Field offices are called unit conservation offices and each unit conservation office is staffed by at least 15 people from different backgrounds.

3.2 ACAP in tourism in Pokhara and Annapurna conservation area

Annapurna conservation area is rich in culture and bio diversity. Different languages are spoken in the area by different ethnic groups. Diverse flora and fauna have also helped ACA to be popular among the tourists.

Table 2 Tourist arrival in ACA since 2001

Year International SAARC Total
2001 64471 824 65313
2002 38037 605 38642
2003 39240 1428 40668
2004 40709 1638 42347
2005 34057 2167 36224
2006 35894 2007 37901
2007 57152 3122 60274
2008 67379 4796 72175
2009 70182 9714 79896
2010 75915 14246 90161
2011 83873 15423 99296
2012 91725 12762 104487

Source: ACAP (2012)

More than one hundred thousand tourists with the similar number of supporting staff visited ACA in 2011. With the increasing influx of tourists in the area, natural resources and cultural values have also been threatened. Actually, to balance between the influx and the conservation of natural and cultural resources has stood as the challenge for ACAP. To overcome this issue, ACAP always involves local people form need assessment to planning and implementation. ACAP believes that local people are capable to share their indigenous knowledge needed for program planning and implementation. In addition, they are involved in every program to let them feel the ownership.

Heritage conservation programs implemented in upper Mustang, Manang and southern part of ACA have supported to generate awareness among the villagers about how significantly culture and tradition contribute to attract tourists in the area.

A number of attractions like KohlaSothar, an archaeological site situated in the southern part of ACA, Muktinath temple of Muktinath, the highest Lake Tilicho, the highest pass Thorong-la, the deepest George Kaligandaki, the fascinating rhododendron forest of Ghorepani, enchanting landscape, amicable people, and their festivals have supported ACA to bring thousands of tourists annually. Different ethnic groups cherish different cultural and traditions. With these traditions and culture they have treasured, heritages that Upper Mustang conserved, bio diversity that the ACA people preserved and the landscape it owned, ACA had become one of the 10 best trekking destinations in the world in 2004.

Initially, Tourism was not well-managed in Annapurna conservation area. People did not know much about tourism. ACAP provided tourism-related trainings to the hotel owners. Consequently, currently, the tourism entrepreneurs have learnt many things. They are now able to provide better services to the guests. Gas and Kerosene depots are established in the villages, mineral water bottle is banned in Annapurna Sanctuary, waste collection centers are established, hydro power plants are installed, and many environmental issues are discussed among the villagers to make them capable to manage tourism in an environment-friendly way.

This proves that ACAP has intensively focused tourism in Pokhara and Annapurna conservation area. ACAP works in coordination with Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), Pokhara Tourism Council (PTC), Tourism Management sub-committees, and other tourism-related organizations to achieve its goals.

Basically, ACAP forms a VDC or settlement level Tourism Management Sub-committee (TMS) in the field. A total of 49 Tourism Management sub-committees are functional throughout Annapurna region. They have been delegated with certain authorities to manage tourism as per the Conservation area management Regulation 2053 B.S (1997 A.D) and its Directives 2056 B.S (2000 A.D). These TMSs are the auxiliary institutions to Conservation Area Management Committee (CAMC), a mother committee formed in each VDC. Every year, each sub-committee proposes tourism programs to the CAMC in their yearly planning meeting. The CAMC relays those activities to the ACAP’s Unit Conservation Office (UCO) for further action. The UCO collects the proposals, prioritizes the needs identified, and then sends them to the Headquarters for approval. Once the proposals are approved, the activities are instantly implemented in the fields. There is at least one tourism assistant positioned to look after the tourism activities in every UCO. Narendra Lama, Tourism Officer of ACAP states, “Besides in other regular conservation and community development activities, ACAP spends about NPR 20 million in tourism development and promotion annually”.

