Saturday, July 19, 2014

Swiss Experience and Lessons for Nepal

After obtaining independence from colonial rule, most developing countries embarked on a single-focus programme of road building and have continued such programmes today without considering better options and more economic alternatives. Switzerland, on the other hand, modernised its transportation system using a mix of railways, roads and ropeways. Its balanced policy fostered the development of a judicious blend of transport technologies suitable to specific areas in the Swiss Alps and meeting economic requirements. With government support a robust ropeway industry flourished.
In rugged mountainous terrain, the advantages of ropeways over other means of transport are many. First, they are much cheaper to build, operate and maintain than roads. In addition, they cause negligible harm to the environment. They need much less space than motorable roads and there is no need for parking places. In fact, except for the foundations and supporting steel towers, ropeways do not require much construction work on the ground at all. Since very little earth is moved, mountain slopes are not destabilised as they are when road alignments are excavated. While roads are ugly gashes cut into mountain slopes, ropeways do not mar nature’s beauty. Ropeways, unlike hill roads, do not trigger landslides, nor are they as vulnerable to floods and cloudbursts. They have no expensive bridges to be periodically rebuilt after they are washed away. Because they can be powered by hydroelectricity—a resource abundant in the mountains if a government promotes local investment in decentralised hydropower plants—ropeways do not pollute the air as motor vehicles do. And, critically important for tourism, ropeways are silent.
The Swiss Alps have historically been a formidable barrier to transport. The building of trails across the mountains to facilitate the transport of pack animals started in the 13th century, when Swiss democracy began, although some trails must have existed much earlier, in Roman times. Hannibal, for example, on his way to conquer Rome from the north, started from Carthage and reached the Alps via Gibraltar. His army and elephants crossed three high mountain passes in what is today Switzerland. In the 18th century some of the ancient transit routes, including the famous Gotthard Horse Coach Road, used by horse-drawn passenger coaches were upgraded to roads. These primitive roads were improved to motorable standards only at the beginning of the 20th century. Even then, the government of the Canton of Grison thought motorcars were too noisy, too dangerous and too polluting and banned them until 1926. At that time, road construction and maintenance was basically the decentralised responsibility of Swiss cantons and municipalities.
It was only in the 1960s, when Switzerland decided to construct a modern national highway system, that the federal government became involved in road building in more ways than just paying subsidies. Among other activities, it set nation¬wide standards and specifications, passed laws and regulations to ensure the compatibility of road plans with environmental concerns, issued tenders for private construction companies to do the work and checked the quality and standard of the results. Since then, the federal government has covered up to 90 per cent of the cost of constructing highways, while respective cantons pay the rest. Funding for the national highway system is generated through a special tax on the retail price of gasoline and diesel amounting to over half of that price. From 1961 till 2001 Switzerland spent
60.445 billion Swiss francs (US$ 43.175 billion at today’s rate of 1.39 SFr to one US$) to build, maintain and operate a highway grid of 1,673 kilometres; the cost per kilometre was roughly US$ 25.8 million. As of 2001, Switzerland had also built 51,357 kilometres of village roads and 18,115 kilometres of urban roads at the respective costs of US$ 0.36 and US$ 1.2 million per kilometre. Switzerland’s road system is probably the densest of any mountain country in the world. Its achievement is the result of full decentralisation and of participation by authorities as well as people at all levels.
