Tag Archives: water

Annapurna Conservation Area: Some Thoughts on Tourism, Resources and the People

 

For a country roughly 1/67th the size of the US, Nepal packs a big punch, in natural resources at least. It has one of the largest water resources in the world, second only to Brazil, and the water runoff from the Himalayas flows down for miles as rivers and waterfalls, eventually turning into a water source for rivers in India, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. For Nepal this extensive natural resource provides them with what would be perceived to many as an obvious source of renewable energy. And for the most part this is true; however Nepal’s strategic location as the faucet for South Asia means it must balance its diplomatic interests by ensuring they do not dry up their neighbour’s riverbeds with the creation of energy plants while ensuring the country can provide enough energy to meet the growing demand of its population. Moreover, it must balance its response to the country’s energy demand while ensuring its modernisation does not drive away one of Nepal’s largest incomes: tourism.

 

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A quick look at Nepal and it is easy to see why travellers flock to the country. It’s capital, Kathmandu, has the densest collection of UNESCO World Heritage sites with seven large monuments packed within a 15km radius. Large tracks of the Himalayas are protected as conservation areas, wildlife or hunting reserves, or national parks, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars it makes just in mountaineers attempting to summit Everest each year is a sizeable bolster to its economy and workforce. In addition to this, thousands of trekkers, rafters and climbers use Nepal’s mountains as an expansive playground for extreme sports (myself included). On top of all of this, it also boasts Chitwan National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage site, the only place in the world where visitors can have the chance of spotting a Bengal tiger as well as a rhinoceros.

 

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One of the most popular treks in Nepal is to Poon Hill, in the Annapurna Conservation Area. My group and I walked for five days from Laxmi to Ghudruk, and it was apparent even within that short space of time there was an abundance of life wherever we went. Electric blue butterflies the size of your hand fluttered on oversized blooming hibiscus flowers, rocks resembling blocks of silver sparkled in the light of water run-off from the proliferate amount of waterfalls in the area; and the villages, each unique to their particular mountainous region, with cultures and religions pre-dating Buddhism, appeared as though they had been preserved to an extent from the mass development and encroachment of modern life that was pervasive in Kathmandu.

 

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However it is just these people that the balance of development of renewable energy resources, conservation and tourism affect most. For many of these villages that reside in the Himalayas, electricity is offered for only limited hours a day. Alternative natural resources like timber or other wood for burning in stoves is limited due to conservation restrictions, meaning that the restricted allowance they are given is mostly used for tourists. Other amenities such as hot showers cost extra or are simply unavailable.

 

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For people that constantly invite tourists into their homes and spend their available resources on them, do they not deserve some of the basic amenities that people worldwide expect to use on a daily basis? But on the other hand, would visitors still flock to this region if it was kitted out with extensive hot shower units, tumble dryers and stoves, at the sacrifice of the Annapurna Conservation Area’s natural beauty?

Obviously the answer lies in between utilising the natural renewable energy resources in the area in a way that doesn’t detract or harm the local ecosystem of the region, but exactly how feasible is this? Should Nepal wait until innovations in renewable energy make it possible to do this, or will the waiting cause the country to miss its opportunity to take advantage of its status as an emerging market and grow into a world power others can take as an example? More importantly, how long will the Nepalese people be excluded from the basic amenities that other countries take for granted on a daily basis, and how will this affect their future?

What are your thoughts and ideas?

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Tips on finding adequate drinking water when travelling

Water is arguably the most essential factor for human survival. After all, the human body can survive for a month without food or several months on paltry rations, but without water? A mere week.

So it might surprise most travellers that in many countries, clean water isn’t an everyday commodity, but a luxury. Whether it is sewerage mixing with the local water supply, residents sharing the same water to bathe, drink, and prepare food, or the infrastructure not in place to adequately purify the water of bacteria and parasites, in some countries a gulp will leave you queasy at least or dead at worst. For travellers visiting these countries for the first time, having to stop and plan where to find adequate drinking water can take a period of adjustment, or a series of illnesses. Listed below are a few tips to help you find clean water, so you spend more time exploring and less time hugging the toilet.

  • In countries where water is particularly scarce, desalination plants are used to provide tap water to its civilians. This water is effectively taken from the ocean and purified until it is drinkable. However this is achieved by heavily chlorinating the water, which can leave a bad taste in the mouth for most and cause illness amongst a few. If you are unsure of your reaction, or would rather not find out, drink bottled water.
  • On the subject of bottled water, in some countries like India the water is so highly contaminated that travellers should strictly stick to drinking bottled water. Be wary of the bottles you buy though, as many street vendors, and even hotels, will simply refill bottles with whatever water they can use and tout it to travellers. Before drinking from any bottle, check to ensure the plastic tab that connects the lid to the spout is still connected, and not from a hasty gluing job.
  • For those that are embarking on a trip into the wilderness or are travelling to destinations where natural water is the only source, there are a couple of options available. Chlorine or chlorine dioxide purification tablets adequately kill most pathogens ad bacteria in the water, and some manufacturers such as Lifesystems offer neutralising tablets to eradicate the chlorinated aftertaste. The chlorinated method also comes packaged as droplets, and leaves less of a residual taste. Other water purification tablets include iodine, but recent EU legislation has banned the sale of iodine tablets throughout Europe. For those that do not reside in Europe, iodine can be taken for a few weeks, but any greater and you could be at risk of poisoning yourself, depending on the quantity taken.
  • If you plan on depending on the local water supply for more than a few weeks, it would be a good idea to invest in an ultraviolet or electrical water filter. Essentially these devices emit an ultraviolet or electrical current into the water, killing the bacteria and cysts commonly found. The ultraviolet purifier requires pre-filtering to ensure the water is not cloudy before purifying it, and the electrical current also requires a salt solution to kill all bacteria, but these can be used for extended periods of time without adverse affects.
  • If all else fails and you have time (or patience), just boil it.

Have you had any experiences or tips you want to share about drinking water on your travels?

Photo credit: Duda Arraes / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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