In Pokhara, with technical and administrative supports from TAAN, PTC and NTB, ACAP has carried out different activities. Supporting the tourism-related events organized by different Pokhara-based organisations, conducting workshops and seminars on the tourism-related issues, exploring and promoting the alternative trekking routes, and providing trainings to the entrepreneurs are some of the major activities carried out.ACAP provided financial support to TAAN for organizing international level paragliding competition in 2008 and 2009, Home-stay Management training at Kabhre in 2010, Winter Camps ever year, and familiarization trips in different places in different years. Likewise, ACAP also provided financial supports to PTC for organizing Ropain (rice plantation) festivals at Chisapani in 2009 and at Lamachaur in 2010 and Annapurna Day at Kabhre in 2009. Moreover, the UNITRAV (Western Regional Committee) was also supported financially to organize clean- up campaign in Annapurna sanctuary area in 2012 and the same institution was again supported for organizing tourism workers’ skill development trainings. Additionally, in 1998 ACAP collected non-biodegradable waste in Manang district and transported about 3,000 kilos of bottles and tins to Pokhara to sale out.

Moreover, various studies and researches have also been done. In 2011, Shreekanta S. Khatiwada studied an impact of road construction on trekking tourism in the Round Annapurna Trek. He was hired as consultant by ACAP (Khatiwada 2011). Likewise, in different times, various foreign volunteers were employed to study how the road construction has impacted on the local economy and the local cultural values, and how tourism has impacted on environment of other issues.

In the field level, there are regular tourism programs. The TMS regular planning meetings, waste management, check-posts and visitor centers upgrades and operations, sign postings, trekking trail repair and maintenance, trainings for hoteliers, etc. are some of the regular activities that ACAP field offices carry out every year.

ACAP solely manages fund to carry out its activities from the entry fee amount. Every trekker, who wishes to go to ACA, needs to pay NPR 2,000. From this, ACAP collects approximately NPR 1.8 million annually and uses this money for conservation and development in Annapurna conservation area. However, unsatisfied voices regarding the usage of this revenue have been heard in public. Some stakeholders are satisfied with ACAP has used this money for and some are not satisfied. KisamGurung, chairperson of Ghandruk Tourism Management Sub-committee and owner of Gurung Cottage, Ghandruk, shows his satisfaction that ACAP’s entrance fee is ploughed back to the community for sustainable tourism management and community development works (see box: 13.1)

Box 1 views on entrance feeKisamGurung

 

Chairman, Ghandruk Tourism management subcommittee and an owner of Gurung cottage, Ghandruk.

“intrance fee is not a debate of contradiction because NPR 2,000 is not a big amount for the tourists visiting Annapurna region. Most importantly, trekkers will be satisfied if they are told that the entry fee they paid to enter ACA is ploughed back to 57 Village Development Committees each by providing at least 5 to 7 hundred thousand rupees per year for conservation, sustainable management to tourism, and community development activities”.

 

Source: Personal communication by author

 

Tourism Management Sub-committees are bodies through which all the tourism activities are executed. Since the very starting, ACAP focused on creating awareness and providing training to the villagers to make sure that the tourism in ACA should turn towards environment protection, poverty alleviation, and cultural preservation. Unless the villagers and tourism entrepreneurs are conscious, tourism management is impossible. That is why, ACAP conducted tourism awareness camps in the initial phase. It has helped hoteliers to standardize menu. It also provided trainings on cooking and baking, front desk dealin, service of the waiter, waste management, basic English language, interior decoration, and many more. Most of the tourism practitioners in the area seemed satisfied on this matter. BinodGurung, Chairman of  Tourism Entrepreneurs’ Association of Manang (TEAM) and the owner of Yeti Hotel, Manang, appreciated ACAP for setting menus to reduce the unhealthy competition among the hotel-owners in the initial phase. He has also acknowledged that ACAP which has conducted the study tours and awareness camps for the hotel owners, would inevitably let them understand the essence of tourism and its importance (See box 13.2).

Box 2 views on ACAPBinodGurungChairman, TOurism Entrepreneurs’ Association of Manang, and the Ower of Hotel Yeti, Manang

“ACAP was the prominent organization that led villagers to manage tourism in a proper way. ACAP provides trainings to the hotel owners, generates of tourism among the villagers, sets rules to control the unhealthy competition among the hoteliers, organizes study tours to let hotel owners see the difference between the management systems of their place and the place where tourism has already bloomed. ACAP also standardizes menus to set the prices of food in sequential order to maintain th uniformity. These efforts are remarkable and for this they are always appreciated”.