Railway construction began in the mid-19th century at the initiative of several private enterprises. In 1847 the Spanisch Brotli Bahn, the first railway in Switzerland, started running from Zurich to Baden. The name derived from the high society of Zurich, for whom the train brought sweets from a well-known bakery in Baden on Sundays. Another important railway of the Gotthard was built in 1869. The total length of track in 1855 was just 210 kilometres, but it was extended to 17,727 kilometres in just 15 years. The Vitznau-Rigi train, the first mountain railway in Europe, was opened in 1871. The Pilatus Railway, which runs from Alpnachstad—a town readily accessible from Lucerne by boat, train or road—to Pilatus Kulm at an elevation of 1,838 metres was opened in 1889. It used steam engines, at first, then converted to electricity in 1937 because the cogwheel system used before that was unable to provide protection against slippage at the extreme gradient of nearly 1:2. Because of the steep angle of carriage, a special system with a vertical toothed gearwheel, together with a transverse boiler for the engine, was devised. Reaching a maximum gradient of 48 per cent, the Pilatus is still the steepest rack railway in the world.
Construction of the Jungfrau-Bahn, whose designation is Jungfraujoch, started in 1896 and was completed in 1912. Attaining a height of 3,300 metres, it is the highest railway in Europe. Most of the line (where the steepest gradient is 1:4) employs a rack system with overhead trolleys, but there is also a short section (of gradient 1:14) which uses an ordinary or adhesive system. A connection between Weggis and Rigi was opened in 1968. To complement these private endeavours, Swiss Federal Railways, SBB, was established in 1902. In order to expand train services to remote and poor areas, SSB merged several major Swiss railway systems which had been nationalised in 1897. These routes produced little or no profit for the private sector and needed cross-subsidisation through government intervention. All tourist railways, as well as some smaller lines and mountain railways, have remained private.
The drive for railway construction reached its peak in 1882, when the Gotthard Transit Route was built through the Alps. This 19-kilometre-long tunnel was the longest in the world until the recent opening of the Channel Tunnel between France and England. It was a masterpiece of tunnel engineering, which used labour-intensive construction techniques rather than the drilling rigs and other heavy equipment available at that time. Furthermore, the alignment of the Gotthard Railway, with its several loops and tunnels on both sides of the Gotthard River was extraordinarily farsighted. The same alignment is still in use today and allows trains of up to 800 tonnes—the heaviest in the world—to be towed by the most powerful electric locomotives in the world at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour. The line climbs from 400 metres at Erstfeld to 1100 metres at the entrance of the tunnel at Goschenen and then descends to 200 metres on the southern side.
For access to the most rugged and remote mountain areas, however, the construction of railways and roads proved to be too difficult and costly. Ropeways, it turned out, were a cheaper and more convenient alternative. They were to play a very important role even before steam and combustion engines were invented or electric power was made available. Motorcars did not ply Switzerland’s roads until the 1920s and the boom in road building began only after the end of the Second World War. In contrast, the first boom in ropeways establishment in Switzerland took place in the 19th century; these ropeway routes have only partly been replaced by motorable roads and, in the last few decades, by helicopters. When the potential of Switzerland for tourism was discovered in the middle of the 19th century, ropeways of all kinds and sizes enjoyed an unparalleled boom.
Ropeway systems exist in different parts of the world and different definitions are found in many different languages. In order to clarify terminology and to prevent misinterpretation or misunderstanding, the definitions in use in Switzerland are elucidated below. There are two main types of ropeway systems:
1. Cable cars, and
2. Aerial ropeways, which, in turn, are further classified into two types:

