KATHMANDU, Nepal- Italy has always been a good friend to Nepal. It is mainly known in Nepal for its cooperation in the fields of scientific and environmental researches. The Italian government has been expanding cooperation in government level and in people’s level for the development of Nepal. Government records show that both the Italians and the Nepalis are expanding their business in either country in several sectors in the recent days. Especially through the research and UN agencies the Italian people are serving Nepal. In all these backdrops, Nepal Mountain Focus page of Montagna TV (www.montagna.tv) talked with Mr. Joel Melchiori, diplomatic official of the Italian Embassy and Consul General of Italy in Kolkata, upon his recent visit at the Evk2cnr Office in Kathmandu and discussed the current position of Italian community in Nepal, sectors that both countries could expand cooperations and other current issues. Here is an excerpt of the same.
You have had meeting with the Italian community here in Nepal. How do you see their situation and position here?
It’s a small, but vibrant community. They mainly work in UN agencies, NGOs and some of them in the tourism sector, with impressive results. I was particularly touched by a lady who set up a business some ten years ago and been doing very well, overcoming many difficulties: a good example of Italian, female business abroad.
Italy has always been a good friend to Nepal. It has been extending its cooperation in the government and non-government levels. How this cooperation be further extended?
There is a long tradition of scientific, cultural and economic cooperation. Nepal enjoys a very good reputation in Italy, thanks to the stories of many mountaineers who have been visiting Nepal. Now we believe there is much room for enhancing our trade relation. This was the focus of the visit here of the new Italian Ambassador, Daniele Mancini.
You visited Evk2Cnr headquarters and the Suskat stations monitoring atmosphere in Kathmandu. EvK2Cnr has also many other climatic stations installed in the Himalayas and is providing precious data to famous international projects on climate change. What is your impression of the work that Evk2Cnr and its Nepali collaborators are carrying on?
I’ve been following very closely the activities of EvK2CNR during my tenure as Consul General. It’s now 25 year the “Italian pyramid” has been established, thus it represents a heritage to keep building on new initiatives.
EvK2Cnr inaugurated a few months ago a waste incinerator in the village of Namche, Khumbu valley. What’s your opinion about the relation between environmental protection and tourism development in the Himalayas?
The donation of a waste incinerator in Namche was a remarkable initiative, that will contribute to the environment issue in the Khumbu Valley. Environment and tourism are closely link and more should be done for a sustainable way of doing tourism, first of all by the single trekker. The mistakes done in our mountains in such issue should not be repeated in the Himalayas.
Italy has been cooperating in establishing and operating the Pyramid Observatory Laboratory, one of the highest scientific laboratories of the world, in Nepal. How you see the prospects and future of the lab and its researches?
25 years ago the pyramid was a revolutionary idea. At that time we didn’t know it, but now it’s field of research is essential for the development of the planet.
As a diplomat, don’t you feel that scientific projects like Evk2cnr has been playing a crucial role to strengthen diplomatic relations between Italy and Nepal?
EvK2CNR operates in the frame of a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on scientific cooperation, which proved to be a milestone of the relations between Italy and Nepal. Now, as Ambassador Mancini said last week, we need to do more for strengthening our ties also in the economic and commercial field.
- Are there any plans in the pipeline at the government level to strengthen scientific cooperation?
During this visit to Kathmandu I has a fruitful meeting with the Vice-Chancellor of the Nepalese Academy for Science and Technology and we are indeed planning to strengthen our cooperation.
Let’s change our topic. Among the numbers of the tourists visiting Nepal for the expedition purpose, Italy is ranked in the third position. What type of measure, in your opinion, the government of Nepal should adopt to attract more Italian tourists?
The overall perception of Italian tourists coming to Nepal is very positive. There are isolated problems, but not above the average. However, there is room for making Nepal more known in Italy not only for the high mountains, but also for its many other interesting features, such as National Parks, wildlife, ancient cities like Patan, Bhaktapur and so on.
In the mountaineering field also, Italians climbers are in forefront. But the recent incident at Everest base also involved a renowned Italian climber (Simone Moro). How do you take this incident?
I met Simone Moro and the other climbers involved and we had a frank and open discussion on the incident. I do hope, as he does, that it has been a one time issue. His relation with Nepal goes well beyond it.
Does this incident will bring any impact on the number of mountaineers visiting Nepal? (Does the Italian government have any decision on that?)
We carefully followed the matter and we have been in constant touch with the climbers, as well as with the tour operator. At the moment there isn’t a source of threat in this respects for other Italian climbers.
Did mountaineers or tourists visiting Nepal have ever complained the Italian mission about any such incidents before?
There has been a few problematic situations in the past and our Honorary Consulate is well equipped for providing assistance in such cases (24 hrs availability on mobile number published on the web) but not above the average.
Do you have any experience of the Himalayan treks in Nepal?
I had a chance to visit Namche and a school in Kumjung last year with a project of EvK2CNR and it has been an enlarging experience. I grew up on the Alpine mountains in Trentino, Northern Italy and I’m glad that my job brought me close to “the giants”.
You have been to Nepal several times. What attracts you much in Nepal? (anything special that you like most here?)
This my seventh time in Nepal over the last two years. I always discover something new and something interesting. At the beginning it was new places now it friendships with many Nepalese people.
- How much you see the prospects of tourism in Nepal?
It’s surely a key sector for Nepal. If we just consider the Italian tourists, they were more than 12.000 last year, which is quite a lot for a small county. More interestingly, Italian tourists increased of 17% from 2011 to 2012 and there are Italian investments in the tourism sector here. It’s a big potential for this country, which should be carefully managed.
Italy has also prioritized the tourism industry as the Nepal government does. What you think Nepali people should do to cash its natural beauties through tourism?
Once again, I believe the key is the connection between tourism and environment. Only if you preserve your natural resources (mountains, but also the air and the water) there will be a rewarding future for tourism.