Mobilising Begnas locals for tourism promotion
“As we have adopted a new governance system, we are in the process of utilising local resources for materialising the government’s vision of tourism promotion,” said Dhruba Nath Adhikari, who is one of the active leaders of Pokhara Metropolis-31.
Adhikari said that efforts were being made so as to mobilise the locals for tourism promotion. The Begnas area, which holds tremendous tourism prospects, has a variety of tourist attractions, including the Begnas Lake. This is one of the largest lakes and major wetlands in Gandaki State.
Also the chairman of the newly-formed Begnas Area Tourism Development Committee, Adhikari said that the area deserves to be developed into a preferred tourist spot. The committee is planning to build up several tourism infrastructures. It has come up with a plan to build temples and install idols in them.
The Gandaki State government has already allocated a huge amount of budget to develop theme parks in the area and implement a project related to water sports in order to attract more tourists into the Begnas area. However, most of the locals have remained unaware of the budget allocation. The deadline for submitting proposals for projects is about to expire.
The tourism-related projects have created much hope and enthusiasm among the locals. They are optimistic that the new initiatives will be helpful for them to develop the area as an alluring tourist destination. They are eager to share their ideas with the committee for the development of tourism.
“Discussions are underway to collect innovative ideas and develop attractive tourism facilities. What is needed now is to change the trend of implementing tourism programmes,” said Chiranjivi Pokharel. A social worker based in Lakeside of Pokhara, Pokharel called for addressing the concerns of stakeholders.
The locals have remained inactive when it comes to implementing tourism plans. Recently, they showed their apathy by not participating in a programme. The State government allocated Rs. 5 million for the renovation of Basundhara Park at Lakeside. This is one of the major tourist spots in Pokhara Metropolis-6. But the project could not move ahead due to lack of the locals’ initiation. Though the programme was incorporated in the government’s plan with the efforts of the locals, they ultimately did not move the project ahead because they didn’t get payment in the beginning.
It shows that the locals don’t want to take risks to acquire financial loans. It led the budget to freeze.
Gopi Chandra Bhattarai, a tourism entrepreneur based in Pokhara, stressed the need for proper coordination between locals and government bodies in order to enhance the people’s participation in development programmes.
According to Bhattarai, until and unless the policies are not focused massively on public participation, the government can’t draw mass attention towards development programmes.
“The people, who are enthused to work for social welfare, should be credited by the government and other stakeholders. Only then, the implemented programmes will be productive,” said Bhattarai.
Sharing his bitter experience gained during the installation of solar lights at Lakeside two years ago, he informed that hundreds of solar lights were installed at the initiative of Pokhara Tourism Council. “Now, there is a problem with dumping these lights as soon as possible because most of them were useless in the lack of proper maintenance.”
Pokhara Tourism Council had come up with the idea of installing solar lights for the convenience of domestic and foreign tourists visiting Lakeside. The organisation is now in dilemma. It has failed to take the locals into confidence as the latter had contributed 33 per cent of the total Rs. 30 million budget spent in installing solar lights.
Bhattarai informed that the Pokhara Metropolis office has yet to return the expenses and maintenance cost showing policy difficulties though it had approved the budget before.
Bhattarai and his team had to struggle hard for collecting money from the locals in order to execute the programme. “We had to spare almost one year for collecting money from the locals,” he added.
The State government had allocated about Rs. 600 million for tourism development programme for the current fiscal year. As of now, only 20 per cent of the total budget has been spent through different local levels.
According to Kritan Raj Paudel, chief of the tourism section at the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest, and Environment, almost half of the budget was allocated for encouraging locals to develop home-stay facilities and the remaining amount for establishing an information centre, constructing pavements and identifying new tourist spots.
Till now, only few local bodies have been started implementing the programme. According to Paudel, some of the local levels complained of not getting proper consumer committee and local contractors to award contracts.
This indicates that local consumer committees are not concerned with implementing bigger projects though the government provides 33 per cent of the allocated budget in initial phase.
The Public Procurement Act, 2063 states that the government shall refund the total budget only after the completion of the entire project. However, the Act has a provision of releasing almost 60 per cent of the total budget set aside for any project in the initial and mid phases.
People from different parts of the State are still unaware of policies and programmes designed for their local levels. The budget allocated for many programmes and projects freezes due to lack of locals’ concern and ownership. So, in course of implementing the programmes and projects, disputes and disagreements often surface. To settle such adversities, seminars, interactions and awareness programmes should be held. Consumer committees need also to be formed to enforce such schemes.
(Smita is Pokhara-based TRN correspondent)
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