Trekking to Everest, soon will be history?

KATHMANDU–The government is all set to construct a motorable road linking Surkhe village located at a distance of a two-hour walk from Lukla, the gateway to the Everest region with Jiri of Dolkha district, some 100 kilometer east of the Capital Kathmandu.

Surkhe, lies at an elevation of 2,289 m is a 9-day trek to Jiri. As per the plan, the road from Surkhe to Jiri  will pass through Salleri. Tourism Ministry confirmed that the construction of the 100-km road would be initiated during this fiscal year. Purna Chandra Bhattarai, joint secretary at the ministry said that the government has allocated funds for the project, and the construction will begin by this fiscal year.

Citing irregularity of flight services and high costs to travel there, travel trade entrepreneurs had long been asking the government to take the decision soon to construct a road linking the Everest region The motorable road is expected to facilitate tourism and transportation of cargo.

The proposed road (The Everest base camp-Jiri route) to be constructed soon also reminds the footsteps of legendary mountaineer duo Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa who conquered the peak on May 29, 1953.

It is believed that the flow of the tourists would increase with the construction of the road. Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), expressed confidence that tourist flow to the region would increase drastically once the road was completed. “A road to Surkhe or Chaurikharka will make travel more convenient for tourists and locals,” Sherpa was quoted by today’s broadsheet Kantipur daily.

However, no one at present is seemed worry about the pollution of environment due to huge traffic eased by the motorable roads. Some experts believe that the significance of the Everest will reduce once the mororable road is built in the Lukla region.

Mountaineers and trekkers headed for Everest usually fly into Lukla’s Tenzing-Hillary situated at an elevation of 2,860 m. However, the unpredictable weather conditions have frequently disrupted the flights. Hundreds of foreign tourists are left with at Lukla airport yearly as aircrafts cannot operate flights due to bad weather and high winds. Sometime foreign tourists are forced to return to Kathmandu by chopper paying up to US$ 500 per person.

In November 2011, as many as 500 tourists were stranded in Lukla due to adverse weather conditions that halted flights from Kathmandu for six consecutive days. The problem repeats annually in the region.

The Everest region is the costliest place in the country as all supplies have to be flown in. To anyone surprise, a cylinder of LPG that cost Rs 1500 in the Capital is Rs 10,000 in Lukla region. Likewise, a cup of tea costs more than Rs 250 in Lukla. Air shipment from Kathmandu to Lukla costs Rs 150 per kg.

With an aim to ease transportation of supplies to the region, the Himalayan Trust created by Hillary had constructed Lukla airport in 1964. More than 40 thousand foreign tourists visit Everest region annually.