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Deluge Hits East Nepal tourism

Sep 13, 2008

KATHMANDU, Sept 13 - Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) said on Friday that the devastating flood caused by Saptakoshi River embankment breach has not only damaged crops and infrastructure worth millions but also the bio-diversity in the area and prominent tourism destinations of eastern Nepal.

According to NTB spokesperson Aditya Baral, there was a boom in tourism with special interest in eastern parts of Nepal like Basantapur, Antudanda of Ilam district and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve since the last couple of years.

Tourists enjoyed being around the tea gardens and were enchanted with the scenic views during this season, Baral said. "But these areas have been completely cut off due to floods this year."

Baral's remarks come a few days ahead of the prime season for tourist arrivals in Nepal. "We had been able to attract not only foreign tourists but also domestic ones in the past," said Baral. "But this season is going to be a loss."

NTB doesn't have data on how many tourists visit the area every year. But, a rough estimation of Aqua Bird Unlimited Promoter (ABUP), a local tour operator for bird watching, shows that 500 to 700 tourists visit Kusaha, Madhuban and Koshi Tappu Reserve every season. The Reserve's buffer zone is famous for bird watching. "But it won't be possible this season," said Rajendra Suwal, local tour operator of ABUP, "Because, everyone cannot afford a plane trip."

Hem Sagar Baral, chief executive officer of Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) said most of the grassland serving as habitat for many bird species have been totally submerged, many birds have died in the floods and their breeding colonies have been destroyed.

According to Dr Narendra Babu Pradhan, chief planning officer at Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), there is understanding between concerned sectors about forming a high level team comprising bio-diversity and wetland experts to assess bio-diversity loss. The team will also include officials from Ramsar Bureau, WWF and IUCN.

"We have been monitoring casualties regularly, but have not been able to assess bio-diversity loss in the area," said Pradhan.

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