Climate Change Spurs Tourism in Nepal, But Will it Last?

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014

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Tourists at Sarangkot Development Committee, Nepal Himalaya (Source: Wazari Wazir)

Tourists at Sarangkot Development Committee, Nepal Himalaya (Source: Wazari Wazir)

Possessing eight of the ten highest mountains in the world, Nepal has attracted mountaineers from around the globe. Currently, there are 326 peaks open to mountaineering in the country, while 112 peaks remain unclimbed. Trekking and mountaineering, the most popular tourism activities in Nepal, bring substantial profits to the country. In 2013, travel and tourism accounted for 8.2% of Nepal’s GDP. As the resources required for tourism in Nepal is highly climate dependent, if climate change melts the ice and snow on Nepal’s mountain peaks, will tourists continue to flock to Nepal?

Nepal’s Mt. Manaslu, in the Mansiri Himal mountain range, is the eighth highest mountain in the world, at 8163 meters above sea level. It is part of the Manaslu Conservation Area (MCA), which is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north and east, Manang District to the west, and Gorkha District to the south. Featuring glacial mountain tops, great biodiversity and coniferous forest, it is a popular destination for skiing, hiking, and mountain biking, which are major income sources for the local people.

Mt. Manaslu from the old monastery near Lho village (Source:  Jan Zalud/Flickr

Mt. Manaslu from the old monastery near Lho village (Source: Jan Zalud/Flickr

Currently, tourism in the area is benefitting from climate change, as warmer winter weather is attracting visitors. Reduced snowfall has also made it easier to complete some challenging paths, like Larke Pass, at 5135 meters above sea level. Also, winter trekking, currently restricted to lower elevations in Nepal, is likely to extend to higher elevations as temperature rises. Both the annual mean temperature and rainfall have increased in MCA, at the rate of 0.020C. per year and 3.19 mm per year respectively from 1980 to 2011. Local households have noticed: 93.4% of those surveyed in MCA claim to have experienced climate change, such as warmer weather and irregular rainfall.

In the long run, however, some worry that climate change will induce more extreme weather and water shortages in Nepal, which will be bad for tourism. Increased rainfall and natural hazards caused by climate change, such as glacial lake outburst floods, will eventually discourage Nepal’s most popular, though climate-dependent, tourist activity, trekking. As one of the ten most vulnerable developing countries, Nepal might experience decreased tourism because of climate change sooner than the other countries.

On the top of Larke Pass in Manaslu Conservation Area (Source:  Rojan Sinha/Flickr

On the top of Larke Pass in Manaslu Conservation Area (Source:
Rojan Sinha/Flickr

GlacierHub has previously written about privatizing the world’s tallest peaks, a Peruvian national park that is capitalizing on glacier melt, glacier tourism in Peru, and a lake in Nepal that is filling with melting glacier water.

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