Source: Personal communication y author.

 

Likewise, President of TAAN, Western regional chapter, Narayan Sapkota, said “ACAP’s programs are noticeable. Whatever ACAP has done to promote tourism in ACA are appreciated by most of the villagers.ACAP, since the inception, has been generating awareness among local villagers on the importance of wild animals, forests, local culture, and tradition. As a result, wildlife is preserved, and forest and local cultures are conserved to some extent. Illegal hunting and NTFP collection are also controlled. These would not have been possible without the existence of ACAP”.

Dal BahadurGurung, president of Sanctuary Tourism Entrepreneurs’ Association (STEC) admitted: “Positive features of ACAP regarding tourism development are: it has conserved wildlife, forests, culture, and traditions of the area and attracted many tourists annually. For the sustainable tourism management of the area, ACAP has formed Tourism Management Sub-committees in different Village Development Committees, through which waste management, infrastructure development, conservation initiatives, and trainings have been done”.

Late Min BahadurGurung of then Conservation Area Mangaement Committee and Chairman of Ghandrukvillage, once said “ACAP is here to make village the owner of the natural resources”.

With these assertions made by the local tourism practitioners, we can come to the understanding that this organization has won many hearts positively. Many villages have changed their appearances. Ghandruk became the world-known village; ghalegaon is considred to be best village tourism destination. Bhujung which had been hidden behind the curtain for decades is now opened for the whole outer world. Micro hydro power plants were installed and it has started to help reducing the consumption of fuel wood. In this way, Jungle is preserved to some extent. People became more conscious about environment and conservation. Many students have been taught conservation education, and women are encouraged and empowered. Safe drinking water stations are installed and handed over to the local institutions to diversify tourism income and minimize pollution. Finally, Tourism has thriven as a main source of income for the ACA dwellers.

With its regular programs, ACAp has also been implementing unpredicted momentum, however, in fact, significant activities in ACA. For instance, exploration of new alternative trekking routes, Home-stay tourism development, expansion of local culture, etc. are the major achievements. ACAP in 2009 explored 8 alternative trekking routes (see table 13.3) within ACA to give best alternative to the trekking routes displaced due to the motorable roads.

Table 3 Name and duration of the routes explored

S.N

Name of Routes

Duration of the Trek

1 Tangtin-Bhujung-Besishahar 6 Days (one way)
2 Sikles-Timang 10 Days (one way)
3 Odar-Namaun Pass 6 Days (up and down)
4 Bhujung-Dudhpokhari-Sikles 6 Days (up and down)
5 Karpani-Sikles-Pokhara 5 Days (one way)
6 Sabet-Ghandruk 4 Days (one way)
7 Pahirothapla-Muktinath 5 Days (one way)
8 Ghandruk-Khairbarah 3 Days (one way)

Source: Gurung (2009)

ACAP has also introduced home-stay tourism in many villages to diversify local income to the wider section of the country. Both the programs, alternative trekking routes and home-stay are intensified with the support of TAAN and NTB journalists and other stakeholders based in Pokhara. The positive results have been seen already. Villagers are benefitted from more tourists visiting their villages. There are trekkers in the alternative trekking routes. These routes contain more exciting potentiality.

Narendra Lama, who has been working in ACAP for about 18 years as Tourism officer, summarizes;

Box 3 Views on community based project organized by ACAPNarendra Lama, Tourism Officer, ACAP”ACAP is promoting community-based tourism focusing the very effective participation of the local people and other relevant stakeholders. More importantly, the project also emphasizes collaborative efforts for the promotions of ecotourism incorporating the efforts of likeminded organisations such as TAAN, NTB and local government bodies”

Source: personal communication by author.

 

One of the major achievements of ACAP is establishing ACA as a model ecotourism region that has received over 60 percent of trekking tourism in Nepal. ACAP is a successful project for effective combination of resource conservation with ecotourism promotions which are verified by a half dozen international awards received by NTNC. At the very beginning of ACAP, the region received only 25,000 tourists annually while in 2012 it received more than 100 thousand trekkers. This shows a significant increase in the tourists’ flow in ACA region. However, ACAP is also facing some challenges. The major challenge is the growth of rural road construction around the major destination within the protected area that ultimately hindered trekking route and its tourism. Considering this, ACAP is focusing on exploration of alternative trekking routes and its management. Some of these alternative trekking routes are still under construction. For the last few years, ACAP has promoted home-stay tourism in different areas within the ACA the region. The main aim of the home-stay tourism is to diversify tourism income in the remote rural areas within the ACA region.

