The closure of the Nepal-China border due to the Covid pandemic has affected the livelihoods of Nepali people who worked or ran businesses across the international border in Tibet.
Several people living in Nepal's Sudurpaschim province were entrepreneurs and seasonal workers across the border in Tibet.
If things had been normal, Karsang and her husband Anga Thapa of Talkot village in Bajhang district would be busy serving guests in their hotel at this time of the year, the Kathmandu Post reported.
The couple from Sudurpaschim in far western Nepal owns a hotel in Taklakot, Tibet, 30 km across the international border. Taklakot or Purang is the first city in Tibet travellers encounters after leaving Nepal. Located at an altitude of 4,755 metres, it is popular among Indian pilgrims going on the holy journey known as Kailash Manasarovar Yatra for acclimatising for one or two days.
It is also the time of the year when people from Humla used to hop across the border to Taklakot to work as seasonal labourers. They earned up to Nepali Rs 350,000 in three months.
The Kailash Manasarovar Yatra season begins in May and lasts till September. The arrival of Indian pilgrims and Nepali workers would keep hoteliers like Thapa busy for months.
"I used to make a profit of around Nepali Rs 1.5 million during the pilgrim season," The Kathmandu Post quoted Thapa as saying.
It's been nearly one and a half years since the pandemic began, and the situation has not changed. The Thapas are wondering when Taklakot will reopen.
Before COVID-19, more than 20,000 pilgrims were visiting the sacred mountain and lake during the spring season.
The Thapas are facing a financial crisis due to the prolonged closure of their hotel. "We have admitted our three children in a boarding school in Surkhet. We have to pay Nepali Rs 40,000 in school fees monthly," Anga said.
With the hotel closed, their revenues dried up; and they were forced to mortgage their house to raise cash for household expenses and school fees. "Our income is almost zero."
The closure of the border in early 2020 has affected a large number of Nepali entrepreneurs and seasonal workers from Bajhang, Humla, Dolpa, Darchula and Mugu.
Nepalis have been running hotels and selling Nepali products, wooden utensils, handicrafts, Nepali carpets, bamboo, reeds, leather and other handicraft items for many years in Taklakot.
Dan Bahadur Lama, a wooden utensil trader from Namkha Rural Municipality in Humla district, said they have a turnover of more than Nepali Rs 2 billion annually, The Kathmandu Post reported.
"The government has ignored this border point despite being linked to the livelihoods of many people in the five districts," said Yogesh Bohara of Chhangru, Darchula, who has been trading curio goods in Taklakot.
He said that a diplomatic initiative should be launched to reopen the border soon. "If the border is not reopened this year too, many people will be ruined," he said.
Meanwhile, the country has witnessed 277,768 total cases of coronavirus infection and 3,032 COVID-19 fatalities.
( With inputs from ANI )
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