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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Should Fishtail Mountain be open to tourists?
It is one of the poorest countries in the world, nearly half its population live below the poverty line and it has had five different governments over the past few years.

However, Nepal's expanding tourist industry is something for the Nepalese to smile about. It helps, of course, that the country is home to the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest.

But now there are calls to boost tourism by opening up the sacred Mount Machhapuchre - translated as Fishtail Mountain - to foreign visitors.

So, does this spell the death of Nepal's identity, or is it time for the country to put its economy first?

And if so, how far should this success story be allowed to dictate cultural and environmental policies? Or can Nepal learn from the management of other sacred sites in South Asia?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I believe that opening up new tourist destinations is vital for the economic prosperity of Nepal. With strict guidelines for preserving the environment, opening up Mount Machhapuchre will definitely benefit the nation.
Kamal Poudel, USA

I grew up in a village from where the twin peaks of the Fishtail (Machhapuchre) are clearly visible. I, for one, would hate to see someone standing atop the Fishtail not because it is sacred, nor even because the bulk of the revenues generated would end up in a trekking outfit in Kathmandu (which incidentally is true), but because mankind has no right to trample each beautiful peak.
Pitamber Sharma, Nepal

Nepal is a land caught between heaven and earth

Linda, Italy
Nepal is a land caught between heaven and earth, between illusion and reality. There is too much reality on this poor planet of ours. Let us leave some high places where we know we can only go with our inner eye.
Linda, Italy

Surely the fascination with Fishtail lies purely in the fact that it has never (officially) been climbed. Although it is visually a splendid sight, there are many others in the Annapurna Range of similar status to appease the climbing fraternity. Trekkers, who form the vast majority of tourists in the area, are unlikely to want to venture any further up the mountain than the already accessible - and somewhat inaptly named - Machhapuchre Base Camp. The relatively few extra climbers who would be attracted to the region would not justify a decision to open the mountain, either financially or environmentally. Keep Fishtail sacred and let us all enjoy its unspoiled beauty from the correct perspective!
Stuart Wylie, UK

Having visited Nepal three times since 1987, I have been shocked by the environmental and cultural damage inflicted by uncontrolled tourism in this short period of time. Keep this mountain sacred or it too will be destroyed.
Robin, UK

Machhapuchre or Mount Fishtail is a sacred entity not only to the Gurung people but to the Nepalese population as a whole. To step on this sacred mountain is to show total disrespect to their culture and belief. There are many other ways one can bring development and prosperity into one's country.
Gurung, Pokhara, Nepal

The revenue has to be used for the local community and their needs

Sharma, Dhruba, USA/ Nepal
It is a good idea to open new tourist venues and it is a good thing for the country's economy and to uplift the people. This will help us to explore our culture and natural resources but it has to be well-managed and done in good faith. The revenue has to be used for the local community and their needs.
Sharma, Dhruba, USA/ Nepal

Originally from England, I have lived in the Indian Himalayas for over 25 years. It is my view that there is no question that the sacred peak of Machhapuchre should be climbed. As a place that has been venerated over the millennia it is surely sacrosanct and should in no way be defiled by climbers who are in any case ultimately driven by an ego that seeks to "conquer" a mountain "because it's there".
Peter Wolledge, India

As the proverb goes 'Beauty is to see, not to touch'. The majestic view of Mount Machhapuchre overlooking the Fewa Lake is a lifetime opportunity. We do not need to open all destinations to tourists for our economic benefit. We shouldn't disturb the serene beauty of the mountain for economic upliftment.
Mingmar, Nepal

The locals from the mountain area should decide whether they want to be bothered by outsiders

Rustam Roy, England
On a recent visit to Nepal, I was appalled to see that tourism and Western consumer goods are beginning to have the same impact as they've already had in places like Ooty or Kodai in India. The locals from the mountain area should decide whether they want to be bothered by outsiders who've come to gawp at them, and if so, they should remain in control of tourism in the area.
Rustam Roy, England

The damage does not come from the tourists themselves but from the attitude of the people visiting the sacred places. Over 1,000 years back the saint Shankaracharya visited many mountains and high places in the Himalayas and he established temples there with humility and in reverence to the natural environment. That is different to people visiting a place and throwing plastic bags or trying to "conquer" places for their own ego or to tell stories back home.
Mahesh, USA

