Birat Anupam

Itahari, April 17 (RSS):  TMJ, an abbreviation form of Tinjure Milke Jaljale, which is referred to as 'capital of rhododendron'  owing to the availability of 28 of 32 specifies of rhododendron found in Nepal, has witnessed footfall of more than 30,000 visitors on the eve of New Nepali Year of 2079 BS. According to Chief District Officer of Tehrathum, Anoj Kumar Ghimire, who was present in-person at Basantapur bazaar which is the gateway to TMJ, there were more than 30,000 visitors from many districts of Nepal. Prakash Shrestha, the owner of Hotel Basantapur Views, seconded CDO's estimation. He said, ''In previous year, the figure was close to one lakh. This year, this was downsized to around 30,000.''

As TMJ gets promising volume of visitors during during new year celebration, stakeholders voice concerns on lack  of monetization of these traveler. ''If there were footfall of 30,000 visitors in a single day, that means one thousand rupees spent on an individual basis amounts to Rs. 30 million which is not spent on TMJ areas'', claims Binod Bhattarai, a local journalist. ''There needs to be more voluntary spending avenues for traveler on various activities as we have seen in Sikkim and Drgeeling which is akin to TMJ im terms of topography'', said Bhattarai. He added, ''just 100-percent hotel occupancy in Basantapur, Lasune, Myanglung, Chauki, Mangalbare and Guphapokhari, among others, are not enough.''  Santosh Niraula, a young traveller from Itharai to TMJ, said more human-made activities and varieties are needed to monetize TMJ zone for visitors.

''If this natural beauty is not monetized by human-made attractive touristic activities, it will have nothing to do with touristic return not only to the locals but also to the tourism entrepreneurs of the locality'', said Niraula which is also a tourism promoter of TMJ by printing TMJ-themed T-shirts . He added, ''For this, local and provincial government need to encourage both private and public investment.''

Declared in 1997 as National Rhododendron Environmental Conservation Area by Nepal's Ministry of Population and Environment, TMJ now coves 15 percent rhododendron forest area.  According to a 'Fact Sheet' of IUCN, TMJ spans over 585.26 square kilometre with an altitude variation from 1700 meter to 5000 meters. As Nepali New Year generally coincides with the flowering time of rhododendron, hundreds of people throng to places where rhododendron is bloomed in new year eve. Rhododendron is Nepal's national flower. Due to this official status, rhododendron tourism is bloomed at TMJ areas which is also home to 32 Himalayan ponds and lots of floral and fauna diversities.