Senior tourism entrepreneur Ganesh Bahadur Bhattarai is the Chief Coordinator of Pokhara Tourism Council (PTC) Natural Disaster Support Committee forged following the recent Tarai flood in Nepal. He is also a Coordinator of Pokhara Tourism Revival Committee formed following a devastating earthquake happened in Nepal two years before. Former Chairman of PTC and advisor of REBAN Pokhara, Bhattarai is a proprietor of Boomerang Restaurant Pokhara. Here is a short chitchat with Bhattarai following his recent relief-visit to Nepal flood hit areas. Excerpts of chitchat:
How do you assess your visit to Tarai region that was hard hit by recent deluge?
It remained very fruitful as we extended our support and distributed four trucks of relief materials like food grains, blankets, school dresses, tents and stationary goods especially in Jeetpur, Golaghat, Simal Gairi, Bachhauli and Madi of Chitwan and Susta of Nawalparasi. I would like to thank – Chau Bahadur Gurung, Bikal Tulachan, Agni Kandel, Narayan Subedi, Dil Gautam and Goma Dhakal for their coordination in the respective areas they were recommended for. I would also like to add here that the educated and rich people have migrated to urban areas but poor, marginalized people like Kumal, Chepang, Botey, Dalit, Tharu and Parja, who especially rely on roots and jungle stuffs retained in their own places which are vulnerable from the threat of floods like natural disasters. So, supplying relief materials to those victims is not the ultimate solution. The government and respected bodies should come up with some training and self employment related tools for their better life standard. The government should be serious on investment and planning parts for their betterment.
What is the cause behind this support drive as you entrepreneurs are far from the ground zero?
Of course we are far from the site but what I would like to say you that one Nepali should support to other when one faces hard time. At the same time, Chitwan and Nawalparasi are not so far from Pokhara as one of them is confined in Province IV too. Similarly, we would like to create awareness against such deluges and would like to pressurize the government so that the government could help in needy areas and people. As it was our first phase of support, we are planning to go to Janakpur, Mahottari, Sarlahi especially in east Tarai in second phase.
As you are also a coordinator of Pokhara Tourism Revival Committee (PTRC), how did this committee work in support and recovery part?
We did very effective jobs through this committee too. We had fetched our reliefs materials to the victim areas during that time too. We remained busy in rescue and relief works at that time and also carried out some recovery works targeting the tourism of Pokhara and whole Nepal. We informed national and international media about the real situation of Nepal. Though Nepal faced devastating earthquake in some part of Nepal but still national highways and international as well as domestic airports were in operation. We also spread the message that Nepal was safe to travel in spite of that killer shake. We PTRC family and its member organizations traveled to Barpak, the epicenter of Gorkha earthquake, trekked to Annapurna Region with TAAN WRA Pokhara, hold a press meet in Kathmandu with national and international media to tell the truth and also organized a observation tour for Indian journalists in Pokhara region to spread the message of safe Pokhara. We also hold a Music for Revival event as well as a holy ceremony inviting religious gurus for world peace and harmony in World Peace pagoda and had sacred foods following that pooja.
What do we need to do for the development of tourism of Pokhara region now?
Conserving the natural resources and our cultures, we should connect Pokhara from Bhairahawa, Chitwan, Baglung Dhorpatan and Mustang with black toped roads. Such connectivity would help for tourism as well as economic development of our region. Exploration of alternative trekking routes in Annapurna Region, construction of modern bus park and drainage system in Pokhara, beautification of the city as well as the development and conservation of parks and zoos are also necessary parts for the development of tourism. We also need a tourism friendly environment with water sports activities in Pokhara. The air fare in Kathmandu-Pokhara route is very expensive so, it should be slashed. Likewise, air connectivity from Paris, Frankfort, London, Australia, Austria, Amsterdam and other European courtiers to Nepal is also a must. The direct air access from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali including other south East Asian nations to Nepal is also a necessary phenomenon that would help us to lure more than 2 million tourists to Nepal by 2020. Before that, we should produce trained and skilled manpower in tourism sector. Also we need to produce required stuffs for tourism instead of importing them from abroad.