Liberty Discussion on ‘Nepal building a highway to Everest’ by Surendra Phuyal

On November 27, 2020, we hosted Liberty Discussion on Google Meet. The discussion was held on the reader titled “Nepal builds highway to Everest” authored by Surendra Phuyal in The Nepali Times.
The 77 kilometers highway, which links the town of Chaurikharka and Lukla of Solukhumbu district, is going to be connected to the rest of the road network in Nepal through the Khurkot-Gurmi section of the Mid-hill Highway followed by the Okhaldunga Road up northwards until Salleri. The content of our discussion focused on whether road infrastructure should climb northwards towards the geologically and ecologically sensitive mountainous regions of the country. And if it should, how should the construction of the infrastructure acknowledge the ecological and socio-cultural sensitivity of the Sherpa people? In addition, how would such development works affect the tourism industry around the Everest region that the local livelihood is dependent on?

The participants of the discussion agreed that road infrastructure is eventually required in the rural village networks of the upper Solukhumbu region despite certain effects it might cause for the habitat of the region. After all, the infrastructure is reported to not only lift the living standard of the indigenous people, reduce their cost of living, but also is likely to support the domestic tourism economy by encouraging more Nepalese to travel with an expected significant drop in lodging and food costs. The article itself indicates that the tourism in the Solukhumbu region is likely to multiply by ten folds following such road connection to Lukla. However, the participants also believed that it is very essential to ensure that road infrastructure planning is supported by robust environmental assessments. Also, the project should as well consider relocating the settlements where the infrastructure is likely to create uninhabitable conditions. Of course, justifiable compensation for such affected populations will be ultimately necessary.

Not only for the northern road stretches being built in the Solukumbu region, but the participants also agreed that such environmental consideration and relocating plans must be carefully conducted.