If the Khumbhu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality in Solukhumbu district has its way foreign tourists visiting the Mt. Everest region would have to pay an entrance to it from October. The rural municipality in its first assembly has decided that it would be collecting Rs. 2000 each from the foreigners as an entrance fee. The municipality has decided this citing the constitutional provision that is for decentralizing the revenue resources at local level. This move should be hailed as the provision allows the provincial and local levels to collect local taxes which includes tourism fees. Furthermore, it bars NGOs like Nepal Tourism Board, Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal and Nepal Mountaineering Association from collecting revenue for entry into the Khumbu region. Under the prevailing system the foreigners have to buy Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) cards from the NTB or TAAN which costs US$ 20 each to enter this rural municipality which is also the gateway to Everest.
It is alleged that the revenue accruing from TIMS has never been used for the development of this region. Nima Dorjee Sherpa, chair of the rural municipality, claims that NGOs like TAAN and NMA and other do not have the right to collect the entrance fee from the foreign visitors. Sherpa further states that it is yet to receive any official communication regarding this. It is estimated that every year about 35,000 foreign tourists visit the Mt. Everest region via the Kumbhu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality. Presently, the Sagarmatha National Park charges a sum of fee of Rs. 3,000 and 13 per cent tax as entry fee to tourists. However, visitors coming from the SAARC region have to pay Rs. 1,000 each to enter the park. However, there are conflicting views on the issue of collecting additional taxes by the local body. There are those who are afraid that the rural municipalities would extort money from the foreign visitors. They believe that there could be misinterpreting of the present constitutional provision as regards with local taxes and tourism service fee. They insist that since the tourists would have to travel through several municipalities to reach the Khumbu region the tourists would be overburdened for they would be charged at every point. The constitution enables the local government to collect local taxes such as property tax, land revenue tax, advertisement tax, house rent tax, entertainment tax and registration charge of houses and land tax.
However, the move by the rural municipality is being widely welcomed for it would contribute in a large manner to the income of the local bodies which are badly in need of funds to carry out the various development projects. It would provide for the overall sustainable development of the region which too sees a large number of foreigners providing the much needed revenue. Therefore, it is high time that this move came into effect to the benefit of the people at the local levels which have so far not been able to utilize the money that comes in the form of mountain tourism. Other agencies based in the capital do not have any right to lay claim on the local resources.
Clean up drive
Littering public places such as roads, parks, bus-parks, resting places, rivers and even the forest areas are quite common, and it is not going to change unless the locals themselves come forward to clean up the rubbish. Old habits must be changed by the citizens to keep their localities clean and free from pollution. The cleanup campaign can be better initiated by the elected local level governments who have full authority to do so. The local government can either call upon the locals for volunteer service once a week or impose a heavy fine against those who dump or dispose of the garbage in public spaces.
A nationwide cleanup campaign was launched on Saturday in 31 districts where local level elections have already been concluded. A large number of people took part in the campaign cleaning their areas with traditional brooms or using hands. If the local people litter their areas it is their responsibility to clean them up. But the elected representatives have a greater role to play by motivating people to make their area free from pollution or garbage so that locals and visitors can breathe fresh air and remain healthy mainly from all sorts of communicable diseases transmitted to humans due an unhealthy environment.
The Himalayan Times, September 18, 2017