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Rhododendron Blossom Hike and Waterways Conservation Awareness Program 26-27 March 2011

Nepal Environment and Tourism Initiative Foundation (NETIF) celebrated Nepal Tourism Year 2011 by organising a hiking weekend on 26-27 March along the Kathmandu Valley Cultural Trekking Trail from Sundarijal into Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park with an overnight stay in the hill station of Chisapani. The event celebrated the arrival of spring and the annual blooming of the beautiful Rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal. The hike included a cleanup awareness program in the project area along the Nagmati river, one of the most important water sources in Kathmandu. The main purpose of the event was to spread the word about the importance of our environment and make people aware of the exercise and recreational possibilities right on the door step of Kathmandu.

The hike coincided with the Chisapani tourism event, Chisapani Utsav, with the locals welcoming tourists to the area and highlighting the culture and rural way of life found in Chisapani, as well as with the aim of promoting the region as a major tourist destination. With this, the participants also had a perfect chance to enjoy the local hospitality with a traditional dance program, make new friends and discover new places.

Some 40+ people from different countries including America, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Guatemala and Nepal participated in the event with a few hundred locals observing the program in Chisapani. More than a dozen journalists from different newspapers, media and television covered the event.

After a short briefing by Mr. Arun Shrestha, President of NETIF, to explain the purpose of the hike, the main group departed Kathmandu by bus from outside the Nepal Tourism Board to Sundarijal where tea and cake were served. At around 8am, the group was ready to start the trek up into Shivapuri – Nagarjun National Park passing by the entrance gate and an army check post. The first points of interest along the trail where the tourist shelters, rubbish collection points and incinerators built by NETIF.

After about an hour of climbing up, past the water supply for Kathmandu Valley, the group reached Mulkharka where a gate of rhododendron flowers was built for the local welcome by Mulkharka Tourism Committee . Although it was still early morning, an authentic Nepalese lunch was in order including locally produced mushrooms, another initiative by NETIF.

From Mulkharka the trail proceeded through the National Park through the forest with rhododendrons and lots of biodiversity passing through the jungle to Chisapani. The NETIF environmental signboards and slogans reminded trekkers along the way of the importance of conserving our natural environment.

The trekkers started to arrive in Chisapani early afternoon and were all welcomed by a reception of tika, khata and some snacks including gundruk, popcorn, soya beans and curd.
The locals were performing traditional dances and playing the panchaya music with the traditional instruments of long horns and trumpets.

After everyone got settled into their designated accommodation, more authentic cultural dances like Sherpa, Tamang, Zakhari, etc. were performed with welcome presentations from specially invited guests, President of NETIF and the local community representatives.

Special guests included the Constitution member, Mr. Jagadish Nurshing K.C., who said in his speech that Chisapani should develop as one of the prime tourist destinations around Kathmandu Valley. His support to help in the funding program for development of the area was very welcome.

In his speech, the local district officer from Nuwakot, Mr. X, informed the audience that Nuwakot already has a designated budget for Chisapani tourism development. Mr. X promised to do his best to get a joint budget including also Kathmandu and Sindhupalchowk districts for the construction of the Chisapani gate and a view tower.

Shivapuri National Park representative, Mr. Rajendra Basnet, requested all villagers to conserve the park in a better way to attract more tourists. He emphasized the importance of the responsibility of the locals in this and assured that they will support the locals.

Chisapani Environment and Tourism Development Forum President, Mr. Bijay K.C., said that government should declare Chisapani as a major tourism area. He called for the support from Shivapuri National Park, District Development Committees and NETIF together for the trail maintenance, tourist shelters, waste management, view tower and the Chisapani gate.

Other guests who attended the event included the Sundarijal Environment and Tourism Development Society President, Mr. Narayan Shrestha.

In his speech, Mr. Arun Shrestha, President of NETIF, said NETIF is really happy to hold this kind of event for the promotion of Chisapani, as it is one of the major parts of the Kathmandu Valley Cultural Trekking Trail. He requested all hoteliers, service providers and villagers to improve the services of the area, including the use of alternative energy for the environment, conservation and organic vegetable production from the villages. Hotels should buy all the goods from the local producers in order to make the area self-sustained. He asked all journalists to promote and support Chisapani by reporting about the event and highlighting activities like the cleanup campaign for increased awareness.

From the participants Mr. Ryan S. Bartlett, from the Embassy of the United Stated, gave a speech in English and urged everyone to care for the environment. He also emphasized that the lodge facilities should be upgraded. He strongly believes that programs like this will help in minimizing the negative impacts on the environment.

After a tasty dal bhat dinner of typical nepali foods, the party went on into early morning hours with music and dancing around the fireplace.

The following morning, before leaving Chisapani for the cleanup program down the Nagmati river - the group visited the local dairy farm, nearby monastery under renovation, as well as Maiti Nepal, where training programs are given for women to help them better sustain themselves and prevent them from becoming victims. NETIF has also supported these women by training them on briquette making and mushroom farming.

The cleanup program took the group down the Dhaps, the wetland area and along the banks of Nagmati river where everyone was collecting rubbish. The purpose of this campaign was naturally to emphasize the importance of preserving this beautiful water catchment area and the flora and fauna found there.

To conclude the campaign, the group gathered for a picnic lunch near Mulkharka provided by the local community, the women's group of Mulkharka and Sundarijal Environment Tourism Development Society. Everyone was happily enjoying the good food and good company in the middle of the beautiful nature.

As a promotional event for local and international tourism, NETIF considered the weekend hike and the cleanup campaign a great success in spreading the message of the importance of our natural environment.


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