Trekking routes in the Everest region in the north-eastern part of the country have been declared to be safe following a similar assessment of the Annapurna Circuit in the north-western region.
However, the government has advised trekkers in the Everest region to go with experienced guides if they wish to visit the area during the monsoon season due to chances of an increased rate of slope failure.
An assessment report of the trekking route s in the Everest region, funded by the IFC and conducted by the Tourism Ministry, showed that there was minimal damage to a majority of lodges and trails in the region. The rapid assessment report was handed over to Tourism Minister Kripasur Sherpa on Friday.
The trekking trails are likely to go into full-fledged operation after the end of the monsoon. The ministry said that it would be conducting another post-monsoon assessment after the rainy season is over to fully assure the safety of visitors.
“We don’t discourage trekkers from visiting the Everest region, but if they wish to go, they should be accompanied by a proper guide,” said Tulsi Prasad Gautam, director general of the Department of Tourism. These two world famous trails attract more than 90 percent of the foreign trekkers in Nepal. The Everest region attracts 35,000 trekkers annually.
The report shows that many of the villages in the Everest region like Lukla, Namche, Khumjung, Tengboche and all the villages above Dingboche on the way to Everest Base Camp do not appear to be at risk of landslides as a result of the earthquake. However, a few villages like Phakding and Jorsale have significant existing rock fall hazards, while Toktok, Bengkar and Shomore have been affected by very serious geotechnical hazards. None of the major suspension bridges appears to be affected by new geotechnical hazards as a result of the earthquake.
A total of 15 villages with approximately 710 buildings, including accommodation and residential buildings, and nine main bridges along the trekking route were assessed. The report shows that among the buildings studied, earthquake damage of structural concern was observed in 120 buildings (17 percent), while 83 percent of the buildings can be given a green tag.
Most of the buildings that were damaged can feasibly be repaired. “Building owners have started reconstructing damaged buildings,” said Kit Miyamoto, CEO of Miyamoto International.
“New houses that used cement as mortar typically performed well, while construction types with mud as mortar and uncut stone sustained substantial damage and collapse in the earthquake,” said Miyamoto, structural and earthquake engineering expert and technical team leader who prepared the report.
The trekking trail from Lukla to Namche Bazaar is one of the most heavily damaged areas, the report said. In Zam Fute, seven lodges were heavily damaged. In Thulo Gumela and Zam Fute, approximately 50 percent of the buildings sustained heavy damage and have been red tagged.
In Toktok, approximately 90-95 percent of the buildings were red tagged due to earthquake damage. The structures in Bengar will need to be given a red tag due to damage sustained as a result of rock fall.
In Lukla, the gateway to the Everest region, 20 percent of the structures sustained damage. It is estimated that 50 percent of the buildings in Lukla serve as hotels. A large majority of the accommodation structures here are open for business. In Monjo, 30 percent of the structures have been damaged, and a majority of the hotels are open for business. In Phakding, 20 percent of its 80 buildings were damaged. However, many of these accommodation structures are being repaired.
Around 10 percent of the 150 buildings in Namche Bazaar have suffered damage, while in the sister towns of Khumjung and Khunde, 30 percent of the structures have sustained light damage. There are 180 buildings in the area and many of them are hotels.
The report recommends closing the low trail between the villages of Namche and Khumjung, and using the higher level trail instead, as geological evidence suggests that rock fall is a frequent occurrence on the low trail between the two villages.