Lessons from Narayanghat

It is always great to get out of Kathmandu Valley. The Dabali is an open space initiative from Jiwan Kshetry and Indra Dhoj Kshetri with a well-stocked library opened just two months back in Chitwan. Over the weekend, it was wonderful to interact with minds that are not stuck in what has gone wrong but what can be done right as I discussed my book Arthat Arthatantra with the audience.

City of doers

Narayanghat evolved as a city built by entrepreneurs and opportunity seekers. Different writings suggest that the city came into being just six decades ago when Newa traders from Bandipur settled down here. This city used to be a gateway for goods traveling to west Nepal when Bandipur traders brought goods from border town of Thori in India. Once the capital of Tanahun was shifted from Bandipur to Damauli, the Newa traders started to take further interest in Narayanghat.

Chitwan is currently the most bustling area outside Kathmandu, with economic activities far ahead of the other former industrial cities of Birgunj or Biratnagar, tourist centre of Pokhara or the upcoming city of Butwal. While definitive indexes are not available on the ranking of cities and economies, our initial research shows that Narayanghat still leads the pack. Poultry industry is big in the Chitwan region, and so are other forms of agriculture. The development of Chitwan National Park as a tourist destination along with a well-functioning airport has contributed to connectivity. The two medical colleges along with the Cancer hospital have made Chitwan a medical tourism destination too. Many medical patients from different parts of the country come to this region.

Three big lessons to learn

“Government doles, political protection don’t create better cities or towns; people do.” Prabhakar Rana, Chairman Emeritus of Soaltee Hotel, used to cite the example of Narayanghat and the rest of Chitwan area’s development compared to Bara and Parsa that received so much more in government funds. Gurcharan Das in his book India Grows at Night gives the example of how Gurgaon, the satellite city next to Delhi grew at a phenomenal pace compared to the ones planned by the government such as Faridabad and Ghaziabad. Therefore, people who think that the cities that get much of federal budgets or government attention do well may be misguided. It is the cities that have the least government interference that do well, as entrepreneurs look for least interference from the government or politicians.

Hetauda is one such example where the government had diverted a lot of its attention. Regrettably, Hetauda now remains nothing more than a transit point. Another example is how Mahendranagar with an airport built for hunting by the royals has been relegated to a transit point—compared to Dhangadi, which is again built by private parties.

Perception of safety is key for businesses

Despite being a hotbed of politics, Chitwan has seen the least disruptions—and businesses there feel secure. Multinational companies have set up factories and tourism has grown. Even during the worst days of insurgency, this area did not face shutdown or similar problems like other cities did. The relocating of businesses from Birgunj to Butwal and from Janakpur to Bardibas shows how businesses are not interested in the discourse of ethnicity or politics. Business houses and entrepreneurs want to do businesses and will shift to areas they perceive as safe and secure. Politicians and business organisations need to understand that bad news breeds negative perception which ultimately is detrimental for business.

Leave entrepreneurs to build business eco-system

Many a times we feel that the government is the one to build up the ecosystem for businesses, but in reality it is the entrepreneurs who build it. Governments tend to build eco-systems that do not create a level playing field. These unequal eco-systems foster rent seekers who, contrary to belief, never transform into entrepreneurs. Far west Nepal itself is facing challenges in its development. Developmental organisations and NGOs are abundant in the far west, and this only fosters rent-seeking behaviour. On the other hand, in Chitwan, we see far less of the rent-seeking organisations that try to throttle entrepreneurship, as this behaviour contradicts the mind-set in Chitwan.

With the debate on what needs to be done in Nepal relating to federalism, perhaps a case study on development of cities like Narayanghat and Butwal will be good to learn exactly what makes such cities centres of business. If there are good businesses run by entrepreneurs then there are more jobs created. Local job creation means there are more young people wanting to get education and training that fosters the business of education.

Like in the hospitality industry, where location is the keyword, it is important to understand the key issue of location and connectivity when developing cities. Hopefully, lessons from Narayanghat will help to build better cities and towns in Nepal.

Modern city hall construction finalized; to be built on Chitwan DCC land

CHITWAN: The controversy over construction of a city hall to be built by Bharatpur Metropolis has finally been settled. There was a strong argument going on whether to build the city hall on a land owned by BP Koirala Memorial Hospital or on the premises of a guest house in Bharatpur-10.