a. Circulating mono-rope aerial ropeways, each with a single endless steel rope which carries and drives loads at the same time.
b. Commuting bi-rope aerial ropeways with one strong steel rope for carrying loads and a second one for providing traction on loads.

Cable cars: These are essentially railway cars that are towed along a rail track on the ground using a steel cable which is powered at a hill station. A car is attached to each end of the cable, and both cars run simultaneously, one up and the other down, crossing each other halfway in between. Simple cable cars have been built in considerable number, not only in tourist areas but also in towns situated in hilly areas. In Lausanne, for example, cable cars carry passengers from the harbour on the lake to the centre of the town, and, in Zurich, from the city centre up to the university quarters. In St. Gallen, a cable car which was run by gravity once operated from the city centre to the elevated parts of the town. Making use of the country’s abundant water resources, cars were equipped with tanks which could be filled with water from a nearby brook to make the downhill run. The tide of electrification that swept across Switzerland after 1930 eliminated steam traction from the mountains. Electric motors replaced steam locomotives and gravity because it took too long to fill up tanks and because the passenger carrying capacity had to be increased.
The basic engineering advantage of cable cars on steep terrain is that, unlike roads, which need a long serpentine gradient, tracks can be built straight from the valley bottom to the hilltop. Simple cable cars are by no means obsolete. While it is true that new cable cars are not being built due to the prohibitively high cost of right-of-way clearance, which requires the demolition of existing buildings, very old cable cars are being renewed and upgraded in modern Swiss towns. It is unthinkable to many Swiss people that roads will replace city cable cars.
Aerial ropeways: Aerial ropeways, or sky rails, transport goods and passengers suspended on steel ropes through the air. Six kinds of aerial ropeways are in use in Switzerland:
1 Gravity-driven, one-way, mono-rope aerial ropeways: These have only one carrying steel rope, which stretches in a single span from an elevated point down to the terminal. There is no pulling rope since gravity acts as the driving force. These ropeways do not have any brakes. These are the simplest and most primitive ropeways and can obviously be used only for downhill cargo transport. Local farmers built them to transport timber and bales of hay. Government permission is not needed to build one though the Swiss Federal Flight Security Office (SFFSO) has to be informed.
2 Commuting two-way, bi-rope aerial ropeways: These ropeways have a strong steel track rope and a separate traction rope. In this system, tanks are filled with water to artificially increase the force of gravity for the downhill run and then are emptied for the uphill run. The difference in the weights of the two ends of the steel rope lifts the cargo upwards. Many of these systems have now been upgraded and electric motors or combustion engines have been added as power sources.
3 Circulating, mono-rope, open-air, multi-seater aerial ropeways (chair lifts): This third type of aerial ropeway has chairs or benches with up to four seats, each suspended on a steel rope driven in a loop. The chairs, which are fastened to the rope using a gripping mechanism, may be independently disconnected from the rope and transferred to a separate suspended rail at terminal points for embarking and disembarking. A ride in such an open-air chair lift is a fascinating experience for lovers of nature; it is a smooth and totally silent gliding over a landscape of forests, jungles, rivers, villages, pastureland and rocks. The panoramic view that unfolds as one gains altitude is overwhelmingly spectacular.
4 Circulating, mono-rope, mini-cabin aerial ropeways: These ropeways are a further development of open-air chair lifts; they provide seats for four to six passengers per cabin. The mini cabins are detachable from the main carrying¬cum-driving steel rope and come to an almost complete standstill to make it easy for passengers to get on and off. While an open-air ride is an unmatched delight, mini-cabins are very convenient in winter, in generally cold climates or at higher altitudes.
5 Mono-cable tow-lifts, or ground ski lifts: These are driven by a continuous steel rope mounted on two large driving wheels with vertical axes, one at the

bottom and the other at the top station of the ski lift. The wheel at the bottom station is powered by electric motors. Skiers standing their own skis hold onto small individual steel ropes fixed to the main rope and are towed upward. Tow-lifts fall between cable cars, in which the load carried is dragged along the ground, and aerial ropeways, in which the load is suspended on cables in the air. If the distance between the lower and the upper terminal is too long, small towers between the main terminal stations support the driving steel rope. With this simple system, skiers can enjoy sliding downhill without tiring themselves by trudging up slopes. Small loads can also be suspended on the driving steel rope and transported up or downhill. Because simple tow lifts are often uncomfortable and have limited capacity, they are gradually being replaced by open-air chair lifts, which have the additional advantage of being usable in the summer.
6. Commuting bi-rope, large-cabin aerial ropeways: These differ from mini-cabin ropeways in that, instead of a continuous rope, they have a strong steel carrying rope and a separate steel driving rope with one large cabin at each end. One cabin is pulled uphill as the other one moves simultaneously downhill, thereby getting gravity to do part of the work of pulling the load uphill. The cabins used are very large—the size of a city bus. The largest one in use in the Swiss Alps is the ropeway from Zermat to the summit of Rothorn Mountain. Each cabin can hold 150 passengers.
Swiss aerial ropeways have two different purposes: to provide access to remote mountain villages and high pastureland and to foster tourism. Tourist ropeways have much higher capacities and stricter safety regulations than village ropeways. They also have to be licensed by the Swiss federal government or, if they are small, by the canton or municipality in which they are located. The SFFSO enters all ropeways, even the smallest village one, on a topographical cadastral map, which is distributed to all pilots flying in or over Switzerland (Table 1.1). This is because ropeways, if undetected, can be a great hazard for aircraft and helicopters.

