Suklaphanta National Park fails to attract visitorsLack of infrastructure and neglect in maintenance have contributed to the dwindling number of visitors to the park.
Suklaphanta National Park, which closed its gates to visitors last year when the country buckled under the Covid-19 pandemic, reopened three months ago. But the park has not been able to attract visitors given its poor infrastructure and internal mismanagement.
According to the data of the park’s administration, 1,775 tourists had visited the park in the last fiscal year while the number was over 6,000 in the fiscal year 2018/2019. However, the park got only 600 tourists in the last three months.
“There were some tourists during Dashain and Tihar festivals but now there are no visitors at all,” said Kumkaran Thakur, a nature guide at the park. According to him, there are only occasional visitors entering the park these days.
Sightings of swamp deer are what draw visitors to the park but this year there have been fewer numbers of such sightings, says Parsuram Rana, chairman of Ranatharu Homestay.
“The grass in the grasslands has grown very tall. It’s very hard to see deer through all that foliage,” Rana said.
Established as a national park in 1976, Shuklaphanta is the country’s second youngest national park, after Parsa National Park, and is the main habitat of swamp deer. The largest herd of swamp deer in Asia can be seen in the grasslands of Shuklaphanta, according to conservationists.
In the past, the park would maintain the flora of the grassland with the onset of winter so as to make swamp deer sightings easy for visitors but this year no maintenance work has been done in the park, said Rana.
According to Rabin Chaudhary, the assistant conservation officer of the park, there’s been a delay in the maintenance of the grassland due to the contractor’s negligence.
“We have been notifying the contractor time and again but the works have not started yet,” Chaudhary said. According to the agreement, the contractor has to beautify the grassland within March 28. “The park has also started the construction of grasslands in an additional 150 bighas of land.”
Chaudhary agrees that the national park does not have the required infrastructure to facilitate tourists.
“There are hardly any hotels with good accommodation and food around this area. The park has also not been able to introduce new activities for tourists,” he said. “The park has a huge potential to be developed into a popular tourist destination. We can introduce rafting activities in Bahuni Khola, which is inside the park area.”
According to the census of 2019, there were 82 blue bulls in the park. The park is also home to tigers, rhinos, reptiles, amphibians and various bird species.