Dr. HARKA GURUNG
Life dedicated to mountain tourism, conservation of wildlife and environment
By LB THAPA FOR THE ROAMING POST
Dr. Harka Gurung, a proud name of the country, was a committed nature conservationist. He was considered as a leading ecologist and geographer of note. He was born in Bhulbhule, Lamjung on 5 January 1939. His enormous service to the nation at different capacities has duly put him at the highest pedestal. Dr. Gurung’s vast erudition in geography and environment is simply unsurpassable. The magnitude of work he undertook during his lifetime will remain in the memory of millions of Nepali. Dr. Gurung, a scholar of multidimensional facets, remained devoted to the service of nature conservation until he breathed his last.
He received school and college education in Kathmandu and Patna University, India. His thirst for knowledge took him as far as the U.K, where he studied geography and finally earned a doctorate degree from Edinburgh University, Scotland, in 1965. He could have better job opportunity in the U.K, but his love for the motherland drove him back to Nepal. In Nepal, Dr. Gurung joined Trichandra College in 1967 and began teaching geography. Many former students of Dr. Gurung still remember him as a teacher of immense wisdom and vast scholarship.
He played a key role to the socio-economic development of rural Nepal. He was the first scholar who advised for separating the country into five development regions so that balanced development of all parts of the country could be possible.
His extensive knowledge on Nepalese geography, history, culture and society has largely helped the country to form right policy that could augment social, geographical, cultural, and nature conservation activities in the country. His pioneer and innovative ideas stirred the country towards all round development and conservation of natural treasure of the country. Dr. Gurung, a man of academic excellence, has done several outstanding research works in the field of tourism, population, mountaineering and environment. He has also published dozens of books on regional planning, geography, demography, cartography and social science.
Dr. Harka Gurung was a member of New ERA. This is a noted research and consulting firm. He was also a research fellow of Demonstrator, Univesity of Edinburgh, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and visiting fellow of Population Institute, East West Centre, Honolulu.
Dr. Gurung was vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission from 1968-75, Minister of State for Education from 1975-78, Industry and Commerce, Tourism, Public Works and Transport. He was Director of Asia Pacific Development Centre, an inter-governmental organization based in Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia. In brief, Dr. Gurung is regarded as the Nepal’s most prominent expert on the Himalayas.
Dr. Harka Gurung’s love for Pokhara was obvious. He was always seen much worried of Pokhara’s development. This was the reason why he always accepted any invitation to attend a program in Pokhara. He was first to advise for a direct flight from major Indian cities to Pokhara. Dr. Harka Gurung had also suggested constructing an international airport in Pokhara. In various programs, Dr. Harka Gurung had advised tourism entrepreneurs to exploit cultural tourism of the Western Development Region to promote cultural tourism in the region.
Long ago Dr. Gurung had advised to open Mt. Fishtail for mountaineers. He thought climbing on Mt. Fishtail would help improving financial status of the people living around the peak. He dismissed the idea of Mt. Fishtail being sacred and holding any religious importance to Gurung community. He made it clear that Mt. Annapurna does hold religious significance to Gurung community, not Mt.Fishtail.
However, he strictly opposed the mad rush of rapid construction of concrete houses in Baidam area, which posed a grave threat to the existence of Fewa Lake. He advised not to spoil natural ambience of Begnas and Rupa lakes by constructing concrete mess. He was in favor of promoting handicraft items in Pokhara, so that it would help poor people to make a definite source of livelihood.
Dr. Harka Bahadur Gurung was a scholar of par excellence. But alas! What a tragedy struck! An ill-fated helicopter of Shri Airlines that carried Dr. Harka Gurung and other twenty-three dignitaries along with four crewmembers, crashed into the mountains of Taplejung district on 23rd September 2006 with no survivors.
Sudden death of Dr. Harka Gurung is the irreparable loss to the nation. He met an accident at a time when he was on the pinnacle of success. He was actively involved in various activities that led the country on the path of nature conservation and geographical excellence. Dr. Gurung remained active all his life for the smooth growth of tourism, besides other activities. It was his belief that merely overcrowding of visitors in few places cannot help the country to promote tourism uniformly. Thus, new areas with more incentives should be promoted. He strongly supported the view of village tourism. He was one of the passionate champions of village tourism.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER
LB Thapa is a travel blogger. He is also the author of six books. His books have been published by Nirala Publications, New Delhi, India and Himalayan Maphouse, Kathmandu, Nepal. His book, POKHARA AND ANNAPURNAS has been translated into seven foreign languages. LB Thapa’s books are available on www.amazon.com
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