Lured by financial assistance, local governments name hills and mountains after foreign royal family members

Published On: November 5, 2020 03:32 PM NPT By: TAPENDRA KARKI/NARAHARI SAPKOTA

The decision is not acceptable to the federal government: Home Ministry

KATHMANDU, Nov 5: Local governments have started arbitrarily naming local hills and mountains after members of foreign royal families out of hope that such a gesture could bring financial support to their villages. Such a practice of naming, which comes at the cost of identity and existence of local culture, appears to be on the rise particularly in Gorkha district.

Baharain Prince Sheikh Mohammad Hamad Mohammad Al Khalifa made a successful ascent of Mount Manasalu that lies in the northern part of the Gorkha district on October 7. A few days before the expedition, locals of Chumanbri Rural Municipality-1 in Samagaun welcomed the delegation of the Baharain prince.

Local government representatives decided to name one of the hills in the area after Baharain’s royal family. The hill is now known as Royal Bahrain Peak in a clear violation of the existing rules and regulations of the country.  

Ward Chairman of Chamanubri Rural Municipality -1, Samagaun Bir Bahadur Lama, said they decided to rename the peak after they were promised financial assistance. He said that their decision made the prince happy and that he even promised to extend support to the village.

The prince had made an aerial inspection of the hill shortly after Ward Chairman Lama announced that a local hill was named Royal Bahrain Peak during a welcome reception. There was a sense of fear of COVID-19 pandemic when the 70-member delegation led by Bahrain’s prince reached Samagaun to summit Mount Manasalu.

Home Ministry Spokesperson Chakra Bahadur Budha, however, said the federal government will not recognize such a decision of the local government. Stating that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the local government to take such a decision, Spokesperson Budha said that hills and mountains are often named in line with the culture and tradition of local people, and that should not be erased.

Although the local government may take the decision to establish sister-city relations with foreign cities, it is against the existing rules and regulations to name hills and mountains after a foreigner's name. “The Home Ministry is not aware of any such decision. The federal government will not recognize this,” he said.

The practice of naming hills after the foreign royal family members seems to have started from Dharche Rural Municipality in the district. British Prince Harry had volunteered in reconstructing a school building in Lapubesi village after the mega earthquake that devastated the district in April 2015.  

Locals had named the hill adjoining the school as Harry Hill, which was formerly known as Damphu Danda, in recognition of the contribution of Prince Harry, who arrived in Nepal along with British soldiers to contribute to the reconstruction of the damaged infrastructures.

Local government representatives maintain that their decision is in line with the jurisdiction of the local government and that such decisions were taken to help attract foreign tourists. “Foreigners trekking through this trail will have a sense of ownership due to such decisions. This will equally help to promote Nepal in foreign countries,” said Chairman of Dharche Rural Municipality Santosh Gurung. He argued that there is no harm in taking such a decision since local names will also be retained.

A spokesperson at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Civil Aviation Kamal Prasad Bhattarai said they are not aware of such decisions taken by the local government. Although such decisions might have been taken in view of promoting tourism, the federal government cannot recognize such decisions. “It is the responsibility of the federal government to make any decisions regarding names of hills or mountains. There are also some other rules and processes. But I am not aware of what happened in Gorkha,” he said.

Assistant Chief District Officer of Gorkha, Devi Pandey Khatri, also said it is not appropriate to name local hills and mountains after foreign nationals and eliminate the identity of local culture and traditions. “Although the decision might have been taken to make foreign guests happy, this won’t be formalized,” she said while expressing worries that such practice could eventually abolish local culture and identity.

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