High altitude porters made an appeal to both the government and the Maoist rebels to restore peace so they can earn a living. "We are not demanding much, we just want our right to work to be restored," they said at a program called "Porters' Voice for Peace in Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal".
Porters said they lost their source of livelihood because of the drop in tourism caused by the security situation. They say the number of trekkers has decreased by 28 percent compared to the same season a year ago. "Without security and peace, the tourists will not come. If they don't come, how can we earn enough to support our families?" asks Bishnu Aryal, member of Porters Development Nepal (PDN). The last six weeks have been very difficult because work is rare. As the main breadwinners for their families, the porters say they cannot afford to go home with empty pockets.
Nuru Sherpa, a member of PDN, said the conflict had threatened their future. Pasang Tamang and Nima Lama said porters are often mistreated along trekking routes by locals who refuse to even give them shelter.
The Trekking Association of Nepal has fixed daily wages between Rs 160-200 along with food and lodging, but the porters say there is no uniformity in what they get paid. In Solukhumbu porters are paid Rs 400 a day and in the Annapurna area the going rate is Rs 300 without food. The sum is pitifully inadequate when a single meal in some trekking areas costs up to Rs 250. "The rates fixed by TAAN are too low even to sustain ourselves. How would they expect us to save for our families?" asks Arjun Prasad Chatkuli, general secretary of PDN.
The lack of insurance is another pressing concern of the porters gathered in Kathmandu. They accused employers of often trying to avoid paying their life insurance. PDN says four of its members have died this year alone.