Forgotten backyardNepal’s far western region has tremendous tourism potential that remains untapped
Nepal’s far western region has huge tourism potential which remains unexplored and untapped. The scenic beauty, exotic flora and fauna, natural and cultural diversity, traditional lifestyle and hospitable behaviour of the local communities are unique features that make this province a very attractive tourist destination. Developing tourism will create jobs and raise the living standards of the people.
Unexplored and underdeveloped
The government has held three tourism promotion campaigns—Visit Nepal 1998, Nepal Destination Year 2003 and Nepal Tourism Year 2011 in the country—but this this region has remained unaffected. Currently, tourism activities are concentrated in a few places in the country like Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Annapurna, Langtang and Everest. The government’s promotional campaigns have been ineffective in developing tourism activities in other promising parts of the country.
The far western region has been marginalised and underdeveloped from the socio-economic development point of view. Its challenging geography has constrained its development process, as is shown by the fact that the region was directly connected to Kathmandu only after the construction of the Karnali-Chisapani Bridge in 2001. Poor connectivity with the centre has led to a low literacy rate, massive poverty, high unemployment rate, huge inequality and poor health and sanitation facilities which have become synonymous with the region. In this context, developing, promoting and expanding tourism will play a vital role in transforming the socio-economic condition of the region and improving the living standard of the people.
The Ramaroshan wetlands in Achham, Ghodaghodi Tal in Kailali, Khaptad National Park, Shaileshwori Temple in Doti, Ugratara Temple in Dadeldhura and Shuklaphanta National Park in Kanchanpur are some major tourist spots in the region. Due to the low priority given by the government and the private sector to publicising these destinations internationally, they remain known to only domestic vacationers. Ramaroshan has been developed and promoted as a conference destination at the district level, and government entities and political parties and their sister organisations frequently hold conventions here despite lack of modern convention facilities and accommodation.
In this context, promoting tourism and developing infrastructure is vital to improve the people’s living standard by creating income generating activities, providing employment opportunities, reducing income inequality and earning foreign currency. This will help the government to achieve its aim of establishing an egalitarian society through a socialism-oriented economy by achieving higher, broad-based, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and fulfilling the mission of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’.
Ramaroshan is located at an elevation of 2,400-3,200 metres above sea level. The major attractions of this mesmerising place are giant lakes, lush greenery and majestic rock mountains surrounded by forests carpeted with varieties of brilliant flowers. Visitors can reach the place in two days by bus or private vehicle. Travellers can arrive in one day by flying from Kathmandu. Likewise, there is a beautiful lake called Ghodaghodi Tal on the way to Ramaroshan on the side of the highway. Khaptad National Park, located at an altitude of 3,300 metres, lies on the way from Ghodaghodi Tal to Ramaroshan.
If we develop these tourist places and establish adequate infrastructure like roads, transportation, electricity, tourist information centres, skilled manpower and modern accommodation, it will transform the socio-economic condition of the region and the standard of living of the people.
In the context of marginalised and backward regions, tourism can be a vital means to alleviate poverty, generate employment opportunities, earn foreign currency and contribute to balanced regional development. To attain these objectives, it is highly essential for the federal, provincial and local governments and the private sector to move together. There should be a high degree of coordination and cooperation among the various entities. Until new tourism destinations are explored and promoted, and the benefits are shared equally by the people, organising national tourism promotion campaigns will not be effective.
Emphasis should be put on expanding, developing, diversifying and promoting the tourists spots with a clear vision, mission, goal and planning by forging coordination, collaboration and cooperation among the federal, provincial and local governments and the private sector. Adequate funds should be allocated by all three tiers of the government for infrastructure development and tourism promotional activities.
Nepali missions abroad should be effectively activated and mobilised with adequate manpower and budget to conduct tourism promotional activities. Dhangadhi airport should be upgraded to a regional level airport to provide easy access to Ramaroshan, Khaptad and Ghodaghodi Tal besides making the region a new tourist hub. Ultimately, these efforts will help the government to achieve the target of graduating Nepal from a least developed country to a developing country by 2022 and a middle income country by 2030.
KC holds a postgraduate degree from the KDI School of Public Policy and Management, South Korea