* Some of these are licensed for tourism too.
The building of these six types of ropeways in Switzerland started in the 19th century. The early ones were very simple and small, built (except for the steel rope) by local village blacksmiths and other craftsmen. The simplest ropeway was used to transport hay from mountain pastures down to villages so that there would be a stock of animal feed during the winter. These simple ropeways had neither engines nor brakes. The cargo was just suspended on a wheel and the load sped down to the valley, where it stopped at the end of the rope when it hit a bale of hay. Thousands of such very primitive ropeways have been used all over the hills of Switzerland.
The next stage was building simple, two-way ropeways for transporting cargo both uphill and downhill. Simple combustion engines, frequently those of old motorcars, powered these systems, which served primarily to transport cheese produced in mountain pastures during the summer down to villages and roads for marketing. Hundreds of ropeways were used in forests to bring timber down to roads; even today, modern mobile ropeway units serve the same purpose. Improved ropeways also increasingly served to transport passengers. For a long time, ropeways were the only connection between many villages and summer settlements and lowlands and valley roads. Temporary ropeways are used to protect construction works situated on steep mountain slopes above the tree line against avalanches. In the second half of the 20th century, temporary ropeways of all sizes were used while constructing hydroelectric dams and barrages. Some of them have survived and are used today to transport tourists. The oldest aerial ropeway still in operation in Switzerland today dates to 1917.
Building feeder ropeways to gain access to remote mountain villages is by no means an obsolete transport policy. As late as the period between 1991 and 1995, fourteen new ropeways were built in Switzerland, an achievement which suggests that building difficult feeder roads to remote mountain villages is by no means the only or even the most appropriate solution to meeting the need for mountain transport. In addition to building new ropeways, old ones have been upgraded with devices that increase their safety and capacity. Of the 70 ropeways that had been constructed by 1959, fifty were upgraded after twenty to thirty years of operation. Out of the 126 ropeways that were built between 1960 and 1980, twenty-five were upgraded. An additional nineteen ropeways were upgraded between 1990 and 1995.
Even today in a country as rich as Switzerland feeder ropeways are an important means of accessing poor villages in backward cantons. Table 1.2 shows that the four poorest mountain cantons of Switzerland have the largest number of feeder ropeways per inhabitant, or inversely, the fewest inhabitants per ropeway. In contrast, the rich canton of Zurich has just one feeder ropeway for its population of over a million people.
Ropeway density in the Ticino/Maggia Valley
 H ghway Ra way R peway/Cab e ar R ver Lake

In the canton of Ticino, many small feeder ropeways operate along the Gotthard Route,
which is the main highway through the Alps connecting northern and southern Europe
(Figure 1.1).

