Of Everest proportions: Nepal raises life insurance payouts for sherpa guides

Insurance payouts raised to $15,200 from $10,000.


Afp August 08, 2014

KATHMANDU: Nepal on Friday raised life insurance payouts for sherpa guides by 50 per cent, more than three months after the deadliest accident in Mount Everest's history sparked protests and led to a shutdown of the peak.

The April 18 avalanche left 16 local guides dead and fuelled demands for better compensation as well as higher death and injury benefit payouts to the sherpas' families.

The resulting labour dispute between sherpas and the Nepalese government, which earns large revenues from mountaineering, saw scores of expeditions cancelled, with only one successful summit of the popular peak after most climbers abandoned their plans to scale the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) peak.

Nepalese tourism ministry spokesperson, Mohan Krishna Sapkota, said: "From now on, all sherpas working on Himalayan peaks will have life insurance of 1.5 million rupees (about $15,200)."

Life insurance limits were earlier set at $10,000 with guides calling for the figure to be doubled to $20,000.

"We know this amount is less than what they wanted, but we had to consult the private sector as well and this is the best we can do now," Sapkota told AFP.

"We will try to raise it further but it will take time," the tourism ministry spokesperson said.

Ramesh Prasad Dhamala, president of Nepal's Trekking Agencies' Association, welcomed the news, calling it "a positive development".

He noted, however, that the government had yet to pay compensation or insurance benefits to victims' families, more than three months after the avalanche.

The government had initially pledged $400 to the families of the 16 men but later hiked the compensation to $5,000 after angry sherpas protested the sum was too small.

"They have still not received the payments promised to them, but after this announcement, I am hopeful that the government will not delay matters further," Dhamala told AFP.

The government had also pledged to set up a relief fund for injured guides using up to five per cent of fees paid by climbers, but no final decision had been taken yet, tourism ministry official Sapkota said.

The disaster highlighted the risks taken by guides on behalf of foreign clients.

Nepal's government earned $3.6 million this year from Everest climbing fees after issuing permits to 334 climbers.

The government has told climbers who failed to summit the peak this year that they have five years to make the ascent.

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