The Nepali Congress party had objected the metropolisdecision to build the city hall on the land owned by the hospital while the local residents protested the construction of the city hall on the premises of the guest house.

According to metropolis mayor Renu Dahal, the city hall will be built on 4 bigha 4 kattah (6752.96 sq meter) land owned by the Chitwan District Coordination Committee (DCC) office in Bharatpur-10.

DCC chief Krishna Kumar Dallakoti said that DCC and its property handover committee have apprised the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration of granting land to the metropolis for the construction of the hall.

Mayor Dahal informed that the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DoUDBC) has already allocated Rs 500 million for the construction of the city hall.

It has been reported that the construction of the city hall with the capacity to hold 2,500 persons, along with an additional small hall will cost an estimated Rs 2 billion. Mayor Dahal said, “We are building the city hall with modern facilities for the first time in Nepal,” adding that the construction work would be carried out once ministerial decision gave the green light.

The mayor also informed that a team comprising general director, engineer, and specialists at DoUDBC would conduct an on-site inspection this week.

Tips for an Unforgettable Stay in Chitwan

Tips for an Unforgettable Stay in Chitwan

When I first traveled to Chitwan, I thought I had fallen into a horrendous tourist trap. It was hot, I didn’t see any animals, and I endured a really, really long and bumpy bus ride to get there. Fast-forward a few years and at the urging of friends, I decided to give this place another try. I’m so glad I did.

This time, I spent two nights at a beautiful resort. Candlelit dinners, organized excursions, a swimming pool, and smiling faces greeting me with scented towels and refreshing drinks. Call me a Chitwan convert.

Go, I say. And use these tips to avoid the tourist traps and have an unforgettable stay in Chitwan.

DETERMINE YOUR PREFERRED MEANS OF TRAVEL

My first visit was on a bus. A bus that took a good half day from Pokhara. A very hot bus that seemed to never end.

For my most recent visit, I flew. In fifteen minutes, I was at the airport walking towards happy hotel staff helping me with my luggage. Sure, the flight was bumpy and the passenger next to me became ill, but I would choose those fifteen minutes over that extended bus ride any time. In my opinion, the price difference is totally worth it.

CHOOSE YOUR ACCOMMODATION WISELY

Familiarize yourself with the main areas of Chitwan. Meghauli, home to many luxury resorts, is about a 40-minute drive from the airport and on the banks of the river. Sauraha is a bit more dense, but with plenty of accommodations for budgets of all sizes. There’s also the small village of Barauli, in the western part of Chitwan, which is very quiet but has a couple of good accommodation options, includingcommunity homestay.

Most hotels or homestays offer package deals for two and three-night stays. Though at first glance, resort prices may seem high compared to other areas in Nepal, keep in mind that activities and food are often included. Be prepared for some hidden costs, however, as many establishments count on you to spend money on overpriced drinks and additional safari tours.

My final thought on hotels: It will most likely be hot. Pools are always a good choice.

Tips for an Unforgettable Stay in Chitwan

Sunset over the Rapti River. Photo: Michelle Welsch

PICK YOUR SAFARI ADVENTURE

My second visit to Chitwan was focused on relaxation. I wanted to refresh and chill, so the idea of sitting in a Jeep for four to five hours wasn’t something I was eager to do. I passed on the Jeep safari and chose to hang out with elephants and at the lodge, instead. It is possible to see animals (I saw three rhinos, two kinds of deer, all different species of birds, and some coyote-hyena-thing) without stepping foot in a 4×4.

I know some travelers are obsessed with tiger sightings; for that you’ll need to venture deeper into the park (or to Bardia, in Western Nepal). Hotels will charge to organize a Jeep safari for you. Another option is to participate in a “walking safari.”

GO OUTSIDE YOUR RESORT

I woke up early one morning to stroll through the surrounding village. For obvious reasons, life beyond the gates of the luxury hotel was a lot different. Lands are plotted thick with banana trees, and houses are clustered along the main roads. I was greeted by locals and stared at by curious families, and smiling children wanted to practice English with me. This is a beautiful way to get to see more of Chitwan.

