The Maoists are scaling new heights. Stepping up their extortion drive in the hills, the insurgents are forcing foreign “mountaineers and trekking teams” to donate to their coffers.
A Nepali daily Kantipur on Tuesday reported that the Maoists were collecting Rs 2,500 in Nepal currency from every tourist and trekker as “donation”. As a result, the flow of visitors to the Everest basecamps and the lower reaches of the slopes has dwindled.
The Maoists collect money from tourists at Manjo — the main entry point to the region, the newspaper reported, adding that tour operators have complained that extortion was fomenting a sense of insecurity in the area. The trekking firms said tourists were being unnecessarily harassed. Trekkers need to pay Rs 1,000 to the Everest National Park authority and aircraft boarding taxes at Kathmandu airport. “How can we run our business if tourists are afraid to visit the Everest national park, the world’s most popular trekking route?” complained the owner of a leading trekking firm.
The trekking companies demanded that the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) should take immediate steps to end extortion in the region. Under an agreement between the SPA government and the Maoists, the rebel outfit cannot collect any “tax or donation”, while negotiating for peace and political space.
Over the past year, the flow of foreign tourists to Nepal dropped by more than 20 per cent. “And if it continues, not a single tourist will come to Nepal,” a member of the Nepal Hotelier Association said.