ACAP is promoting community-based tourism focusing effective participation of the local people and other relevant stakeholders. Recently, ACAP is promoting villages as a tourism destination. Kabhre, Misrsa, Lwang-Ghalel, Sikles, Hangjakot of Kaski district; Bhujung, Pasgaon, Ghalegaun, Ghanpokhara of Lamjung district; Odar and Tilcho of Manang district; Khibang of Myagdi district; and many other villages have been listed to be developed. Homestay management trainings, cooking and basic baking training are being provided to the villagers to enable them to fulfill the immediate necessities of their guests. In order to execute such programs successfully, the project emphasizes on collaborative efforts for the promotions of ecotourism incorporating the efforts of likeminded organizations such as TAAN, NTB and local government bodies.

4. Challenges

In spite of the establishment of basic structures of tourism development, ACAP still faces many challenges. Mainly, the government’s plan to link all the district headquarters with the motorableroad, has appeared as the crucial challenge. Now, Chame and Jomsom, district headquarters of Manang and Mustang respectively, have been linked with the main road from Besishahar and Beni displacing the famous and most trekked trekking trail “The Round Annapurna” (Khatiwada 2011). Krishna Gurung who did MSc in conservation and tourism from Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent, Uk and has been working in ACAP, says that the construction of road in the rural part of the region has affected tourism negatively as it has shortened total length of stay resulting in less economic benefit through tourism as majority of them prefer to ride vehicles and bypass many settlements, particularly between Marpha and Ghasa where few lodges have been forced to be closed (see box 13.4).

 

Box 4 Views on affects of motor road on Annapurna trekking trailKrishna Gurung employee at NTNC-ACAP”After the road development in the region, it has impacted negatively on trekking tourism. It has shortened total length of stay resulting less economic benefits as majority between Marpha and Ghasa where few lodges have forced to be closed”.

Although, NTNC-ACAP’s tourism activities are considered as eco-tourism initiatives, there is lack of systematic theme-based tourism programme with poor tourism diversification mechanism. Poor and disadvantaged groups hardly benefited from the tourism programme”.

Source: Personal communication by author

 

Waste management is another challenge for ACAP. Thousands of kilos of waste has been generated in ACA annually but the management system does not seem to be pleasing. Waste collection centers are not enough, incinerators are not used properly and most importantly, non-biodegradble wastes are not carried down to the cities for proper management. In addition, safe drinking water stations which are supposed to be reducers of mineral water bottles in the area are not well managed.

ACAP lacks a tourism management Plan, especially the systematic theme-based tourism program, which leads to the poor tourism diversification mechanism. The Poor and disadvantaged groups have hardly been benefited from such ambitious tourism programs. Furthermore, the author, on the basis of the interactions and interviews he himself has conducted, realizes that ACAP needs tourism master plan. However, to address all required activities in the plan itself is a challenging task. Moreover, no sufficient primary database about demand of tourism products as well as quality of services and facilities is available in the concerned area. Similarly, no adequate researches have been carried out on the physical carrying and impacts of tourism considering the rapid increase of Indian and domestic visitors.

Krishna Gurung, further says, “Poor linkage and interpretation of biodiversity conservation and cultural heritage for tourism product development is one of the weaknesses in NTNC-ACAP’s current intervention. ACAP needs to improve institutional coordination with other stakeholders at different levels, mainly with TAAN and NTB.

5. ACAP’s future

No matter what ACAP has done in ACA, the government will, one day, withdraw the mandate given to NTNC and come up with an alternative arrangement for managing the ACAP.

