Nepal after the Earthquake
The extensive coverage given to Nepal’s earthquake by the international media has painted this Himalayan country as too dangerous place to be in.
Of course, seeing the horrid intensity of the earthquake in few regions, why should the media show the streets of Kathmandu where life is normal or a fun Safari in the national park? That wouldn’t be a news and nor would draw any global attention, especially when so much help was needed in the disaster zones.
However, also as a consequence, though on one hand there has been a commendable worldwide humanitarian aid and response for the victims, yet on the other hand , the media presentation has also led to major imbalance in the socio-economic aspects of the Himalayan community who were directly or indirectly dependant on tourism sector for their living. There were widespread cancellation of hotel bookings and tours immediately and tourism being one of the major national income source in Nepal, took a nose dive threatening a huge population especially at the lower income strata to sustain themselves ahead.
Yes, we need to acknowledge the disaster and the consequences of the events that pan out during the calamity period. But it is also important that the news should be fair and unbiased for the sustained cause. In case of Nepal, people interested in coming to Nepal must be given a clear picture ofwhat’s going on in the country and where they can still travel safely.
What really happened in Nepal
The two major earthquakes on April 25th and May 12th 2015 with epicentres in Gorkha and Dolakha (rural Nepal) caused much destruction which was primarily in the villages where houses were constructed with brick or stone with mud to bind them together. Loss of life too was tremendously higher in the rural parts of Nepal. In Kathmandu, the old monuments were brought down by the two tremors while the newer buildings fell due to lack of good engineering. Most of the dwellings destroyed in Bhaktapur and Sankhu on the outskirts of the valley were also delicate brick and mud houses. Kathmandu city remained largely intact with certain areas seeing greater damages. Low intensity aftershocks are still being felt around the country on a regular basis but with little ill effect on daily life of the people. Life in Kathmandu and most of the popular tourist destinations around the country is back to normal.
Given the initial fear and the vast news coverage which were concentrated on disaster areas, tourism took a direct hit as is expected after such national calamities. However, out of 75 districts it is only 8 that were affected and a large part of the country remains safe and open to tourism. There are still some regions that will remain out of bounds largely due to danger of landslides especially during the monsoon period which is generally from June to August and sometimes goes into mid September. These areas will be clearly defined below.
Around Kathmandu, the usual sight-seeing locations like Pashupatinath, Boudha, the Durbar Square area etc. are safe to visit. You can see the local people passing through them every day going about their business or praying at the shrines. Restaurants and hotels are running normally but with very low occupancy at present. 90% of the hotels are operational and safe and waiting for clients to walk in.
Other destinations like Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini and Bardia are unaffected by the quake. One can still spend a week in Pokhara trying all the adventure sports like Paragliding and Avia flights or hiking in the popular Annapurna region. Chitwan is open for safari in the national park and so is Bardia National Park in west Nepal which can be reached by flying to Nepalgunj. Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha is developing as a valuable tourist destination with more hotels and eateries springing up. This pilgrimage site along with the excavation sites that attracts a lot of Buddhists from around the world is also open to visitors.
Out of ten national parks only one has been affected. The highways are open to the traffic. Among the 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, only two suffered 40% damages. The rest can be visited any day.
Trekking is open in the Annapurna, Everest and other regions except for Manaslu, Rolwaling and Langtang areas which were directly affected by the quake. Hotels in the trekking areas which are open to trekkers are safe and fully operational. Out of 35 popular trekking routes only the three mentioned above have been restricted. All major airports around the country are unaffected and running as usual as they have suffered no damage.
Communication networks like landlines, cellular networks and internet connections are fully operational and so are the ATMs. Hospitals and clinics have been running normally and no viral diseases have been reported till date.
A detailed report on the status of buildings, walls and roads
The Kathmandu valley suffered minor damages, however around Bhaktapur and Patan there are buildings, wall and lanes that were damaged and walking along these are restricted. Around the mid-hill and mountains in central Nepal, some roads were damaged while some trails were totally destroyed by the quake in Langtang and Manaslu area and subsequent landslides. Around the city, Green Stickers mark the buildings that are safe and Red Stickers are a warning that the building is damaged and unsafe. Orange marked building may be approached with caution but only if absolutely necessary. All these buildings have been inspected and assessed by government appointed engineers.
Reports from The US Company:
Miyamoto International is proud to have led this assessment of the iconic Annapurna region for the Government of Nepal. We led the technical assessment of structures, bridges and trails with a team that included an expert structural earthquake engineer and a geotechnical engineer at Engeo The Dream Trust who both have extensive experience in post-earthquake damage assessments, an expert Sherpa from the region who served as the mountain guide and has climbed Everest four times and an operations manager from one of the largest trekking operators, Intrepid Travel, in Nepal. Good job, team! Read the article here:
Nepal Sanctuary Treks (NST)-
We have completed our assessments in the trekking trails especially in Everest and Annapurna region and found them to be completely safe. The routes where we shall run treks in Autumn 2015 are totally intact for the adventure. We have also checked all the lodges we involve along the way and most of them are in good condition. Some of them having minor damages will be ready for service from Autumn 2015.
Charity done by NST:
NST team has been extensively involved in the support for earthquake victims since 26th April 2015, by providing aid, tents, Food, Trap, and Mattress. We have helped our Staffs with financial support to rebuild their damaged houses. We have also supported temporary shelters at Schools near Kathmandu. Additionally, we have been supporting IDP camps around Kathmandu for water aid, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program regularly.
Despite of massive damages and causality by natural disaster, we have found people in the villages optimistic towards their life, still smiling and have started rebuilding their houses despite of huge lose of property, cattle, foods and even loss of family members.
Young people of Nepal, diaspora and friends of Nepal exuberantly got involved in raising funds and helping people for their food, shelter, health and school needs in affected areas. With their help, we are recovering from the emergency period marvelously and now people are starting to carry on with their normal lives.
We are back into business:
We now back to business as we are taking bookings for treks in any region of Nepal for both lodge and tented trek.
Personal Story of Our clients after the earthquake:
“I, my wife and my two kids have spent 12 days on Nepal during the second half of July, starting our trip in Kathmandu and finishing it in Lumbini, visiting on the way other places such as Nagarkort, Bandipur and Pokhara.
Frankly speaking, before departing from Spain, we were worried about what we were hearing regarding the difficult situation in Nepal with the earthquakes.
As far as we know, the earthquake affected mostly Kathmandu valley and the region located on the north-centre part of the country.
It is true that a portion of the oldest houses and some of the historic temples were badly affected in the Kathmandu valley, nevertheless, the modern buildings have coped much better. We didn’t see any damage at all in the Pokhara region and on the way towards the Indian border.
We ended up having a very enjoyable stay with no problems at all throughout the whole trip and with everything, from transport to restaurants, roads, hospitals, telephone network, airports and accommodation fully operative and working perfectly well, even in Kathmandu.
We stayed in 6 different hotels in those cities, we made 500 km by all types of roads, we visited some 10/ 15 temples, had lunch in some 25 different restaurants and we visited a number of cities with no damage at all, except those mentioned before.
We absolutely recommend going on a trip to Nepal, even if it is just a few days. As you can imagine, having two kids, if we have perceived any risk, we wouldn’t have stayed not for a single minute.