KATHMANDU, July 16:The government’s plan to set up integrated rescue centers in Everest and Annapurna regions remains limited only to paper.
In the budget speech for Fiscal Year 2016/17, the government had announced plan to establish integrated rescue center in both the regions where trekkers need immediate rescue and medical service in case of health-related problems. But the work to set up such centers has not been started yet. No budget was allocated for the purpose, according to officials of Department of Tourism (DoT).
“Certainly the budget for FY2016/17 had mentioned about integrated rescue center in the Everest and Annapurna regions. But we have not received any budget on this title on that fiscal year,” said Meera Acharya, information officer of DoT.
According to Acharya, although budget for GPS and mobile information system were allocated on that fiscal year, work for mobile information system has also not been started yet.
Meanwhile, as the government plan remains only in paper, there have been reports that private hospitals and service providers have colluded for fake rescue of high altitude trekkers to steal money from insurance companies.
Failing to get any budget from the Finance Ministry, the DoT partnered with a private company to set up health posts for immediate response to the trekkers in both regions as well as Gosaikunda area. The department has provided Rs 3 million to Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) for the purpose. Through the initiative, the department is able to provide only minor treatment on site. Rescued trekkers have no other choice than flying to Kathmandu in case of major health problems.
“We are now working with HRA for setting up health posts to provide immediate health services,” Danduraj Ghimire, director general of DoT said. “Our major concern is trekker’s health and we are working on it.”
After the government announced to establish integrated rescue centers, the DoT had consulted with HRA for the establishment and operation of such rescue centers.
So after the government did not get any institution or local support to look after the rescue center they dropped the project, said.
“The DoT had approached us for cooperation on the rescue center, but even our buildings were affected by the 2015 earthquake. We were in rush then to renovate those health posts,” said Shreeram Khatri, account officer of HRA. “At that time, we were not in a condition to support the government.”
The government then decided to support HRA on providing immediate health service as well as upgrading the HRA’s existing services, according to Khatri.
Currently, the DoT is providing financial support to the health posts established at Manang, Pheriche, Everest Base Camp, and Gosaikunda. The health posts in Manang and Pheriche operate only for six months, while the health post at Everest Base Camp provides service in April and May. The HRA has been providing weeklong health service at Gosaikunda every year on the occasion of the Nepali festival of Janai Purnima.