Road Development and Tourism in Annapurna
Nature lovers travel from all over the world to enjoy the natural beauty of Nepal. Some come to conquer one or more of Nepal’s famous mountain peaks, while others delight in the tranquility of trekking in unspoiled territory, meeting the local people, discovering new cultures and disconnecting from their often stressful daily lives. It can take a day or more of trekking to reach some communities, and therein lies the appeal for many visitors to this spectacular mountainous country. A number of these communities provide traditional refreshments, accommodation and provisions to trekkers, thereby earning a living or supplementing their income. So, it is not surprising that the new trend of road building in the vicinity of one of Nepal’s most popular trekking regions has become a cause for concern among some who earn a living by providing services to trekkers.
It can take a full day of uphill trekking to reach Ghandruk village, in the Annapurna region of Nepal, but those who have made the journey agree that the scenery and beauty of the rhododendron forests, along with the level of tranquility experienced, makes the journey worthwhile. Previously visitors exploring the area had no other choice but to trek the trail, but now a dirt road has been built which links Ghandruk with the nearest large town, Kimche. Some villagers are pleased with the development, but others, particularly those who offer tourism services, are concerned that the increase in traffic, along with the inevitable dust and exhaust fumes, will deter trekkers who are looking to escape noise and traffic.
A decline in business for traditional tea-houses along trekking routes has been blamed on the building of roads, and the Annapurna Conservation Area Project’s conservation officer, Paras Bikram Singh, reportedly agrees that the building of roads has had a negative impact on the number of tourists, with a corresponding decline in income for local communities.
In an effort to continue attracting trekkers to Nepal, the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN) continues to develop new trekking trails. It has also been noted that the Manaslu trekking region is experiencing an increase in trekkers. It remains to be seen what impact the development of roads in the Annapurna region will have on tourism and trekking trends.