Magazine article New Internationalist

Porter's Plight

Magazine article New Internationalist

Porter's Plight

Article excerpt

Visitors have started returning to Nepal since King Gyanendra's violent, and unsuccessful, crackdown on his political opponents at the beginning of 2006. Forced to restore parliament and quit as head of government, the King was stripped of legal immunity. The climbdown has all but ended the country's 'eternal' Shah dynasty. With the Maoists also recently signing a peace deal and bringing to an end a 10-year civil war that claimed 15,000 lives and displaced a further 100,000, multiparty elections are being planned for the early part of 2007. The future is looking a little brighter for the Nepali people.

One of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with a third of its population living below the poverty line and dependent on subsistence agriculture, tourism has long been a key source of foreign exchange. In 1098 tourism contributed 15 per cent of the country's total foreign exchange earnings, directly or indirectly employing 257,000 people.

At 4,000 metres, Alowa Sherpa and Mingha Sherpa watched fellow porters approaching. Two of the porters carried baskets weighing 40 kilos. In the third porter's basket was a fourth porter. The sick and listless body of the young porter was being carried back to the hospital at Lukla, some three days' walk away. 'Altitude sickness.' Mingha shook his head. 'Some companies don't look after their porters,' he continued. 'They don't provide them with any training or the right clothing. If they fall sick they stop paying them and just leave them behind, because they don't pay insurance. …

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