On April 25, 2015, Nepal was violently shaken by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake. Stone structures in the Himalayan nation were fractured and toppled in the capital, Kathmandu, and mountain villages north of the city. With hundreds of thousands left homeless, and continuing aftershocks, the days after the quake were devastating. Tashi Sherpa, one of G Adventures’ Nepali Chief Experience Officers (CEOs), gave a first-hand report of life on the ground and the rescue efforts underway.
One year later, I asked Tashi for his thoughts on the relief and rebuilding efforts in Nepal. I have edited his answers only for clarity and readability.
Peter West Carey: One year after the devastating earthquakes hit your country, what has amazed you the most regarding Nepal’s rebuilding efforts?
Tashi Sherpa: Resilience. People have learned to move on. Most of the villages have been rebuilt with the help of locals and various organizations. Some rural areas with minimal access to resources have had difficulty rebuilding, as it takes a few days of walking to get there from the nearest main road.
PWC: Nepal is still open for business and there have been campaigns aimed at building awareness that travelling to Nepal will help the country. How prepared would you say the tourism infrastructure is for a return to post-earthquake numbers?
TS: In my opinion, everyone is trying their level best to increase the return of tourists to Nepal. Indeed, tourism plays a vital role in Nepal's economy with 504,000 jobs created by tourism itself — making it the largest industry to generate the largest income for the country.
Almost all the hotels, roads and supporting infrastructure have been rebuilt to the level they were at before the quake. A few UNESCO World Heritage sites need rebuilding, which will take some time. The Langtang region — north of the Kathmandu Valley — needs to be reconstructed almost completely. Efforts have started here, but this will surely take some time. Even still, the number of trekkers is increasing as the word spreads that Nepal is open for travellers.
PWC: You mentioned in your first dispatches that your home was damaged, as were the homes of many friends and families in areas outside of Kathmandu. How has reconstruction been going in the areas outside of the capital and in your home village?
TS: The rebuilding efforts have come from various organizations, volunteers from all over the world — including Nepali people — and have provided massive amounts of support to those in need. Because of the difficulties of transporting minimum basic resources to the affected areas, the rebuilding progress is still continuing everywhere. There are still a lot of families outside Kathmandu who are in need of aid. These families have already had a hard time surviving the winter and monsoon seasons and still live in tents today.
With support from the Planeterra Foundation and all the generous people from all around the world, 152 families from all over the earthquake-affected areas have received funding to rebuild their homes. A sincere thank you to all who have donated generously to help our country to stand once again.
PWC: You mention the support of the Planeterra Foundation. How did the non-profit make the transition from serving immediate health and safety needs of Nepal’s population to long-term rebuilding efforts? How did they assess the areas of greatest need and deliver aid?
TS: At first, the Planeterra Foundation helped around 150 families in the Kavrepalanchok district with emergency aid and basic living supplies. After assessing the situation and the need, plans turned toward rebuilding houses. We started collecting data from our co-workers from the G Adventures for Good supported project Sisterhood of Survivors and Royal Mountain Travel (the operating G Adventures office in Nepal). Along with qualified engineers, we CEOs volunteered to inspect the level of destruction of various applicants’ houses. Planeterra then proceeded with the funds based on these recommendations. 152 families have received benefits from the funds raised for earthquake victims. That’s 152 homes rebuilt.
PWC: How can those reading this help people still in need of assistance?
TS: The best way to help Nepal is to travel to Nepal. When you visit and spend money, the funds will flow directly to the community. Plus, you get to experience the unique culture, lifestyle and the majestic mountains when you are here. Now, more than ever, you and the local Nepali people, have so much to gain from a visit.
PWC: I see you’re still guiding fairly regularly and I love your photo updates on Twitter. Would you say the popular tourist trekking routes in the Annapurna and Everest regions are ready for a return to their previously growing visitor numbers? What about Langtang?
TS: Both the Annapurna and Everest regions are ready as before to welcome and service visits. The number of trekkers has been increasing just because of the will and dedication of our resilient country and those willing to come back and travel.
The Langtang region was the worst affected trekking area. The village of Langtang was buried beneath a massive landslide and only a few rebuilding efforts are underway. Other surrounding villages in the region have started operating their teahouse businesses, but it will definitely take some time to get back to the stage where they were before the earthquake.
G Adventures runs a number of departures in Nepal encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.