Tragedy in Kanchenjunga

The gloomy eyes and nervousness. The realisation of great loss. Again, the WWF Nepal people had feeling of responsibility. They were visiting the families of the deceased ones after the confirmation of the news.

A friend who works there saw me in the office premises when I was about to return the visitor-card. She came to me and said she was busy. I knew that they (she and her colleagues) were about to go outside. Earlier, I had seen her in the Field Room – she was attending a meeting there–but felt inappropriate to call her.

Though the news regarding the finding of the wreckage of the helicopter and confirmation that there was no survivor had already come to the electronic media, the WWF would have felt that there was a moral obligation left on their part: to officially inform the victims’ families about the loss besides condoling them.

Among people working in conservation sector, diplomatic agencies and bureaucrats who visited the WWF, one thing was common: their eyes were felt with tear.
At first, when I entered the documentation room I saw a girl soaking her tear with tissue paper. She may be a WWR staffer or may be a relative of one of the victims… After some time, the room was thronged with visitors.

I did not talk to anybody there except Naveen for some instances. Because the surrounding was very dismal… However, when new visitors would come, Sabita (Dr. Sabita Thapa) used to tell them whatever information she had.

For about 90 minutes she was denying to confirm the news. She said that unless Ghanashyam Gurung, one of the members of the WWF search team, confirms the news (regarding finding of the dead bodies), the WWF would not say anything officially.

However, later she said started talking about the collection of corpses. It then was sure that there were no survivors.

Later, from the Annapurna Rajkumar Dikpal (reporter), and Dhruva Ale (photojournalist) came. They were the only persons I knew two-way. They had come there to get some more information and profile of the WWF big shots.

Dr. Sabita showed reluctance to talk to the journalists. She said the press release as well as the profile of the dignitaries killed in the chopper crash would be published in the WWF site.
I wanted to take photographs there. But I could not venture. Once I asked Naveen whether to take out the camera.. He gestured not to. Yes, it would be inappropriate to take snaps there…
Anyways, this helicopter accident that killed 24 people from different runs of life has caused a loss to the conservation sector in Nepal. Political leader, bureaucrats, technocrats, businessman and scholars were killed in the accident. A colossal loss that has created a giant void that cannot be fulfilled in small time.

My commiseration to the family members of the victims and the organisations that lost their employees.

Prayer for the peace of the souls!


One comment on “Tragedy in Kanchenjunga

  1. Biographies of the deceased persons


    Dr. Harka Gurung

    First tourism minister of Nepal, Dr. Harka Gurung is known for his contribution in promotion of mountain tourism, conservation of wildlife and environment. Born in the western district of Lamjung, he did his B.A (honours) from Patna College in Patna, India; Post Graduate Diploma in Geography and PhD from the University of Edinburgh, UK. He was associated with New ERA, a renowned research and consulting firm. His academic assignments include Demonstrator, University of Edinburgh, Research Fellow, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Lecturer Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu and Visiting Fellow, Population Institute, East West Centre, Honolulu.

    He served the then His Majesty’s Government of Nepal at different times as member and vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission (1968-75), Minister of State for Education (1975-78), Industry and Commerce, Tourism, Public Works and Transport. He was Director of Asia Pacific Development Centre, an inter-governmental organisation based in Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia. Dr Gurung is regarded as the Nepal’s most prominent expert on the Himalayas. He was the leader of the government committee formed to provide names to mountain peaks in the late 1970s.

    Dr. Gurung has to his credit a number of books and articles including Pokhara Valley: A Geographical Survey, Vignettes of Nepal and Annapurna to Dhaulagiri: A Decade of Mountaineering in Nepal Himalayas – 1950-960

    He was also the chief advisor to Nepal Maintaining Association.

    Dr. Chandra Prasad Gurung

    Dr. Chandra Prasad Gurung, who hailed from Sikles Village in Kaski district, was the country representative of the WWF Nepal since 1999. His expertise includes eco-tourism, sustainable development, integrated conservation and development, and protected area management. With M.Sc. degree in Rural Development Planning from the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand, Dr. Gurung completed his Ph.D. on Medical Geography from the University of Hawaii in 1988. He, along with two other colleagues, designed and implemented the first successful community-based integrated conservation and development project, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP)­­ regarded worldwide as one of the successful protected areas in its ability to integrate conservation with sustainable rural development and to promote eco-tourism. Recently, as the CR of WWF, he had been instrumental in implementing the first landscape level conservation program – the Tarai Arc Landscape in Nepal.

    He visited Europe and then the US in 1974 as part of his topography studies tour.