Box 5. Views on role of ACAPDal BahadurGurung, Chairman, Sanctuary Tourism entrepreneurs’ Association”ACAP should make Tourism Master Plan and follow it by dividing the tourism management zones, and carry out activities accordingly. For instance, Annapurna area was nominated as one of the best top 10 trekking destinations few years ago, but now it is removed from this list. It shows that the government and ACAP could not reserve its fame. It could be because of the roads which are arbitrarily being built in the area without considering the protection of the existing trekking trail. We have never been opposing the roads but there should be alternative routes developed and promoted to maintain the magnetism of the Annapurna area”.

Source: Personal communication by author.

“ACAP’s exit plan immediately needs to be prepare because NTNC will ultimately hand over ACA to the local communities by forming Annapurna Conservation Area Management Council or to the government through other means. For this a law-for-handover should be drafted by the government,” said Mr.LalGurung, Project Director of ACAP.

In addition, entry fee to Annapurna region seems to be restructured. This author has been raising this issue in almost every workshop and seminar because it is unfair for those trekkers who spend only night in Dhampus and other bordering areas and have to pay NPR 2,000. This problem can be settled by setting entry fee in rational practical ground. Three different rates should be fixed: one for the tourists spending one night, one for the tourists doing a week-long trip and one for the tourists doing more than week-long trip in the area. In addition, tourists who want to obtain entry permits at check points have also suffered from the extra 100 percent charge. The find should also be reduced because certain percentages of the tourists are compelled to obtain permits at check point due to the lack of enough time. Most of the tourists, mostly in the foreign countries, do not disrespect and disobey rules and regulations willingly.

In addition to the conservation area entry fee, trekkers need to pay for Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) which KisamGurung of Ghandruk and BinodGurung of Manang oppose. They think that the TIMSis an extra burden for trekkers. Clarifying the dispute, Narayan Sapkota the President of TAAN Western Regional Association stated “TIMS is a computerized database, which can be useful for the trekkers’ safety and security. This is important in order to carry out search and rescue operations for trekkers in case of natural calamities and other accidents as all important details regarding trekkers and trekking routes are maintained in a computer with database management system. Moreover, this will also help control unauthorized trekking operations. Ultimately, the income from TIMS will be used for better management of sustainable mountain tourism development in Nepal”.

“ACAP exit plan immediately needs to be prepared because NTNC will ultimately hand over ACA to the local communities for forming Annapurna Conservation Area Management Council or to the government through other means. For this, a law-for-handover should be drafted by the government,” said MR.lal Prasad Gurung, Project Director of ACAP.

In addition, entry fee to Annapurna region seems to be restricted. This author has been raising this issue in almost every workshop and seminar because it is unfair for those trekkers who spend only one night in dhampus and bordering areas and have to pay NPR 2,000. This problem can’t be settled by setting entry fee in rational practical ground. Three different rates should fixed: one for the tourists spending one night, one for the tourists doing a week- long trip and one for the tourists doing more than a week-long trip in that area. In addition, tourists who want to obtain entry permits at check points have also suffered from the extra 100 percent charge. The fine should also be reduced because certain percentage of the tourists is compelled to obtain permits at check point due to the lack of enough time. Most of the tourists, mostly in the foreign countries, do not disrespect and disobey rules and regulations willingly.

In addition to the conservation entry fee, trekkers need to pay for Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) which KisamGurung of Ghandruk and BinodGurung of Manang oppose. They think the TIMSis an extra burden for trekkers. Clarifying the dispute, Narayan Sapkota the President of TAAN Western Regional Association stated “TIMS is a computerized database, which can be useful for the trekker’s safety and security. This is important in order to carry out search and rescue operations for trekkers in case of natural calamities and other accidents as all important details regarding trekkers and trekking routes are maintained in a computer with database management system.  Moreover, this will also help control unauthorized trekking operations. Ultimately, the income from TIMS will be used for better management of sustainable mountain tourism development in Nepal”.

6. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Pokhara is a transit point for the tourists intending to go to Annapurna region. That is why; tourists first arrivePokhara then proceed to Annapurna areas. Those who have planned only to visit Pokhara, are also found to be fascinated to visit Annapurna area too as they hear and see about it. So, the Annapurna region and Pokhara are interconnected and inseparable from touristic point of view. Without Pokhara, Annapurna is inaccessible and without Annapurna Pokhara is incomplete and imperfect. Keeping this in mind, ACAP has played effervescent catalytic role by bridging these two distinct tourism destinations together. However, a few things are lacking. As recommended by the experts, ACAP should not follow its orthodox management system. An innovation must be brought out to achieve its goal. –“uplift local economy through tourism”.

