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Annapurna: Nepal's Commercialization Initiative For An Endangered Landscape

Posted by: J. A. Hendricks  | Date: December 07, 2008

There have been many debates over the years surrounding the commercialization of the world’s highest peaks. Mt. Everest is the biggest example of mountain commercialization, where hundreds of climbers a year flock to the world’s highest mountain, paying thousands of dollars for a guided chance to reach the coveted summit. The recent tragedy on K2 has sparked conversations of concern for it’s own commercialism, after it was being reported that high-altitude porters had been brought in for some of this years climbs.

Annapurna, while not as well-known to the outside world as Mt. Everest or K2, is still a very important peak to high-altitude alpine climbing. The peak rises 26, 538 ft., making it the 10th highest mountain in the world. Along with the climbing, Annapurna also happens to be the focal point for a 7,629 sq. km. conservation and protection initiative known as the Annapurna Conservation Area Project.

The Annapurna Conservation Area Project helps to protect an area that offers some of the finest trekking trails in the Himalayan region and the world. These trails have become a world destination for many venturers into the Himalayan region and offers a nice glimpse at the natural wildlife and ecology of Nepal. This area is the largest protected area in all of Nepal and has been looked upon as an area of prestige and value to a country where income is hard to come by.

That could be changing in the very near future. Nepal has enacted plans to commercialize the area known as the Annapurna circuit. The thought is to capitalize on the area’s growing popularity with trekkers and make it more tourist friendly.

These plans include a new road that will run from the small mountain resort of Manang to Nepal’s national transportation network. Manang happens to be the launching point for many of the guided treks in to the Himalaya region and previously has only been reachable by a short helicopter flight or by walking in. Further plans include golf courses, adventure tourism projects and companies, as well as possible theme parks and hotels.

Nepal’s new outlook on the Annapurna region, as a place to promote tourism, has left many people concerned that the country’s financial interests will drive tourists away, as well as harm the environment and conservation projects that have been going on since 1986. The new road leading in to region and the addition of more corporate based interests could also deter travelers and trekkers from using the smaller shops and businesses owned by local families who rely on this income to survive.

Most of the locals in the area are against the building of the tourism infrastructure. They fear that as more people come in to the region, that any profits will be gobbled up by the big businesses and leave them worse off than they currently are. The environmental impact of commercialism is also a large topic.

Annapurna and the surrounding Annapurna Conservation Area Project helps to protect many endangered wildlife and plants in the region. The onslaught of cars and vehicles and even the road will hamper any prior protection ordinances used to saving this region from human destruction and allow more people in to the region who may not have the environment at heart.

Commercialization of any area deemed ‘wild’ brings about many tough decisions. Do you do what is best for money or do you do what is best for the area? Nepal is a poor country. Many residents survive on $3 or less a day with a yearly income of $3-400. Much of this money is brought in by mountain tourism. Nepal is also a country that is deeply in debt to other nations. They must rely upon a vast network of imports in order to meet their own country’s needs. While the country may profit from such commercialization, the nation’s residents will probably not see an added advantage to these efforts.

Commercialization of some of the world’s most endangered landscapes is definitely a topic for much debate. Either way you look at it, there are benefits and problems associated with each option. As the world continues to grow and countries try to capitalize by any means necessary for survival, the environment and conservation of these areas will be endangered.

(Www.usoutdoorstoday.com)

 

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