EMBRACE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES

One of Nepal’s highlights is the variety of cultures, customs, religions, histories, and traditions. Chitwan is no different. The Tharu tribe has braved the jungle, battling mosquitos and jungle animals to tend fields and build homes made from clay, mud, and grass. This group developed their own social structure, with village chiefs managing intricate maps of irrigation canals bringing water to communities’ farmlands.

Most hotels and resorts organize cultural performances and arrange tours to local villages. As with any place in Nepal, ask questions, watch, be curious, and act with respect.

Tips for an Unforgettable Stay in Chitwan

Photo: Michelle Welsch

GO ON A SUNSET BOAT RIDE

The colors of dusk are phenomenally vivid in Chitwan. My hotel organized a sunset boat trip for me, surprising me with cold drinks and snacks to nibble on the banks of the Rapti River. I was told sunrise is an equally enchanting time.

Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, the boat ride is peaceful and serene and reveals a whole different aspect of the park: sleeping crocodiles and villagers hauling baskets of elephant grass across crystal-clear waters.

MAKE FRIENDS WITH ELEPHANTS

Elephants are equal parts thrilling and terrifying. I was so captivated by “Kali Rani” (Black Queen) that I made plans to see her twice. Standing next to an elephant is an incredible, unforgettable experience. I was thrilled to watch this giant animal wade into the Rapti River, bathe, drink, and squirt water on her trainer and me. When she came out of the river, we fed her elephant sandwiches — grassy husks tied around grains and rice.

ENJOY A CANDLE-LIT DINNER

Nights are quiet in Chitwan. Aside from chirping birds and the occasional rustle of leaves, evenings are peaceful. Ideal for dinners beneath the stars. My lodge placed old lanterns and candles throughout their property, creating a warm, romantic ambiance for visitors.

Travel in Nepal isn’t always easy, and Chitwan is a great place to reward yourself with pampering and TLC. If you’re going to splurge in Nepal, Chitwan is the place to do it.

Courtesy: Michelle Welsch | Inside Himalayas

Chitwan’s Patihani Among 100 New Nepali Tourism Spots

More new, attractive Nepali tourism spots are coming to limelight under the Nepal Government’s ambitious plans as part of the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign.

Under the initiative, the government has promised of adding 100 new tourist destinations in a move to touch the untapped tourism potential of Nepal.

Patihani of Chitwan is one among the government’s 100 new priority tourism destinations being promoted under the Visit Nepal Year campaign.

Government is turning its promises into reality, say the locals, citing the ongoing development at the Someshwar Hill of Madi.

As the locals say, Patihani is undergoing a fast-paced transformation with the government implementing various tourism infrastructure developments in the region.

Patihani is situated in a prime location of Bharatpur Municipality. This destination for tourism was chosen to keep its natural beauty in view. Apart from several new locations for sightseeing, our diverse culture is going to give a different taste to the tourists,” says Bishnuraj Mahato, Chairperson of the Ward. No.222 of the municipality that Patihani belongs to.

Patihani

Speaking about Patihani’s potential as a tourism spot, Mahato compares it with Nepal’s renowned tourist destination Sauraha, which is known for elephant rides, jungle boating, a buffer zone of wide a variety of flora and fauna species.

“It should have happened much earlier. Sauraha has been in the eyes of the tourists for long. Patihani isn’t any less than Sauraha to mesmerize tourists,” Mahato adds.

Despite the delay, locals are happy about the recognition that Patihani is drawing now.

“Including our place within the 100 new destinations has spread the positive message among the people. Locals are quite elated. Arrival and stay of tourists in our area means our businesses will grow,” says Mahato.

Patihani – The New Tourism Spot

Major Attractions

Kamal Pokhari is one of the major tourism attractions of Patihani, which locals have been urging for due promotion since long.

“Kamal Pokhari is a mesmerizing place. We are trying to fix necessary facilities there in order to woo tourists,” said Mahato. He added that tourists do visit the place even now, but the number is not impressive. After two years, the visit-Nepal 2020 is going make it tremendously popular, adds Mahato.

According to the Operator of Jungle Villa Resort Ganesh Sharma Poudel, Kamal Pokhari is definitely a magical place that can give a thrilling experience.

Jeep Safari Patihani

“There are many other attractions for tourists. But this one is amazing. We must promote this to the optimum,” adds Poudel.