One important institution whose skills and institutional capacity regarding the use of ropeways for emergency are highly developed is the Swiss Army, which keeps a large number of mobile aerial cargo ropeways of different lengths and capacities in stock. One of them was brought to Nepal and installed in the village of Barpak in Gorkha District (see chapters 9 and 10). Setting it up took Nepalis about four months but professionals in the Swiss Army could have installed this 300 kilogramme cargo ropeway within 19 hours. Despite such well-maintained governmental capability, ropeways in Switzerland are primarily a private sector enterprise. Tourism did trigger a boom in the construction of mountain railways, cogwheel trains, tow-lifts, open-seat ropeways, mini-cabin ropeways and high-capacity ropeways, but all these were initiated, planned, financed and run entirely by private enterprises.
Hundreds of mountains in Switzerland with beautiful panoramic views are accessible by aerial ropeways and cogwheel railways which were put in place in the 19th and the early decades of the 20th centuries. As of 1995, the Swiss federal government had licensed 567 major tourist aerial ropeways in addition to the numerous cogwheel railways and cable cars. Roughly twenty per cent (or 120) of these tourist ropeways are in the canton of Grisons, which is called the ‘vacation corner of Switzerland’. Since Grisons covers an area of 7,100 square kilometres and has a local population of 185,000, there is one major tourist ropeway for every 59 square kilometres and every 1,541 inhabitants.
In 1847, the 1,800-metre Rigi Mountain in Central Switzerland, famous for its panoramic view, was opened from the northern side with the first cogwheel railway in the world. Following its success, a second cogwheel railway was built in 1871 from the south, starting in Vitznau (436 metres) on the bank of Lake Lucerne. In 1868, the first ropeway from Weggis was built on the same lake. Hotels were built on the top of Rigi Mountain, whose reputation as the most beautiful location for mountain resorts in the world is due not only to the extraordinarily beautiful panoramic view but also to the fact that there are no access roads and consequently no motorcars, no noise and no pollution (Table 1.3). In 1937, electric trains replaced steam engines, but when marketing experts recently discovered the potential value of nostalgia, the old steam engine of 1847 was taken out of the National Transport Museum in Lucerne,

� Large cabin aerial ropeway in Central Switzerland. View from Mt. Stanserhorn over the lake of Lucerne.

 ��har H ghway

 Ma  ra Ra way
restored and, in 1977, put into service for tourist excursions with great success. In that first year alone, with only 150 days of operation, it transported over 45 thousand tourists to the top of Rigi Mountain. The maximum daily visits using the two cogwheel railways and the aerial ropeway together amounted to not less than 5,000 passengers.
Another pioneering effort was the construction of a cogwheel from the town of Interlaken (566 metres) to Jungfraujoch (3,454 metres). To do so, a tunnel had to be built through the northern face of the famous Eiger Mountain up to the glacier plateau. From this point one gets a thrilling view of the high mountains of the Bernese Overland as well as of the 40-kilometre-long Aletsch Glacier, the longest in the Alps. On peak days, there can be up to 8,000 visitors. In the jubilee year, 23,000 people used the system of Jungfrau in one day (Table 1.4).

The 27-kilometre-long and 18-kilometre-wide Lucerne Lake in the historic heart of Switzerland is one of the main tourist areas in the country. It has developed into the densest tourist area because none of the surrounding mountains and hill resorts has been opened up using roads. The Lucerne area is comparable in size to the Kathmandu Valley, which is about 25 kilometres from Sanga in the east to Thankot in the west, and about 27 kilometres from Shivapuri in the north to Phulchoki or Chandragiri in the south. Its population, however, is much smaller. Lucerne is home to just 600,000 people, while Kathmandu City has over one-and-a-half million and the whole valley is home to approximately two million people. Another difference is that though cogwheel railways, cable cars and major aerial ropeways have opened five mountains and three hill resorts around Lucerne (Figure 1.2), the Kathmandu Valley has no such transport technology. These eight destinations are briefly described below.
  Mt. Pilatus (2,121 metres): The steepest cogwheel railway in the world (with a gradient of 48 per cent) was built in 1889 from Alpnach (436 metres) on the southern side. In 1954, an aerial ropeway with four-seater cabins was installed from Kriens, a village near the town of Lucerne, to Frankmüntegg. The connection between Frankmüntegg and Pilatus was opened in 1956.
  Burgenstock (1,128 metres): One 874-metre-long cable car and one vertical lift to the top of a perpendicular rockwall have been built.
  Stanserhorn (1,898 metres) is served by one cable car in two sections.
  Klewenalp (1,593 metres) has one aerial ropeway.
  Seelisberg (766 metres) has one cable car.
  Stoos (1,275 metres) has one cable cars and one aerial ropeway.
  Fronalpstock (1,922 metres) has one aerial ropeway.
  Rigi Mountain (1,800 metres): This, the most famous mountain in Switzerland, has no access by road but is served by two cogwheel railways and one aerial ropeway, which starts at 400 metres and goes right to the top.

