Tuesday, 25 April 2017

NEPAL: Poacers Kill Rare Rhino In Chitwan National Park, Airlines Ask For Reforms

A rare one-horned rhino has been killed by poachers in Nepal’s largest habitat of rhinos, Chitwan National Park, on Saturday.

Officials at the Chitwan National Park (CNP) confirmed that an adult male rhino was shot dead on Friday night and the horns were hacked off.

“We found a dead rhino killed by poachers in a community forest, near the central office of the park, this afternoon (Friday). We have launched investigations into the incident,” Nurendra Aryal, assistant conservation officer at CNP said.

As per the initial reports, the endangered species was shot by rifle while the horn has been cut off with an axe.

The poachers tried their luck during the night-storm and at a time when the security concern has been shifted towards relocation of five rhinos from CNP to far-western region based Shuklaphanta National Park. As part of government’s decision of transferring five rhinos, four have already been released to the new habitat within a week.

The incident comes at a time when Nepal was planning to mark the success of third consecutive “Zero Poaching Year,” thanks to effective conservation efforts and scientific security mechanism. The last rhino-poaching incident occurred in May 2014 in the same region.

Chitwan National Park, located some 150 km from the capital city, is renowned for protection of one-horned rhinoceros, Royal Bengal tiger and Gharial Crocodile. According to Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, out of total 645 rhinos in Nepal, over 600 are in Chitwan National Park.

Exquisitely hand-painted cakes and cookies were on display both for art and food connoisseurs to feast their eyes (as well as relish) at the Hotel Annapurna in Kathmandu on Tuesday. The delicacies that came in various shapes and sizes were hand-painted/inspired by the works of 12 famous local and international artists who are part of the forthcoming Kathmandu Triennale 2017: S.C. Suman, Laxman Bajra Lama, Prithivi Shrestha, Saurgauna Darshandhari and Sujan Dangol, Ang Tshering Sherpa, Birendra Pratap Singh, Carol Vanderlin, Bard Lowijks, Francis Alys, Heide Hinrichs, Song Dong and Brian Hodgson.

Shalini Rana coordinated the design of the cakes provided by the Cake Shop, Hotel Annapurna during the ‘Cakes, Art and High Tea’ event, a collaborative effort between Hotel Annapurna, My City Pulse and The Kathmandu Triennale 2017.

“Hotel Annapurna is delighted to have this opportunity to showcase local artists and be involved with community organizations that support Nepal. ‘Cakes, Art and High Tea’ is one such event to endorse Nepali Art,” said Suarpana Shahi, Assistant Manager of the Annapurna Hotel.

Speaking about the significance of such event, senior artist S.C.Suman said that he participated in the event to show that food can also be an art piece.

“All these hand-painted cakes look so beautiful that one would be in a dilemma whether to eat these nicely hand-painted cakes or keep it as a work of art. But they are made to be eaten and only prove the point that we first eat with our eyes, “ Suman said, adding smilingly that people don’t prefer to eat anything that doesn’t look nice to them.

Situ Ratna Sthapit, Executive Pastry chef at the Hotel Annapurna, said, that Hotel Annapurna and the artists came together to do this innovative thing of baking hand-painted cakes and cookies to send a message that food is both a science as well as an art.

The event was part of the Kathmandu Triennale 2017, a non-commercial, mega art event organized by Siddhartha Arts foundation to promote Nepali arts and culture. It gives a platform to showcase contemporary (and traditional) art by Nepali and international artists on particular edition themes and develops programming and outreach to explore the pedagogical potential of arts.

The trans-Himalayan district of Mustang was once known as the forbidden kingdom of Nepal.

But since opening to the outside world in 1992, the region bordering China has never failed to enchant its visitors with mysterious and picturesque landscapes.

Located just in the lap of Mount Nilgiri and other Himalayan ranges, Mustang is a unique travel destination due to its remoteness and exclusive high-altitude deserts.

Often listed among the top tourist destinations in the world, Mustang in 2016 alone attracted nearly 40,000 foreign tourists compared to less than 500 a quarter of a century ago.

Foreign tourists are usually found trekking in this Himalayan region that comprises the world’s popular Annapurna trekking circuit.

“The flow of tourists is increasing every year due to its beautiful landscapes, accessibility by road and hotels,” Bal Bahadur Gurung, an officer at the Annapurna Conservation Area Project Mustang, said.

“The fact that the culture and tradition have been preserved by the locals also adds to Mustang as a favorite destination for tourists,” the officer added.

Although Mustang has the second lowest population of all regions in Nepal, it boasts more than 200 registered hotels with 4,500 rooms, with more hotels currently under construction. Also catering to visitors are restaurants serving European coffee, modern bakeries, souvenir shops and pool houses.

Between five and seven morning flights connect to the district headquarters of Jomsom from Lake City Pokhara every day.

One of the major features of Mustang, which lies along the Kali Gandaki River, is its pristine geography and climate. The landscape there reflects a natural architecture and where the weather, usually dry and windy, can be also be unpredictable.

Beside its geography, spectacular lifestyle and unique culture are also attractive. The region hosts a number of prominent festivals like Tenji, Yartung and Lha Phewa in which former royal family members, monks and locals participate.

Though Lower Mustang is easily accessible for travel, foreign tourists need to receive a special permit from the government by paying 500 U.S. dollars to visit Upper Mustang, known as “Lo Manthang,” the unofficial capital city of Mustang.

Lo Manthang, also known as the walled city, is popular for monasteries, centuries-old caves and archaeological sites.

Muktinath temple is one of the major attractions of the Mustang district as it is a pilgrimage center for both Buddhists and Hindus.

Hindus believe that the temple is associated with Lord Vishnu while Buddhists consider the place to be linked with Buddhist master Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava.