He further informed that the tourist arrivals to the area up by 25 percent last year, with many tourists loving the serenity of the environment and local culture, and a wide variety of wildlife.

“We do have all the components which are necessary to excite tourists. We are blessed to have such a serene natural beauty here. Tourists feel relaxed, charged, energized,” adds Poudel.

Chief Development Officer of Chitwan Jitendra Basnet calls Patihani a place with yet-to-be-explored rich tourism potential. He is hopeful that the region will be a great experience for tourists.

“There are many such places here, which have not been ventured. It is not just an entry point to Sauraha, but a great natural wonder itself. We are building the necessary infrastructure for tourists in the view of Visit Nepal 2020. But while doing so, we make sure that the originality of this place and its uniqueness is not messed up,” adds Basnet.

According to Basnet, there is a growing interest among investors to invest in tourism development of Patihani. Besides, many local ethnic groups and indigenous communities such as Tharu have also been expressing interest to showcase their cultures and tradition to tourists. Tharu food & culture are two of the major tourist attractions in Chitwan, besides vulture and gharial reproduction centers in Patihani.

For the Future

Coming to regional development, Patihani currently has four 3-star hotels operating with nine other hotels offering quality service at reasonable pricing. Famous Belsar and Birendranagar community jungles come under the ambit of Patihani border.

“There are other facilities being built for them. And, then they can take a round of the jungles to watch animals and birds,” Mahato adds.

As the local sources say, three new 3-star hotels and four ordinary hotels are being constructed in the region with an aim to address tourists’ concerns. Big hotels in the region contain over 300 luxury rooms, while the small ones have 150-room capacity.

“We have adopted an integrated approach. All the stakeholders have been asked for due cooperation,” Mahato adds.

It’s now an exciting time for tourists to see when Patihani will take its full form!

Sauraha

Sauraha is a village of Ratnanagar Municipality in Chitwan District and Chitwan Valley, in the Province No. 3 of southern Nepal. It is a very popular tourist destination.

Geography

The village is the eastern gateway to the nearby and large Chitwan National Park, that project is part of the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands ecoregion.

It is near the East Rapti River, and 23 km (14 mi) east of Narayangarh city.

Beginning literally like a small and quaint village of daub huts, houses, and hotels, it has grown into a small town with hotels, resorts, restaurants, internet cafes, and gift shops.

Travel

Sauraha has good road access for private-rental vehicles.

By air

Air connections to Sauraha are through Bharatpur Airport, with regular daily air services from Pokhara and Kathmandu. The airport lies just 15 kilometers to the west of Sauraha. Will need to change to a bus, a jeep or a taxi for connection to Sauraha.

By bus

Via Kathmandu — there are three types of buses available. Cheaper Birganj bound buses which will drop you at Tadi Bazaar about 4 kilometers north of Sunauli where you can easily get a local bus, taxi, rickshaws, tanga/pony carts. These second bit more expensive type is the direct tourist buses that are no more comfortable than normal intercity except they are full of tourists. A third type is more comfortable air-conditioned buses (Greenline, etc.). All buses will travel via Mugling, Narayangarh/Bharatpur, Tadi Bazaar, Sauraha; (4–5 hours trip).

Via Sunauli / Bhairahawa — on eastern bound (Birganj/Biratnagar) buses traveling through Butwal, Bharatpur, Tadi Bazaar. Change to a local bus, jeep, pony cart, or rickshaw to Sauraha (3 – 4 hours trip).

Via Pokhara — direct tourist buses are available via Mugling, Narayangarh / Bharatpur, Tadi Bazaar, Sauraha (3 – 4 hours trip).

Sightseeing

Programs | Chitwan National Park

Physical Infrastructure

The park headquarter is in Kasara. HQ holds the main administrative activities. Other administrative activities are done in its eastern sector Sauraha and in its western sector Amaltari. The park protection works have been doing by the Nepal Army. There are altogether 47 security posts, among which 16 are park staff only and 13 are Nepal Army only.

Habitat Conservation and Improvement

Grasslands

Grasslands and waterholes play key role in the management of precious wildlife of CNP. Grasslands are being converted into shrublands and forests resulting in a decrease of grassland area from 20% in 1970s to about 5% in recent years. However, the invasion of Mikania micrantha (Banmasa i.e. forest killer or mile a minute) is becoming more and more aggressive to grasslands and other ecosystems.

