A high-level government panel investigating the issue of fraudulent helicopter rescues of tourists has proposed a special police force under the Nepal Tourism Board to support mountaineering activities in place of agents.
The Nepali government has decided to take stern action on middlemen involved in mountaineering activities, barring local agents of mountaineering firms from getting involved in tourism search and rescue operations.
The government's actions are in response to a warning by international insurance companies that they would stop giving cover unless the government clamped down on fraudulent helicopter rescues of tourists by 1 September.
The government panel also announced a 15-point Mountaineering and Trekking Search and Rescue Guidelines, reports Nepali Sansar.
“The guidelines aim to curb fraudulent activities while conducting search and rescue of tourists, especially foreign trekkers and mountaineers visiting high mountain areas,” said Mr Dandu Raj Ghimire, Director General of the Department of Tourism, Nepal.
According to Mr Ghimire, the proposed guidelines will come into force after rounds of consultations with all the related stakeholders.
Under the new guidelines:
- A special rescue and search unit under Nepali police will offer 24/7 support in managing necessary resources, along with helicopter services and high-altitude rescues
- The special unit can also invite private helicopter companies to bid for rescue services that they want to offer tourists in high mountains
- The unit holds authority to mobilise police or army choppers in the absence of private helicopters
- The police welfare fund will be instantly utilised to conduct search & rescue, and will be reimbursed once the payment is made by the insurance companies
- A special monitoring committee under the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Home Affairs will take care of arrangements from fixing prices to validating documents.