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Nepal opens World Heritage site areas to tourists
June 15, 2015, 3:05 pm
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Less than two months after the massive earthquake struck Nepal, the government is reopening areas of its Kathmandu Unesco World Heritage sites in an effort to attract the tourist dollar back into the impoverished country.

The historic Bhaktapur Durbar Square opened to tourists on Monday for the first time since the 7.8 magnitude quake hit, Mohan Krishna Sapkota, spokesman for the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, said.

Other areas will be opened to tourists gradually, Mr. Sapkota added.

Kathmandu and the nearby districts of Bhaktapur and Lalitpur have seven areas of ancient Hindu and Buddhist monuments, collectively named a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The April 25 earthquake and the aftershocks that followed left nearly 9,000 people dead and flattened buildings.

A report  by the country’s National Planning Commission said on Saturday that Nepal needed $6.66 billion to rebuild infrastructure destroyed or damaged by the quake.

The three Durbar Squares of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan, which had been the center of three old kingdoms, and the temple complexes of Changu Narayan and Swayambhu were the most damaged among the cultural sites. Two other heritage areas in the valley, Boudhanath stupa and Pashupatinath temple, suffered only minor damage and remained open to the public after the earthquake.

In a statement last week, Unesco raised safety concerns on the reopening of the heritage site areas to tourists and general public. It said it has requested the tourism and archaeology bodies “to carefully plan the reopening process, prioritizing safety and security.”

Mr. Sapkota said that “tourists will have to take guides with them who will know about the safe routes around the monuments.”

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