In the area surrounding St. Moritz (1,800 metres) in Grisons, which is the top alpine vacation centre for the international jet set, five famous mountains were opened with cable cars and aerial ropeways. There is no access by road. Zermatt (1,616 metres) and the Matterhorn (4,478 metres), a fashionable hill vacation and mountain sports centre respectively, are not accessible by road either. A cogwheel railway provides access to the Gornergrat (3,132 metres) and an aerial ropeway takes passengers from there up to the Stockhorn (3,532 metres). The highest ropeway in the Alps carries tourists from Zermatt to the little Matterhorn (3,884 metres).
There are nine major hill resorts in Switzerland which have either no access by road or do not allow motorcars to enter (Table 1.6). Cable cars provide the only access
TABLE 1.6 Fashionable hill resorts without road connections

to these tourist centres of international repute. Together they have 53,230 beds, almost five times as many as the 11,661 beds in the Kathmandu Valley. Most other reputed tourist centres try to curb private motor traffic as much as possible either by building parking spaces in the periphery and running public bus services free of cost or by prohibiting driving at night. Some tourist areas close to villages use barriers which residents alone can open electronically with a code.
Not in terms of the spirit of its people but certainly in terms of its market economy, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. For marginalised hill people in areas difficult to access, simple feeder ropeways seem to be an appropriate means of establishing connections. They are appropriate both technically due to their low maintenance costs and environmentally due to their low vulnerability to landslides and floods. Building ropeways to access remote mountain villages is by no means a backward transport policy for Nepal, as the example of mountainous and land-locked Switzerland has shown. Feeder ropeways are a highly economical alternative; they are not meant to displace feeder roads but to complement them. At the same time, ropeways should not be seen as just a continuation of feeder roads; they should be pursued as an independent component of a mountain-friendly transport policy in inaccessible remote areas as well as in prospective sites for tourist resorts.
Nepal had a successful early start in ropeway building. In 1922, Maharaja Chandra Shamsher started building a 22-kilometre-long cargo ropeway from Dhorshing over the Chisapanigarhi and Chandragiri hills and passing into the Kathmandu Valley.* This deed was every bit as farsighted as the pioneering construction of the Gotthard Railway and its tunnel 150 years ago in Switzerland. In 1964, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) rightly replaced and extended the old ropeway by a new 42-kilometre-long system from Hetauda. It followed the alignment of the old one, yet had a higher capacity (equivalent to 24 truckloads during its daily operation of eight hours). Institutional problems prevented it from operating at full capacity despite the fact that transporting cargo by ropeway cost half of what using trucks on the Tribhuban Highway did.
With the introduction of foreign development aid to Nepal, policy changed. In early Five-Year Plans, road construction enjoyed high priority. The World Bank and bilateral donors assisted successive governments in their road-building programmes. The theory at that time, which was espoused by the World Bank, was that roads are
* The ropeway, whose construction began in 1922, came into full-fledged operation in 1927 (also see Chapter 5). In 1924, a four-kilometre ropeway from Halchok to Lainchaur was also built.
the backbone of development. The assumption was that development in other areas would automatically follow road construction. This was, of course, a false assumption, like another theory widely propagated by the World Bank, that aid to central governments would trickle-down to poor villages. For some time the World Bank seemed to have learned from its mistakes. In its ‘Nepal Country Report of 1976’, the Bank wrote that the construction and maintenance of roads in a rugged mountainous country was too costly and other means of transport should be found. Today, however, all the early lessons seem to have been forgotten: road building is booming despite the extremely high cost of maintenance and the damage they cause to fragile mountain environment.
Ropeways have played an important role in Switzerland for over a century. Nepal could learn much not only from its example but also from the examples of other mountain-blessed countries that have promoted the development of ropeways, especially simple freight ropeways, which are by no means the monopoly of Switzerland. In Bangladesh, a Swiss firm had, as of 1997, opened fifty remote villages in the hill district of Chitagong with not less than 60 simple ropeways. In Australia, a World Heritage nature reserve has been opened by a ropeway that crosses very scenic coral reefs, tropical forests, and mountains to end, after a 7.5-kilometre journey, at a fashionable hill resort which has no access road. Malaysia also has a number of scenic tourist ropeways to reach resort centres on mountain tops that are not served by access roads. On all continents, fruit plantations, mining enterprises and many other industries use a great number of ropeways to transport goods.