Grassland ecosystem is very dynamic. It is readily affected by floods, fires, grazing and manual cutting. The increase in the Saccharum spontaneum (kans) type of grassland is considered to be the highest quality habitat for wild herbivores especially the rhinoceros and the deers. It is also a major source of elephant fodder on one hand and a preferred raw material for paper pulp.

Break-up tall grass stands into patches work of tall grassland and short grassland is crucial for wildlife conservation but the work is challenging.

Khagendramalli, Chappachuli, Amrite, Padampur, Dumaria, Jarneli, Sukebhar, Bhimle, Budhirapti, Buddanagar, Kachuwani, Ghatgain/ Lamital, Devital and Khoria Mohan are the major grasslands of Chitwan Natinal Park. Lack of record of grasslands and their characteristics, and invasion of grasslands by unwanted species are the major issues in the grassland management.

The park has been adopting following practices to manage and restore these grasslands:

Regulations | Chitwan National Park

There are certain rules and regulations of the Chitwan National Park that the visitors of the park are supposed to follow in order to visit the park. The regulations of the park are outlined here below:

Facilities | Chitwan National Park

The park offers interesting sites and activities. The display at the Visitor Center at Sauraha provides fascinating information on wildlife and conservation programs. The Women’s User Group souvenir shop offers a variety of handicrafts and other local products for gifts and souvenirs.

Elephant safari provides an opportunity to get a closer view of the endangered One-horned Rhinoceros. One may also get a glimpse of the elusive Bengal tiger. The Elephant Breeding Center at Khorsor, Sauraha gives you information on domesticated elephants and the baby elephants born there.

The museum at Kasara, the park headquarters, has informative displays. Near the HQ, visitors can see Bikram Baba, a Hindu religious site of archival value. A short walk (1 km.) from the park HQ will take you to the Gharial Breeding Center, which is also home to the Marsh mugger and a number of turtles.

Inside the park, there are 7 resorts run by park concessionaires that can provide lodging and access to wildlife activities. Various resorts and lodges situated outside the park also offer a variety of services.

Biodiversity | Chitwan National Park

Habitat Types

The Chitwan valley is characterized by tropical and subtropical forests. Roughly 70 percent of park vegetative cover is Sal (Shorea robusta) forest, a moist deciduous vegetation type of the Terai region. The remaining vegetation types include grassland, riverine forest and Sal with Chir pine Pinus roxburghii. The later occurs at the top of the Churia range. The riverine forests consist of Khair (Acacia catechu), Sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo) and Simal (Bombax ceiba). The grasslands are mainly located in the floodplains of the rivers and form a diverse and complex community with over 50 different types of grasses including the elephant grass (Saccharum spp.), renowned for its immense height. It can grow up to 8 meters in height.

Species Diversity

A total of pdf 68 species of mammals, 56 species of herpetofauna and 126 species of fish have been recorded in the park. The park is especially renowned for its protection of One Horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger and Gharial Crocodile. The park harbors not only the world’s largest terrestrial mammal (wild elephant) but also the world’s smallest terrestrial mammal (pygmy shrew). A total of 544 species of birds has been recorded so far including 22 pdf globally threatened species including critically endangered Bengal Florican, Slender-billed Vulture, White-rumped Vulture, and Red-headed Vulture.

Climate | Chitwan National Park

The park has a range of climatic seasons each offering unique experience. October through February with an average temperature of 25C offers an enjoyable climate. From March to June temperatures can reach as high as 43*C. The hot humid days give way to the monsoon season that typically lasts from late June until September when rivers become flooded and most of the roads are virtually impassable. Mean annual rainfall of the park has been recorded 2150mm.

In late January, local villagers are allowed to cut thatch grasses to meet their needs, which offer a better viewing of wildlife to visitors. Also, between September and November, and February and April, migratory birds join the residential birds and create spectacular bird watching opportunities. While the monsoon rains bring lush vegetation, most trees flower in late winter. The Palash tree, known as the “flame of the forest”, and the silk cotton tree have spectacular crimson flowers that can be seen from a distance.