TNW: What are you doing these days?
Hisila: I am the Vice-president of Nepal Samajwadi Party. Besides this, I am also looking after organizational department of the party. I have recently visited 14 districts under the Province No. 1 as per the assignment given to me by the party.
TNW: As a former Minister for Tourism in Nepal, would shed light on potential of Nepal’s tourism development?
Hisila: I have seen a great potential for the development of Nepal’s tourism sector during our “Jana Yuddha” or the decade long Maoist insurgency. I had got the opportunity to travel the nook and corner of the country. I have seen the diversity from the central core area of Kathmandu, Ason, where I grew up as a child, to remote places of the country like Rolpa. Being an architect engineer, I have got the opportunity to study different designs of houses to the diverse environment of the country. While traveling through different parts the country I have come across hills and mountains, rivers and rivulets, water drops pouring down from the trees, which offer magnificent scenic beauty to the visitors. The droplets coming down from the rocks in the hill area is what is in fact called mineral water, not that filled in plastic bottles and treated with chemicals. Such kind of fresh mountain water contains valuable nutritious minerals, not that which is made artificially. There are numerous water falls, ponds, lakes in different parts of the country, which could be protected for the promotion of tourism. Also I have seen some South facing barren lands on rocky hills and mountains, where nothing can be grown. Such barren land and rocky hills could be used for producing solar energy to electrify our remote villages and mountainous areas.
Taking the advantage of our hills and rocky mountains we can arrange adventurous activities such as rock climbing and bungy jumps for the promotion of tourism. When you travel from East to West you will come across different designs of buildings and structures as well as people with a variety of ethnicity and dresses. You would see sponge gourds and bottle gourds lying on the courtyards of the houses in Western Nepal district such as Rolpa while you will come across fragrant flowers in the courtyards of houses in Eastern Nepal. These are the examples of our cultural diversity.
TNW: As you were born and grown up in Kathmandu, the capital city, what would you suggest to promote tourism in Kathmandu ? What is your vision to develop Kathmandu as a major tourist hub?
Hisila: Generally speaking, we can do two things to promote tourism in Kathmandu. Firstly, we can promote tourism through preserving the core city area of Kathmandu and secondly, we should focus our attention towards the outer areas of Kathmandu valley, which offer magnificent natural beauty. There are many hills and hill tops such as Chandragiri, Phulchoki and Nagarjun around the valley. For instance, cable car has been installed in Chandragiri hill, which has attracted so many domestic visitors. In the same manner we can build infrastructure in other parts of the valley. However, it is important to get the local people involved while doing so. There can be a sanctuary for animals in some areas while in other areas we can introduce adventure sports such as bungy jump. Some time ago I have heard about re-locating the Central Zoo to the hill areas outside the valley. I think it has not yet been materialized. The current location of the zoo is very crowded as it is situated in the middle of the city. Nepal is one of the few countries in the world where the capital city is located near the forest area. The zoo itself is a kind of jungle. So, we can develop zoo in a natural surrounding by relocating it to the forest area.
As you know the culture of Kathmandu’s Newar community is a kind of hybrid culture, as it is a blend of Hinduism and Buddhism. Here you can find temples, stupas and Bihars in each and every road junction. Bhaktapur Municipality has set an example of how an ancient city could be conserved in a better manner. Kathmandu and Lalitpur should follow the foot steps sown by Bhaktapur. Lalitpur, being one of the oldest city, is also a beautiful cultural heritage. The three cities of the valley can cooperate and collaborate in the conservation of our cultural heritage for the promotion of tourism. Lalitpur has wonderful craftmanship and it can set an example by preserving and promoting its traditional crafts, art and architecture. Kathmandu has now been dominated by the metropolitan culture, filled by modern architectural designs which has made it very difficult to preserve our ancient art and architecture and cultural heritage.
We need to divide the capital city into two categories: the core areas and the outer space. We need to protect and preserve the core city area by paying special attention. As we allowed to erect tall modern buildings in the core city area it has dwarfed the centuries old holy shrines of Kathmandu. The beauty of the ancient civilization has been vanished. These centuries old shrines, temples, stupas, ponds and stone spouts have made the city have been providing a kind of natural air-conditioning to the people here. THough we are situated between the two most populated countries in the world, India and China with a combined population of more than 2.5 billion, yet we could not get economic benefit from that.
TNW: What are the challenges for the development of tourism in Nepal ?
Hisila: The main challenge we are facing today is that of connectivity. Until and unless there is a highway between India and China via Nepal, we cannot prosper. There is a highway linking to the South but in the North there is no way out. Nepal has become a kind of dumping site because there is no connectivity towards the North. It is because of that we don’t have access to international market. There are more than two billion people on both the sides of the border but no connectivity. We can build roads and railway lines that connects Nepal with both India and China, we are to make economic progress and development. If we implement the Belt and Road Initiative Nepal had signed with China it can help in opening Nepal to the international arena. We need to develop connectivity both from North to South and from East to West, which can enhance our trade as well as boost tourism. There is a need to develop road ways, railways, ropeways and airways in an integrated manner, if we are to achieve speedy development of tourism sector.