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Loss of Annapurna Circuit

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Loss of Annapurna Circuit

Postby fatdad » Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:24 am

It is with a heavy heart that I report the following link:

http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/tr ... l.html?hpw

The Nepalese government has plans to build a road over the Annapurna Circuit. Combined with earlier road construction, it will shorten what was once a 17 day magnificent mountain and cultural trek into a 4 day trek. I hiked this trek in 1992 when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. While it ultimately didn't provide that answer, it was a life changing journey all the same. I am very sad more people will not have the opportunity to experience that journey the same way I did.
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Postby Damien Gildea » Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:05 am

A pretty mediocre article, IMO. Big surprise.

I walked in to Poon Hill in January 1989, when the road didn't go that far. Last summer I was in the area again, doing the first part of the circuit in early August and coming out over the Thorung La in mid-Sept. The intervening time was spent in the much less travelled Nar Phu region north of Manang, trying unclimbed peaks.

There are still plenty of beautiful and untouched areas of Nepal that people can easily visit. But Westerners like to consume brands, then complain when the brands get too popular. Then write banal articles like this one. Boo hoo. They want their nice views but they want their cold beer and apple pie and Snickers, they want their faux-adventurous 'vibe'. They want extreme, but not too extreme. They want 'exotic' but not so exotic their dinner party guests won't have heard of it. Roads and other developments in areas like this are the logical and unstoppable result of popularising, branding and marketing our natural world. We're all guilty. Mr New York Times is consuming a product, all the while complaining that too many people are consuming the product. STFU whitey.

The roads on either side - NOT over the pass, that will be years away, if ever - are improving the lives of thousands of people who live there. And if anyone is too worried, I saw the state of the 'road' to Chame last year. No way that will be done by 2012. And the road to Muktinath? That is used by thousands of Hindu pilgrims each year, as Muktinath is a site of multi-religious worship. Try telling all thos fat Indian ladies on the back of motorbikes that they should walk instead.

D
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Postby Sam Page » Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:37 am

Damien Gildea wrote:They want 'exotic' but not so exotic their dinner party guests won't have heard of it.


Nice!

My first reaction to the road was along the lines of, "that sucks". But then I thought if it improves the lives of locals, I'm for it. All good things come to an end. And not to worry: there are still many wild places left.
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Postby fatdad » Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:41 pm

Damien Gildea wrote: Try telling all thos fat Indian ladies on the back of motorbikes that they should walk instead.D


A pretty cynical response.

While the roads will bring modernization into the area, it will also destroy the primary source of revenue, which was the trekkers, who will now be motivated to go elsewhere. What the locals will be left with instead is traffic, dust, additional pollution and not much improvement in their lives other than it will be easier to travel to a larger city than it used to be. If you want to improve their lives, build a health clinic or install some reliable plumbing.

And while there are other less touched areas of Nepal that one can still travel to, how many more of those need to be made available to diesel trucks before you start lamenting the loss of remote areas? That's never been a persuasive argument.

And for the record, I saw lots of fat Indian ladies grinding up the hill to Muktinath. Based on your logic, maybe we should undust those old plans to build a tramway to the top of Half Dome.
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Postby jrbrenvt » Mon Mar 22, 2010 3:16 pm

I suspect other trekking circuits will open up. Having a place to trek and view the Himalaya are the least of the issues here. Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and basically any other "trek to an 8000er base camp" will fill the void lost by the Annapurna circuit.

Roads and modernization do not necessarily improve lives. Certain aspects of it do, IMHO, such as sanitation and health services, ability to travel and interact with others, but others such as commercialization, trash generation outpacing ability to handle it issues, and reduced air quality do not. Here are some views on the negative aspects of westernization of remote Himalayan regions:
http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archiv ... d154.shtml
I learned of this when I was trekking in Ladakh in 2007. Ofcourse without these modernizations I would never have heard of Ladakh. Watch Ancient Futures for more. Agree with it or not, its good food for thought. I suspect what happened there is applicable to what is going on in the Annapurna region.
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Postby eza » Mon Mar 22, 2010 3:33 pm

It's rather sad, I also made the Annapurna Circuit years ago and I will remember that journey for the rest of my life. But I don't think we have a right to sacrifice improvements in local life on the "altar" of conservation. So, I simply hope it will be for the best of everyone in the area. The old Circuit will stay forever in my heart.
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Postby fatdad » Mon Mar 22, 2010 3:49 pm

eza wrote:But I don't think we have a right to sacrifice improvements in local life on the "altar" of conservation.


Absolutely. Part of my sadness is totally for personal reasons. I do hope it does bring positive improvement. However, a large part of my concern is the belief that roads will not bring substantial improvement to the area, just environmental degradation, loss of the local culture (which is distinct from the remainder of Nepal), even prostitution, which is very common in that country. When Edmund Hillary decided to give back to the Everest region, he built hospitals, schools, clinics, etc., not roads.
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Postby eza » Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:11 pm

fatdad wrote:
eza wrote:But I don't think we have a right to sacrifice improvements in local life on the "altar" of conservation.


