Keeping Nepal Informed: The Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP)
By Victoria Schlesinger
Every year, over 450,000 tourists visit the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal. Many of these visitors are not well informed about Nepalese cultural values or how vulnerable the natural environment is to tourism. They do not realize that their actions can adversely affect the country and its people.
The Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP) aims to help minimize the negative influences of tourism by advocating and promoting “minimum impact” trekking through presentations and lectures to travelers and trekking industry professionals. These presentations sensitize visitors and Nepalese to issues of conservation and culture.
A related aim of KEEP is to further its environmental goals by encouraging visitors to support responsible trekking agencies and lodge owners. Here, the main point is to encourage visitors to contribute to organizations working for the long-term welfare of Nepal, rather than handing out, sweets and pens to begging children.
While KEEP’s original goal was to inform travelers about how they can minimize the negative effects of their tourism on Nepal, the organization also works with visitors with the Nepalese themselves.
To reach visitors in Nepal, KEEP first created the Travelers’ Information Center at its headquarters in Jyatha, Thamel, Kathmandu. In a relaxed atmosphere, visitors can get advice: practical conservation tips, trekking and mountain safety, causes of deforestation, ecotourism, and the do’s and don’ts of Nepalese society. The center also helps national and international students conduct environmental, forestry, and tourism research in Nepal.
There are slide shows about ecotourism, trekking health issues, specific trail information, and travel advice. In addition to a modest library, logbooks written by trekkers themselves provide a useful source of information. Eco-friendly trekker items and handicrafts are for sale, as are tasty refreshments in the Green Café. A practical water refill scheme helps minimize the pollution from non-returnable, non-recyclable plastic bottles.
KEEP has followed up the success of the Kathmandu Center with Visitors’ Information Centers in Salleri (Solu Khumbu), Sermathang (Langtang/ Helambu), Royal Bardia National Park, and Sikkim (India). Future plans include similar centers in the Annapurna area and in the border village of Kakarbhitta.
In the field, KEEP spreads its message to local Nepalese by offering training and courses on nature conservation, basic and intermediate English for trekking guides and lodge owners, lodge management, sanitation, first aid training, eco-trekking workshops, and courses on ecological thinking, Positive Impact Tourism and regenerative handicraft skills, among others. Recently, KEEP has become involved in programs aimed at poverty alleviation and the empowerment of women.
KEEP has made a strong effort to assist other conservation organizations in Nepal, and has provided technical support for the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee’s Travelers’ Information Centers in Namche Bazaar and Lukla. Similarly, KEEP has helped locally-based, non-governmental organizations to open travelers’ information centers at trekking trailheads in the Annapurna, Arun Valley, and Makalu regions.
How to Help
volunteering to work with KEEP, the organization accepts volunteers in a variety of capacities. Contact KEEP directly via email or stop in to the main office
You may also send contributions to KEEP to support their efforts.
Your membership in the GoNOMAD NETWORK helps support KEEP’s vital efforts to keep Nepal free from the negative impacts of tourism.
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