Nepal Risks for Tourists and Locals

By Doyice and Mary Cotten

When one thinks of Nepal, one’s first thoughts are of the Himalayas, but most people live in a long valley through the middle of the country. Risk management may not be an unknown term there – but it could certainly be put into practice more frequently.

On our recent visit, we found two major risks – the traffic on the streets and highways and the air pollution that blankets the valley, particularly in Kathmandu. We had no mishaps with the traffic, but did suffer from respiratory problems from the pollution. Our attempt at risk management – wearing surgical masks most of the time – helped some.

Photos 1, 2, and 3 illustrate risks found at some major tourist sites. The first two are problems with the handrail that leads down a long steep set of steps. The third shows sharp jagged edges placed around a pole in an effort to keep monkeys from climbing the pole. Note how close it is to the handrail.

Photos 4, 5, and 6 show other problems at major tourist sites. Photo 4 shows a sharp drop-off beside the sidewalk at the base of some steps while photos 5 and 6 show irregularities in the pavement – one a hole and the other an elevated area. Both could cause one to stumble or trip.

Two footbridges over rivers are illustrated in photos 7 and 8. The first is a dilapidated bridge used only by locals while the second is a much-used bridge by both locals and tourists. They both are relatively safe during the dry season, but I am not sure what happens during the rainy. We used the second bridge with no problem.

Photo 9 shows locals using an open well – a major source of water in a small town. It obviously involves some health risks. Photo 10 shows a worker working on some electrical wiring. This type of wiring is the rule for Nepal – not the exception. Where are the fire regulations? At least he has a good ladder.

The final 3 photos show you some recreational facilities. The soccer field is about the only flat land in the mountain village, but has sharp drop-offs on each side of the field. In the background, the boys sitting on the posts are just above the edge of a cliff that has a two or three hundred foot drop. I don’t know who goes to get the ball. It is not unusual to see cows in odd places in countries that are predominately Hindu. They go and eat wherever they like. And finally, the table tennis game is beside a busy street in the tourist section of a large town. This and other recreation facilities are rare in Nepal. Incidentally,  don’t feel that the little kid was overmatched. The kid won handily.

In countries like Nepal, there is little, if any, concern over safety. We sometimes fail to appreciate the safe environment and facilities that we have in this country.

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