The development of transport in Nepal has been quite different: major highways are built and even repaired by foreign contractors. If national contractors are involved, they are mostly Kathmandu-based. Even to construct remote feeder roads in the districts, central agencies such as the Department of Roads (DoR) or the Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agricultural Roads (DoLIDAR) are involved. It is not local governments but contractors from Kathmandu that benefit. An excellent model of involving local people and authorities in the construction of environmentally friendly roads was, however, developed in the 1980s in Nepal: green roads. These roads, which were first implemented in the Tinau Watershed (later Palpa Development) Project and then in the Dhading District Development Project, operate on the principle of ‘food-for-work’ or income generating activities for self-organised rural groups. They not only make remote rural areas accessible, but also help alleviate poverty.
Despite the success of green roads, they are not the complete answer to transportation problems in the hills of the Himalaya. Given the formidable challenge of seeing that these roads do not deteriorate after a short time (rendering driving through the desecrated scenic beauty a painful experience and resulting in a public relations disaster for tourism promotion), green roads need to be complemented with an active programme of ropeway building.
Nepal has great potential for opening up its poor hinterlands to international tourists, yet roads are the only way with which mountains have been opened to seekers of a unique panoramic view. Nagarkot, Phulchoki, Hattiban and Shivapuri in the Kathmandu Valley as well as Sarangkot and Naudanda near Pokhara are all accessible by road only. The roads are in notoriously bad shape, parking places are few and tourists are engulfed by clouds of dust and polluted air. The construction of roads without attention to protecting the environment ruins beautiful scenery. If Nepal had hired experts in destroying unique tourist sites and mountain scenes, they could not have done better.
Ropeways for tourists are not just a means to get from one place to another. Nor, for that matter is a road, but a gentle ride to the top of the mountains in a comfortable cabin or open chairs is a unique thrill. A ropeway carrier glides as slowly and gently as a helicopter but without the ear-splitting noise. Travelling on ropeways would be still more thrilling when Kathmandu is covered with dense fog and even aircrafts are not allowed to take-off. Rising smoothly out of and above the fog and smog, the ride would offer a breathtaking experience and a panoramic view of the Himalayan mountains.
In the Kathmandu Valley, aerial ropeways could start at the outskirts of town, at the Ring Road encircling Kathmandu. The annoying drive on bad roads with their dust and traffic congestion could be avoided and tourists could glide over picturesque villages and beautiful rice fields where hardworking yet content farmers work. These ropeways could also promote treks of one or two days in the beautiful hills around the outer rim of the Kathmandu Valley. The great potential for establishing hotels in the Kathmandu Valley has so far been unexploited, but Nepal, like Switzerland, has spectacular aerial ropeway rides to offer.
The most incredible ride in the Alps is that on an aerial ropeway on Mont Blanc, France, whose awe-inspiring scenery certainly rivals that in Nepal. The 34-kilometre ropeway crosses the whole Mont Blanc range, which has the highest peak in the Alps (4,807 metres). The ropeway starts from Chamonix (1,100 metres) and proceeds via Aiguille du Midi (3,842 metres) over the Glacier de Geant and the Col du Geant (3,171 metres) into the Italian mountain resort of Entreves (1,306 metres). If Thak Khola were opened section-wise by a similar ropeway, the glide from Pokhara over Ghorepani, with its beautiful Gurung villages, down to Tatopani and on through the world’s deepest gorge to Jomsom with peaks on either side, would be simply overwhelming. No other country in the world can offer the unique experience of silently gliding over the 8000-metre-high range of the Himalaya. Trekkers could to choose to ride on the ropeway across the steepest and most tiresome sections of the trek, while trekking along other portions. This would allow them much more flexibility in making choices about the length, duration and stress of a trek.

Source: Ropeway in Nepal, NWCF