Located at an altitude of 3,800 meters above the sea level, the temple attracts 200,000 pilgrims every year.

“The cycle of life, death and rebirth goes on until the soul is freed. So this is the place where any human can attain salvation and they will rest in peace after this life,” Krishna Prasad Subedi, who has been serving as the main priest of the temple for the past 20 years, told Xinhua.

The temple is located in the middle of an oasis filled with lush green forest and was established centuries back. The Buddhist-Hindu temple of Vishnu and Chenrezig was built in 1815, according to commonly believed accounts.

One of the most interesting things about Muktinath are the 108 water taps with chilled water in its courtyard. This is where devotees take a bath with a belief that it will wash away all the sins they have committed.

“Muktinath temple is a place for liberation. Our religious leader Shree Swami Narayan travelled to this place many years ago and practiced penance for a long time. So, I wanted to visit this place at least once with my family before I die,” Dr. Mahendra Parmar, an Indian pilgrim, told Xinhua.

After years of isolation, the development of Mustang is now rapid. The road improvement project has already started from the nearest city of Beni to Jomsom, while a two-lane road is being constructed from Jomsom to Koro La Pass.

According to authorities, these road projects will be completed within three years. With the ongoing construction of bridges, schools and health centers and the opening of modern hotels, the once hidden kingdom is witnessing signs of modern progress.

Government authorities believe that Mustang’s potential can be further developed economically through the advancement of tourism, thus enhancing local entrepreneurship and economic growth opportunities.

“There are many important plans for the development of Mustang. Currently, we are constructing five major bridges and a small-scale hydropower project as well as upgrading the roads. The tourism sector is growing very fast, which is the backbone of development in this region,” Bhim Prasad Pokharel, chief district officer of Mustang, told Xinhua,

With a population of just 15,000 people, most of the locals are either fully dependent on tourism or on apple farming. Both avenues can generate an attractive income for individuals and their communities.

Having been exposed to the outside world and modernization, a visible change can be seen in the lives of the locals in terms of awareness and lifestyle.

The locals of Mustang are hopeful that the completion of road construction projects and the opening of the Nepal-China border at Koro La in the near future will provide a new life to this once isolated Himalayan region.

ourism business has now gradually started recovering in the Annapurna Conservation Area Project region after suffering a blow due to the major earthquake on April 25, 2015, state-owned news agency RSS reports. Ghorepani, the major tourism destination in the ACAP region, has seen double the number of tourists visiting the area in a year’s period. This has provided some succour to the local tourism entrepreneurs who had suffered a dwindling business in the year immediately after the earthquake.

Citing the logbook maintained by the Tourist Police Office, Ghorepani, RSS reported that 19 thousand 348 tourists visited Ghorepani in 2072 BS and the number reached 45,685 in the succeeding year.

Ghorepani in Annapurna Rural Municipality of Myagdi district is situated at an altitude of 2,810 metres from the sea level. It offers the visitors a panoramic view of over a dozen mountain peaks as Dhawalagiri, Nilgiri and Annapurna. The tourists can enjoy the sunrise and sunset from the Punhill tower.

More, the place offers glimpses of the typical local Gurung and Magar culture in rural setting. It has also home-stay facilities, besides over a dozen hotels with all the basic amenities.

Ghorepani is the main destination for trekkers travelling on to Mustang from Nayapul in Kaski as well as for those using the route through Thorang-La pass in Mustang in their journey from Manang to Pokhara in Kaski. It lies on the way to some of the famous tourism destinations like Khopralek, Ghandruk and the Annapurna Base Camp.

Eight thousand 335 tourists visited Ghorepani in the last one month period alone, the Tourist Police Office, Ghorepani stated.

Nepalese tourism stakeholders on Wednesday stressed on making air travel between Nepal and China cheaper to promote bilateral tourism, arguing that air transport between the two neighbors is one of the most expensive in the world.

They said at an interaction on the theme of Silk Road Tourism between Nepal and China, organized by China National Tourist Office and Nepal China Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCCI) that potential growth of Chinese tourists to Nepal has been hindered by higher air fare and relatively low air connectivity.

China is the Nepal’s second largest source market for tourists after India since 2010. Nepal welcomed 104,005 Chinese tourists in 2016 as arrivals surged by 55.26 percent on year-on-year basis after disastrous 2015 due to deadly earthquake and subsequent blockade in southern border points of Nepal, according to the data of Department of Immigration of Nepal.

NCCCI President Rajesh Kaji Shrestha said that air ticket for Kathmandu-Guangzhou is more expensive than travelling through the Kathmandu-Bangkok-Guangzhou. “Travelling Kathmandu to Kunming is costlier than India’s Kolkata’s to Kunming. Price must be competitive to attract more Chinese tourists to Nepal,” he said.

Currently, four Chinese airlines — China Southern, China Eastern, Sichuan Airline and Air China are serving Kathmandu to Guangzhou, Kunming, Chengdu and Lhasa respectively.

Shrestha said that there should be direct air connectivity between Kathmandu and Beijing, Shanghai to attract more Chinese tourists. Nepal’s national flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation is also serving Kathmandu-Hong Kong route currently and also has plan to reach Chinese mainland.

Sunil Sharma, officiating director of Nepal Tourism Board, the main tourism promotion body of Nepal, said that the board has been consistently promoting Nepal’s tourism in China but travel cost has been hindering the potential of Chinese tourist arrivals to Nepal.

Nepalese stakeholders also asked China to ease travel for tourist through land route too, particularly through bordering Geelong port which is currently only international trade route between the two countries.

Chinese ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong said that China was promoting Nepal’s tourism under the Year of Tourism for Nepal 2017 in line with the joint statement signed in 2016.