Pilgrims flock to Kagbeni causing traffic jam along Beni-Jomsom road

Published On: October 9, 2018 12:36 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

POKHARA, Oct 9: The Himalayan district of Mustang is usually quiet on a normal day. This season is an exception.

Travelling through the Beni-Jomsom road section this season has become a great hassle due to the increasing number of vehicles, especially those of the pilgrims visiting Kagbeni for paying obeisance to their forefathers on the occasion of the 15-day ritual ahead of Dashain.

According to the local police, the traffic pressure these days is so high that many vehicles are finding it difficult to maneuver through the rough terrain of the off-road. The traffic jam is also contributed by a large number of domestic and foreign tourists.

The road is not black-topped and often difficult and dangerous. These factors, however, have not deterred the flow of visitors to the district.

According to head constable Dan Prasad Nagarkoti of the District Traffic Police Office (DTPO), Mustang, more than 400 vehicles travelled through the road section on Sunday alone.

According to data maintained by the DTPO, Jomsom welcomed tourists who travelled there in 464 jeeps, 27 large buses, and 34 motorcycles.

“The traffic situation remained similar on Monday as well. Almost the same number of vehicles reached Jomsom,” said constable Nagarkoti. “Such high volume of traffic and crowds of tourists happen only during the fall season. The settlements here are usually quiet during other times of the year.”

Along with the district headquarters Jomsom, places like Muktinath and Marpha are getting crowded with pilgrims and tourists. Tourism entrepreneurs are having a hard time catering to the needs of the tourists.

The limited hotels in Jomsom have not been able to accommodate all the tourists at the district headquarters. Many pilgrims and tourists who wanted to stay in Jomsom had to stay in Kagbeni, Marpha and Mutkinath.

The traffic pressure was so high that the DTPO could not effectively manage the flow. “The number of pilgrims has significantly increased this year. Even the number of domestic tourists is increasing. Due to the large inflow of pilgrims and tourists, we are having a hard time managing the traffic,” said constable Nagarkoti.

The high number of vehicles in the rough terrain has contributed to violation of traffic rules. The DTPO has expressed commitment to make the road safer and has made attempts to strictly enforce traffic regulations. On Sunday alone, the office collected nearly Rs 35,000 from traffic fines. It means that roughly 70 out of 400 vehicles were fined on the day.

“The high number of traffic also means that there are many vehicles that violate traffic rules. Many drivers believe they are not being monitored. Hence, they openly flout traffic rules and then face action,” Nagarkoti added.

The DTPO said that most of the vehicles that faced charges were for carrying passengers beyond their capacity. Likewise, many drivers also faced action for driving without permit or expired permit.

The high number of visitors also caused difficulties in finding parking space. According to police, parking spaces of hotels in Muktinath were fully occupied on Sunday. Drivers struggled to find parking spaces on Monday as well.

According to a traffic police deployed in Muktinath, heavy vehicles were made to park in areas not designated as parking space.

The Jomsom road is also facing another major challenge. Vehicles travelling through the road are often disrupted by flocks of mountain goats. The district supplies large number of mountain goats for meat during Dashain festival, which is just around the corner. The Beni-Jomsom road, at times, is filled with mountain goats.

The domesticated animals are made to walk till Beni so they could adapt to the changing climate. Entrepreneurs have lots of bad experience as the goats die untimely before being sold due to their failure to adapt to the changing climate. Making them walk reduces the risks drastically, they say.

However, the path to Beni is not easy. It takes nearly five days for the mountain goats to reach Beni. Along the way, it is common for them to obstruct traffic. It would not have been a problem if it did not coincide with the high traffic season.

During Dashain, nearly 20,000 mountain goats are taken to Pokhara from Mustang. As the goats also share the motorable road, the flocks have been causing problems for the smooth flow of traffic.

Sharing his experience of travelling through the Beni-Jomsom road, Rajan Subedi, who recently returned to Pokhara from Jomsom, said he had a very difficult time.

“It took a lot of time to cross the road section. There are lots of vehicles during this time. Obstructions caused by mountain goats delay the traffic even more,” he said. “We had a really hard time driving through the road while avoiding other vehicles and mountain goats.”

According to the locals, the traffic jam is also caused by the recent obstructions in the road section caused by landslides. The road was obstructed for a few days. This caused some travelers to postpone their travel date until the obstructions were cleared. It naturally resulted in high number of traffic once the road was opened.


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