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We should take the earthquake in the Himalayas as a warning

The plan itself already seemed bizarre: tunneling under Mount Everest in order to clear the way for a train line linking China and Nepal, and perhaps even India. Now, after the catastrophic earthquake in Nepal, there really is no point in wasting even a single thought on this plan.

The earthquake in Nepal is a shocking reminder of the extent of human suffering. At the same time it throws up questions about the future of the Himalayan region. It has always been a tourist magnet and its economic significance is set to grow in the future.

Mountain tourism, undiscovered mineral riches, proximity to India. A lot of what previously was interesting about Nepal from an economic point of view now quite literally stands on shaky ground. What if the region is affected by further major tremors? Can we really take responsibility for the growing numbers of climbers gathering in the Himalayas each year to climb the highest mountain on earth?

Too many people are already dying on the mountain because they are not properly prepared or are taken unawares by a sudden change in the weather. It doesn’t bear thinking about what might happen in the case of further quakes. Particularly because it is not just experienced mountain climbers who are making the journey to the base camp at the foot of Mount Everest but also tourists who think the permanent tent city located at 5,000 metres above sea level is in itself a sight worth seeing.

The Chinese idea of turning Nepal into the central transport hub in a global railway infrastructure goes beyond anything previously imagined. What is needed now in this landlocked country in Southern Asia is above all else a rescue infrastructure that can get help to people in need faster and more efficiently. The rescue effort cannot be focused only on getting help to Western tourists. The Himalaya quake is a warning sign that must urge us to develop sustainable concepts: for tourism, for traffic planning and for the extraction of mineral raw materials. Respect for people and the environment should guide everyone involved.

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