Quake hits Nepal’s mainstay tourism industry

September 21st, 2011 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 21 (IANS) Recovering from a decade of armed uprising and a massacre in the royal palace that wiped out the king, queen and nine more royals, Nepal’s tourism industry, the mainstay of the economy after remittance, has been dealt a fresh blow by Sunday’s earthquake.

With over 80 people dead in Nepal, India and Tibet, hundreds of buildings damaged and roads put out of action by landslides carrying crashing boulders, the Kanchenjunga conservation area in eastern Nepal that is close to the epicentre of Sunday’s tremor, is out of bounds for tourists.

One of the most beautiful areas of Nepal and the gateway to Mt Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, the Kanchenjunga conservation area lies in Taplejung district, close to Sikkim, the epicentre of the temblor measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale.

Army personnel Wednesday began laboriously clearing the road after it was blocked by falling boulders. The authorities also asked tourists and trekkers to stay away amid reports that nearly 200 houses in the district, including lodges meant to accommodate visitors, had sustained varying degrees of damage.

In Kathmandu, where three people died after a wall fell on them during the jolt, state officials began taking stock of heritage buildings that are a major tourist attraction.

The capital alone boasts of seven Unesco-declared World Heritage Sites, including the Pashupatinath temple revered by Hindus all over the world, and the Buddhist Swayambhu and Boudhanath monuments.

The Kathmandu Durbar Square, a square housing the old palace of the Shah kings, now turned into a museum, and other attractions like the palace of Nepal’s living goddess, the Kumari, has buildings going back to the 18th century.

The nine-storey palace, known as the Hanumandhoka palace, has developed cracks, reports said.

An inspection team visited the site Tuesday to assess the damage.

Though the quake left Nepal comparatively unscathed, the aftermath of media reports describing the capital as one of the most unsafe cities in the world due to uncontrolled urbanization and the inability of the lone international airport to cope with disasters on a large-scale are also likely to affect the flow of visitors.

Nepal is observing 2011 as its tourism year with the aim of attracting 1 million air-borne tourists to kickstart the economy.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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