I have been privileged to visit Nepal on 3 occasions as an independent traveller. A number of things are very clear. The country is exploited by a world tourist industry that does not entirely have the best interests of the country and the people at heart. The attraction of going there is because it is different and the rest of the world should respect that. If the mountain is sacred to the people, then that is the way it should stay!
Peter Covey, Britain

Collecting appropriate cleaning surcharges from tourists and the blacklisting of dirty trekkers will help with maintenance. Trekkers could also be charged if they throw litter as happens in other tourist areas.
Jee, India

Trekking through the mountains was a breathtaking experience

Matthew Cox, Singapore
I was in the North East of Nepal and found that it wasn't the direct action of the tourists that caused the environmental damage. It was the impact of Western commercial goods such as non-biodegradable packaging. The locals threw these into the rivers, down the side of mountains etc, just as they would do if they were throwing rotten vegetables. Except of course a Coke can will be around a lot longer than a cabbage. If the Government is serious about allowing an increase in tourism throughout Nepal there is a huge need for education and also a proper refuse disposal system. Trekking through the mountains was a breathtaking experience but finding Mars bar wrappers and plastic bags hanging from rocks and caught on trees was not.
Matthew Cox, Singapore

One should never sacrifice one's tradition and culture for economics. Please keep Nepal free from the tourism madness which has infiltrated the entire Western world.
Ana, Trinidad and Tobago

I think the decision is best left for the Nepalese people to decide. The mountain is sacred to them. Therefore they should be the ones to determine whether the addition to their tourism revenue precedes the importance of protecting their sentimental attachment to the mountain.
Waqas, USA

This mountain is sacred and should remain that way

Bishnu Shrestha, Nepal/ USA
This mountain is sacred and should remain that way. We have enough other mountains for all the tourists of the world, including Mount Everest. Although it is a good source of income, we must stop using our valuable mountains as a landfill. We must focus instead on our technology, commerce and education to improve our lives.
Bishnu Shrestha, Nepal/ USA

When I was very small, I lived in a village north of Pokhara, and my first sight every morning was Machhapuchre. My parents told me the mountain was mine, and since it was the first thing I saw every day why should I not think that? However, now that I am older, I am aware that the mountain, belongs, as do all others in Nepal, to the Nepali people. While I would hope that it never becomes disfigured the way Everest has by tourists and climbers, the people of Nepal must decide what is right for them.
Nat Quesenberry, USA

Proper management is the foremost necessity in the process of every arena of development. Thousands of tourists can be attracted by the enchanting and incomparable beauty of Machhapuchre and the Nepali tourism industry will gain a lot if it is opened for mountaineering. But first let the people be assured that no harm will be made to the beautiful and sacred mountain by the invasion of men.
Rajan Kafle, Kathmandu, Nepal

Opening up Machhapuchre to climbing would be a sad thing. There should be at least one mountain that can be just a mountain, and not a tourist destination or an obstacle to be conquered.
Jamie A, USA

Nepal needs revenue and education

Vivek Manchanda, US/ India
Nepal needs revenue and education. Tourism will help in this direction, provided it is handled in an environmentally conscious manner. It will be better for countries like India whose population has always looked at Nepal as a major tourist destination and will give a further boost to Indo-Nepalese people to people contact. It's time for the world to see and experience Nepal's great religious and cultural heritage!
Vivek Manchanda, US/ India

I do not think that Nepal should open all its mountains to foreigners until and unless it has got strict environmental laws to protect the site. We can learn from what's happened at Mount Everest which has become a dumping site and even the mountaineers or environmentalists have been barely able to do anything about this.
Ranjan Koirala, UK

Nepal, especially Kathmandu, has been harmed by tourism. It would be a pity to see other places such as Pokhara go down the same road. It is ironic that the beauty that tourists go to see is destroyed by their own activities. A balance needs to be struck between the income from tourism and retaining the beauty of the country. Practical steps could be to limit the number of tourists in the country at anyo ne time and to regulate where people can go hiking.
Luke Hitchin, England

The world has seen the result of the commercialisation of Mount Everest which has already been tossed as the "highest garbage" in the world by environmentalists and tourism pundits. The worthless politicians and bureaucrats have already made Everest and the tourism industry suffer and now they are eyeing what is left over. That is why, Machapuchre (Fishtail) should never be opened to tourists, rather the property owned by every corrupt official should be seized and made a national treasure to help the ailing economy.
Yadav Khanal, Nepal

Listen now
... to both sides of the debate
See also:

02 Jan 01 | South Asia
Tourism decline in Nepal
11 Dec 00 | South Asia
Nepal protest over tourist charges
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