A view of the Himalayas seen from Sandakpur, Ilam. Despite being promoted as premium tourist destination, travelers are forced to travel here via India due to lack of proper road from Ilam. Photo : Bhim Chapagain/ Republica
ILAM, Sept 25: The much-hyped Visit Nepal 2020 is just three months away but most of the roads leading to major tourist destinations are yet to be repaired. The situation is not different in Province 1, which boasts of having over two dozen tourist destinations.
Though many of these sites were newly identified by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation considering VNY 2020, roads to these new sites and old tourist sites remain in dilapidated condition.
While the ministry has underlined 29 sites as tourist destinations in the province, 13 of those have been categorized as ‘existing sites that need promotion’ and rest as ‘new sites that need to be developed and established as tourism destinations’.
Pathibhara, Fungfunge, Sandakpur, Maipokhari, Arun valley, Bhedetar, Halesi, Syangboche, Pokali, Basbari, Koshitappu and Barahachhetra are popular tourist destinations.
Timbupokhari, Fagunanda circuit, Kanyam – Fikkal – Sriantu circuit, Tinjure- Milke-Jaljale circuit, Baleshowar cave, Paketdanda, Tyamkedanda, Barahapokhari and Pachpokhari have been pitched as new tourist destinations.
Along with them, Netralaya Park, Arjundhara, Udaypurgadh and Tholedamba Mountain have also been listed as new tourists’ destinations.
Authorities concerned admit that the roads to the new and old tourist destinations, both in the hills and in the plains, are in need of repairs. Even though repairing works on many of the roads are underway, they are slow.
“We have been trying to speed up the repairing works. Some areas are in higher priority than others,” said Uday Rai, chairperson of Sandakpur Rural Municipality. “In case of Sandakpur, for instance, the road will be blacktopped very soon,” he added.
As the Indian roads are comparatively convenient, thousands of tourists come to Sandakpur through Darjeeling every year.
Roads in Nepal that lead to Sandakpur are dilapidated and tourists avoid it. President Rai claimed that visitors will love to travel through it once the road is blacktopped.
“Unless we blacktop it, it is very difficult to reach Sandakpur through Ilam. So, they get there via Darjeeling,” he said. “But soon, the road is going to be fully repaired and functional,” he added.
Mayor of Suryodaya Municipality stated that roads and other tourism infrastructures in Kanyam, Fikkal and Shreeantu are not in bad condition.
Locals in these areas offer home stay service to tourists and this has quite helped in boosting the local economy.
“There are many tourist areas where roads are in dilapidated condition and need prompt attention. However, if you talk about Kanyam, Fikkal and Shreeantu, which are popular tourist sites, the roads are not in proper condition. Home stay service is very popular in those areas,” he said.
Pathibhara is considered one of the major tourist areas in the region. However, it is not easy to travel there. Though the Fungling to Suketar road is blacktopped, the rest of the way is quite rough.
“The problem is not about residence and other facilities but that of transportation. When roads are not in condition, other facilities count little for tourists,” says Dinesh Thawa, president of Nepal Hotel Association, Taplejung.
“Transportation service determines the success of tourism sector and the quality life of people. And our transportation sector is in a sorry state,” he added.
Thapa further stated that VNY 2020 will not be successful until and unless the government improves the condition of the roads.
“Welcoming them to your place is not enough, you have to provide good roads to take them to their desired destinations,” he remarked.
Even though the government identified additional tourist sites for VNY 2020, it has not focused much on developing necessary infrastructures to promote them, tourism entrepreneurs lament.
“Preparations have not been satisfactory. Risky and narrow roads or lack of roads will hinder the tourists from traveling to their desired destination,” he stated.
According to a local businessperson of Jaljali, Prakash Shrestha, Tinjure – Milke – Jaljale road needs immediate repairs. The road is in dilapidated condition and this will affect tourists who come to visit Tehrathum, Sankhuwasabha and Taplejung.
Umesh Ghimire, president of FNCCI, Dhankuta, stated that though infrastructures are being developed at Paketdada, the progress is too slow. People come here to watch sunrise and sunset.