On April 25, 2015 the country suffered an earthquake of 7.8 and a major aftershock on May 12, measuring 7.3. Ancient temples and buildings in Durbar Square were reduced to rubble, villages in the Khumbu region (near Everest) no longer exist, Everest suffered a major avalanche, families were made homeless and the death toll is over 10,000 with more than 23,000 injured. The actual death toll may never be known.
The country is one of the poorest in the world and relies heavily on tourism. The world has banded together to help rebuild this beautiful country and encourage tourists to return. Nepal has a soft spot in the heart of many trekkers, myself included and I have Nepalese friends who are fundraising and helping to rebuild their country. Agencies are coordinating relief efforts, but it will take time to rebuild and the aid must not stop. The trekking season is nearly over and the monsoons will hit the region. Hopefully many displaced families will have shelter before that happens.
UNESCO is planning to restore and repair some ancient monuments in the Kathmandu Valley, but this is secondary to the welfare of the people. While tourism has now been declared safe, is it ethical to climb Everest with so many people still homeless? The country may need and want tourists to feel safe to visit. There are never any guarantees in nature and Nepal is as safe as it can be. Could I go on a trekking holiday and walk past homeless people? I don’t think I could. I would have to go on a volunteering holiday and help in what ways I could to help rebuild homes for people. Part of the experience is seeing and visiting these small villages in the mountains and to walk past people sleeping in tents because they have no choice seems inhumane as people struggle to have clean water and food.
While trekking companies may be losing business, one must look at the humane aspect of things. Maybe this act of nature has happened for a reason, perhaps the exploitation of the land and the natives needs to be addressed?
Photos: Rebati Upadhyay