Based on the interviews and decisions made with the experts. Locals, and other related tourism entrepreneurs, the following activities are recommended for National Trust for Nature Conservation and Annapurna Conservation Area Project to carry out for the better management of tourism in Annapurna Conservation Area;

a)     Prepare a comprehensive tourism master plan incorporating other plans such as ACA management plan, CMAC operational plan in line with DDC’s tourism master plan. Design and implement activities accordingly.

b)     Develop alternative trekking routes as well as side trip trails from major settlements, eco parks along with proper trail signs, and information boards and adequate promotional activities.

c)     Study and develop religious tourism, village tourism, and wildlife based tourism linking with bio diversity conservation.

d)     Provide various types of skills development training to local youths, women, poor and disadvantage and unprivileged ones, and provide financial support to establish tourism related micro-enterprises.

e)     Diversify tourism product and services by exploring potential new tourism services which are yet to be harnessed: rock climbing, rafting .kayaking, cannoning, nature based /wildlife tourism, bungee jumping etc.

f)      Carry out periodically to assess environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism and mitigation measures in addition to visitor’s perception, demand, and recommendations for further improvement.

g)     Coordinate with NTB, TAAN, and other tourism stakeholders to develop and promote alternative trekking routes and day hike/short trek destinations. Influence NTB and TAAN utilize their revenue from TIMS in alternative trekking routes development and improvement.

h)     Provide nature (wildlife /bird watching) and cultural guide training to local youths so to seek economic benefit from tourism and such skills can be linked with wild life conflict. Train and make aware tourism (hotel/lodges/restaurant/jeep/bus) entrepreneurs in order enhance their quality services and facilities.

i)       Develop appropriate waste management system and educate local community. Explore better option for recycling and transportation of non-bio degradable waste in view of road access.

j)       Strengthen and encourage local tourism institute to face and mitigate tourism related to new challenges. Accomplish follow up/monitoring of activities efficiently.

k)     Organize workshops and seminars on yearly or half-yearly basis to evaluate the programs implemented in the field and monitor their efficacy.

l)       Promote tourism products through internet by developing websites, producing documentaries, publishing books, producing magazines, etc.

m)   Ban plastic, bottles, and bags as they are the means of environmental contamination, especially in very sensitive areas such as Tilicho Lake, Thorongphedi, DamodarKunda, Mardi Himal, Nar Phoo, etc.

n)     Design and execute grass-roots oriented programs so the villagers who are deprived of the tourism income will be benefitted equally.

  • o)     Think about restructuring of entry fee. If certain percentage of amount is given to the government, ACAP will have better support from the government bodies.

REFERENCES

ACAP [Annapurna Conservation Area Project].2012.Annapurna Conservation Area Project maps. Available at http://www.ntnc.org.np/gallery/annapurna-conservation-area-acap-maps; accessed on 2 march 2013.

Gurung K.2012. Tourism of Mustang, 2012. An overview report presented at tourism staffs’ workshop at ACAPLalitpur.

Gurung T.2009. A report on exploration of alternative Trekking routes 2009. A study report submitted to ACAP, Lalitpur.

Khatiwada SK.2011. An impact of road construction on trekking tourism in the round Annapurna trek. A study submitted to ACAPLalitpur.

NTNC [National Trust for Nature Conservation].2012.The Annapurna Ways. Kathmandu: NTNC.

NTNC [National Trust for Nature Conservation].2009. Management Plan of Annapurna Conservation Area (2009-2012). Kathmandu: NTNC

NTNC [National Trust for Nature Conservation].2008. Sustainable Development Plan Mustang (2008-2013).Kathmandu: NTNC.

Resource : Tourism in Pokhara , Issues,Trends and Prospects for Peace and Prosperity (2013) Published by,Pokhara Tourism Council,South Asia Regional Coordination Office of NCCR North-South and Nepal Center for Contemporary Research, Kathmandu.

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