    He also served as the Member Secretary of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, and as Visiting Professor at the IUCN, an international conversation organisation. Dr. Gurung received the Order of the Golden Ark Award in 1993 from Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. He was also decorated in the same year with the Gorkha Dhaksin Bhahu by His Majesty’s Government of Nepal.

    Dr Tirth Man Maskey

    Former Director General of the Department of national park and Wildlife Conservation, Dr. Tirtha Man Maskey was a well-known personality in the conservation field in Nepal. Maskey started off as a warden of the Royal Chitwan National Park in 1972. He completed his Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan in 1978 on Wildlife Management. He did his PhD in 1979 from University of Florida on Wildlife and Range Management specializing in Gharial Conservation. Along with receiving medals in Nepal, he also received Award from Netherlands ‘s Prince Bernhard – the Order of Golden Ark. He has visited national parks and wildlife reserves extensively.

    Mingma Norbu Sherpa

    Currently working in Washington DC as Director of Conservation, WWF’s Asia and Pacific Programs, Mingma Norbu Sherpa was a conservationist well acquainted with Nepal’s conservation sector.

    Born in 1955 in the Sherpa village of Khunde, in the Everest region, Mingma was one of the first students to have graduated from the Hillary Khumjung School – the first of many schools developed for Sherpa children with the assistance of Sir Edmund Hillary, famed conqueror of Mt Everest. With further support from the Hillary Foundation, Mingma went on to receive a diploma in Parks and Recreation from Lincoln College, University of Canterbury in New Zealand in 1980 and a Masters degree in Natural Resources Management from the University of Manitoba in 1985.

    Between his studies abroad, Mingma returned to Nepal and worked as a park warden for Sagarmatha National Park, home to Mt Everest. He was the first Sherpa to have served as Warden of Sagarmatha after Sir Edmund Hillary helped establish the park in 1976.

    When he returned again to Nepal in 1985, Mingma remained actively involved in the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), initially as a principle investigator for the feasibility study of the Annapurna area, and later as the director of the project itself. Mingma held this position for three years prior to joining WWF as the director of the Himalayan program for WWF’s Nepal, Bhutan and Himalayan Program. In this capacity, Mingma was responsible for the development and oversight for a variety of projects, including ACAP, as well as the management of Shey Phoksundo National Park in Nepal and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.

    Next, Mingma went on to become the country representative of WWF’s Bhutan and Nepal Program for the six years prior to his move to the United States in 1998. Mingma has also been awarded the Order of the Golden Ark Award from His Royal Highness Prince Bernard of the Netherlands for his conservation achievement in the Himalayas. He also received Gorkha Dhaksin Bhahu from His Majesty the King for his conservation works.

    Gopal Rai

    Gopal Rai was the state minister for Forest and Soil Conservation in the government formed after the restoration of democracy on April this year. He was a Nepali Congress MP from Okhaldhunga and one of the active leaders of the NC from the district.

    Mina Rai

    Wife of minister Rai.

    Dr Damodar Prasad Parajuli

    Dr Damodar Prasad Parajuli was the acting secretary of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation. Parajuli had completed his Master’s Degree from Australia and did his PhD in Botany from India. He was the senior most among the current joint secretaries. He had also worked in the capacity of Director General of the Department of Forest.

    Narayan Prasad Poudel

    Narayan Prasad Poudel, the Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, had joined the government job some 30 years ago. He did his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in botany from the USA. He was one of the key persons for the establishment of Makalu-Barun National Park. He was promoted to DG about six months ago.

    Sarad Kumar Rai

    Sarad Kumar Rai, the Director General of the Department of Forest, had joined the government job about 30 years ago and served most of his time as the district forest officer. He had completed his Master’s Degree from Australia.

    Dr Bigyan Acharya

    Acharya was the programme officer of the USAID in Nepal since last five years. Earlier he worked as district forest officer and monitoring division under the forest ministry. He had completed \ Master’s Degree and PhD in biodiversity from Netherlands.

    Bijaya Shrestha, the central committee member of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI).

    Hem Raj Bhandari and Sunil Singh, journalists associated with state-owned Nepal Television

    Dawa Tshering, Chairman of the Kanchanjunga Area Conservation Management Council.

    Yeshi Lama, Senior Programme Officer of WWF Nepal

    Pauli Mustonen was the charge d’ affaires, Embassy of Finland.

    Margaret Alexander, Deputy Director of the USAID.

    Dr Jill Bowling, Conservation Director of WWF-UK

    Jennifer Headley, Regional Coordinator of Eastern Himalayas, WWF-UK.

    Matthew Preece, programme officer of EHBC, WWF-US.

    Klim Kim, Captain, (Russia) of the Sri Airlines helicopter

    Valery Slafronov, (Russia) Crew member

    Mingma Sherpa, Captain

    Tandu Shrestha, Crew member

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