Absolutely. Part of my sadness is totally for personal reasons. I do hope it does bring positive improvement. However, a large part of my concern is the belief that roads will not bring substantial improvement to the area, just environmental degradation, loss of the local culture (which is distinct from the remainder of Nepal), even prostitution, which is very common in that country. When Edmund Hillary decided to give back to the Everest region, he built hospitals, schools, clinics, etc., not roads.


Yeah, I agree. We all think in a very similar way
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Postby ncst » Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:58 pm

I guess it is sad news from a hiker's point of view. But I'm not too sure locals will have a better life because of the road. It will bring in more Hindu and Bouddhist pelgrims to Muktinath for sure (especially the elderly and out of shape ones). But it won't change the price of the agro products locals sell from farming.

Isn't building a road to a sacred temple also good karma, like building a temple is? Then the road was bound to be made, with funds from wealthy families.

The circuit itself already created jobs and income: plenty of guesthouses along the trail, handicraft and jewelry sold on the trail, there's the apple brandy sold in Marpha, the sherpa's carrying goods up into the mountains etc. Not to forget the trekking agencies and guides. I don't think it was built for 'development' and a better life for the locals. Although generally roads are automatically seen as part of development.

I trekked to ABC in '97, and did part of the circuit in 2008. For the circuit, I flew to Jomson, (partly coz I was told it was a road now), crossed Thorung La to Manang (and from there to Tilicho Lake). It was still a great experience. I did get a ride on a motorbike from a guy living in Kagberi, from after Jomson.

I guess there is nothing that could have stopped building that road... When I was there I heared other areas would be openend for trekking in Nepal.
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Back in 08 . . .

Postby rlshattuck » Mon Mar 22, 2010 7:09 pm

I had the pleasure of doing the Manaslu circuit, which finishes off on the Annapurna and there's a small world of difference between to two.

There was a lot more money on the Annapurna, to put it simply, but yeah, it's going to take a while to do anything up there. Not a lot of heavy machinery in sight.

One particular day was very long, or short, as we had to sit around and wait forever as they blasted and cleared, then guided us over sketchy sections still in need of lots more blasting.

My favorite sight was a small boy, one of the workers, casually bouncing and rolling around on a box of dynamite. OSHA, anyone?
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Postby Damien Gildea » Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:30 pm

fatdad wrote: ... even prostitution, which is very common in that country.


So what? It's common in every country and has been for thousands of years. Many cultures accept it as having a valid place in a mature society, devoid of sanctimony. Whilst I understand and respect your personal sadness at the loss of the trek in its current form, I think beyond that you're just imposing your own personal and cultural values on other people.

Like most people, I hate to see our beautiful natural areas scarred by human development. But westerners see these places as a recreational venue to be conserved for their pleasure. In much of the world they are someone else's home, their backyard, their farm. Having roads makes it easier to get clinics and plumbing and communications. Hillary did what he could with what he had at the time. Times change.

D
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Postby Damien Gildea » Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:42 pm

fatdad wrote:While the roads will bring modernization into the area, it will also destroy the primary source of revenue, which was the trekkers,...What the locals will be left with instead is traffic, dust, additional pollution and not much improvement in their lives


Other business will replace the trekkers, and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe the locals can make some real money without having to deal with cheapskate trekkers bargaining down the price of a room from $5 to $4 while they stand there in their $200 shoes. Only a minority make any money from trekkers anyway.

You're presenting a very narrow perspective on change. Some people see 'traffic' as a good thing. They see it as opportunity - the kind of opportunity for movement, communication and trade that most westerners take for granted. Let the locals decide what is an improvement in their lives.

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Postby Brad Marshall » Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:37 pm

What always gets me about stories like this is that the authors seem to forget about all the development that has taken place so that they could be there to enjoy what they consider "nature". They think building a road on some land on which they had fond memories shouldn't take place but what about all the roads, airports, cities, etc. that they used to get to that place in "nature"? We have a climbing crag not far from here run by a conservation who built roads, parking lots, washrooms, trails (paved) and stairs to the bottom of the crag but they don't want anyone putting fixed anchors in because it would mar their natural scenery? Give me a break.

Also, is anyone getting paid to build these roads? Whenever western governments want to get the economy going they often invest in infrastructure.
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Postby John Duffield » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:31 am

I can see I put these photos in the wrong thread earlier today.

Obviously not on the Annapurna Circuit but symptiomatic of the speed at which Nepal is developing.

Here's Namche Bazaar in 1983

Image

and 2007

Image

Grown a little bit.

One interesting thing is, all of these buildings were built by hand. Without power tools.
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