Investigation committee for fake rescue operations submits 700-page report

31st Jul, 2018 | Tourism Mail Crew

KATHMANDU, July 31: The work committee that is investigating the issue of fake rescues of tourists in the Himalayan region has recommended the Nepal Police to be given the responsibility of conducting tourist rescue operations. It has also suggested for the groups involved with fake rescue operations be slapped with the case of organized crime and fraud charges.

The work committee has submitted a 700-page report regarding the issue of fake rescues that recommends that the Nepal Police be handed over the responsibility of tourist rescue as early as the coming tourist season from September-November 2018. Member Secretary of the committee and co-spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism, Prakash Sharma Dhakal, said that the Nepal Police has been recommended for the responsibility to install a one-door system for rescuing tourists that can minimize the chances of fraud.

The committee has also suggested for a toll-free number to be set up to make mountain rescues more efficient. The 700-page report has also identified a number of companies to investigate under the Revenue Leakage Act, which include 6 travel and trekking companies, 4 hospitals, and 3 helicopter companies. It has suggested a system for the Nepal Police to collect rates from helicopter companies and hospitals through the Public Procurement Act guidelines and allow for tourists to choose their own hospitals for treatment while being rescued.

The report suggests immediate set-up of system for Nepal Police to take over the rescue operations which includes producing capital from welfare funds and begin providing rescue services for minimal cost while verifying insurance. A procedure for mountaineering and trekking search and rescue will have to be formatted and passed within 15 days for this to set in place. It has also suggested for the creation of a tourist rescue cooperation office at the Tribhuvan International Airport for the duration of the tourist season which includes 3 months from September to November and another 3 from March to May. The office will have a dedicated toll free number that is connected to the Nepal Police which will gain first notice of any rescue operation, and a rescue flight will be sent off only after being authorized by the office.

Further suggestions include the determination of a fixed maximum rate for rescue helicopters by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry keeping in mind the humanitarian aspect of rescue work and the social responsibility reflected in it. The report notes that tourist rescues are conducted worldwide by non-profit organizations.

It has suggested for the implementation of a system whereby helicopter companies have to provide the details of rescue flights within 15 days of the ending of each tourist season to CAAN, and to delegate rescue organizations to the himalayan regions like Lukla and Firiche through collaboration with the Nepal Tourism Board. The details of rescued tourists' treatment has also been suggested for verification by a system where hospitals submit treatment papers to the Tourism Department.

The committee has also discovered practices where tourists are made sick by mixing harmful substances in their food, their insurance amounts verified in an organized effort, and tourists put in overloaded flights and charged individual bills. It has suggested that the parties responsible for such actions be investigated and tried under organized crime and fraud charges.

The report also talks about the negative information that has flowed into foreign media  regarding the tourism sector in Nepal as a result of these and other practices. It warns that the issue might even topple the entire industry.