POKHARA, March 29: Though Trekkers´ Information Management System (TIMS) has been enforced for the trekkers´ safety and security four years go, millions of rupees collected as TIMS fees remains unutilized.
TIMS was implemented with an aim to ensure safety and security of trekkers and to control illegal trekking operations.Nearly Rs 150 million has been collected from the TIMS fee from the Annapurna area alone. Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has collected Rs 52 million from its Pokhara office, and Trekking Agencies of Nepal Wester Region Chapter has collected Rs 95 million.
A foreign individual trekker has to pay US$ 20 for the TIMS card while group trekkers can get the card by paying US$ 10 per person. The groups are required to have a Nepali guide with them in their trekking expedition.
TAAN Western Regional Chapter president Narayan Prasad Sapkota told Republica that the money could not be spent as the amount was not released by NTB despite their repeated requests.
“TIMS is supposed to be spent by NTB and TAAN jointly. We have approached the board with proposals to build infrastructure in various places but the board did not provide us the money,” he complained.
There was an initial deal to spend the money collected from TIMS cards by splitting it between NTB and the TAAN in the presence of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation officials.
Board issues the TIMS card to the individual trekkers and the TAAN sells the card to the trekkers in group.
Sapkota, however, said that TAAN was spending the money it collected on the trekking sector.
“We are spending the money we have collected but we do not know what NTB is doing. We are not getting our share,” he added.
“We have been spending the money that we collect on the administrative work as well as for the operating cost of the five check-posts at Birethaati, Dhampus, Besisahar, Tatopani and Jomsom. Also, a part of the money is spent for the medical and insurance of the trekking guides. TAAN center also takes some money from our fund” he explained.
He told that the fees collected in the joint account of NTB and TAAN has gone unspent. “A small portion might have been spent for promotional posters. Millions of rupees is lying idle in the joint account,” he said, adding that only Rs 5 million of the collected TIMS fees is spent annually from TAAN Western regional chapter. “Rather than keeping the money in the bank account, it should be spent in building the infrastructure. There are not even sign posts in the trekking areas which is posing security threats to trekkers,” he said.
Officials with NTB also admit that a large sum of TIMS fees has been unspent. NTB spokesperson Aditya Baral said that the lack of willingness to take the leadership on building infrastructure is the main problem.
“We are ready to provide the money, but nobody pays attention when we call for building infrastructure. We cannot build infrastructure ourselves as our responsibility is limited to promotional activities. The private sector is also confused on this regard,” he said.
“We have heard that there are not enough sign posts, toilets and other basic infrastructure along the trekking trails. Passing the bucks on to NTB does not solve the problem. This is our collective weakness.”