The government of Nepal Monday denied the claim that mountaineering expeditions on Mt. Everest would be suspended for ten days from May 1 to 10 following the request of the Chinese government.

According to the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) spokesperson and Joint Secretary Prem Rai said that news about the ' Everest expedition ban' was a rumour and the government had not received any formal request concerning the ban from the Chinese government.

"This is just a baseless rumour, the government has not received any kind of request from the Chinese government concerning this,? he said, while adding that these rumours were being spread by international media who even after calling him did not publish the information. "I received calls from Reuters, New York Times and AFP concerning the ban however all they did was quote anonymous tourism entrepreneurs and other people but have not disclosed the information I gave them,? he added.

When asked about the 'ban', media consultant of the Chinese embassy Wang said, "I have no idea about a ban.?

According to information published in heraldsun.com by an Associated Press (AP) writer, John Heilprin on March 16, "Climbers are being told by Nepalese officials that Mount Everest's summit will be put off-limits to the public from all sides during the first 10 days of May, so the Chinese can carry an Olympic torch to the summit without risking a high-altitude confrontation over Tibet's future?.

Rai told The Rising Nepal that these kinds of baseless rumours should be stopped since it would take a toll on the tourism industry and ruin Nepal's image that needs to be improved in the global tourism market. "This kind of baseless news will spread a negative message about Nepal, which is not good for our tourism industry,? he said.

Replying to the queries related to the press statement of minister for Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation Prithivi Subba Gurung confirming the ban, Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) told TRN that he had spoken to the minister about the claim and the minister had denied talking to the media on the issue. "Minister Gurung is not even in Kathmandu. He is away campaigning for the elections, and he told me that he had not spoken to the media for about a week,? he said.

Sherpa further added that NMA had not received any circulation concerning the ban from the government and he did not know why the protests in Kathmandu are taking place regarding the ban. "Just in case these rumours materialise, five tourism associations including us have suggested the government to allow smooth expeditions to summit Everest and at the same time we have requested the government not to ruin its relations with its neighbours,? he said.

The rumours may be baseless and even though tourism authorities in Nepal claim that they really don't know where the rumours started from, it still has caused havoc among tourism entrepreneurs. However, entrepreneurs claimed that the international media has quoted anonymous sources while writing stories on the ban.

AFP on March 13 while quoting an anonymous source said, "But a mountaineering source in Nepal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told a slightly different story. "A couple of days ago [the China Tibet Mountaineering Association] sent an e-mail that said we could only get permits after May 10,?

said the source involved in organising expeditions to Everest from the northern side through Tibet Autonomous region of China. The Chinese association told expedition organisers that overcrowding and environmental pressures meant they had to ask all commercial expeditions to stay off the mountain, the source said?.

Prachanda Man Shrestha, CEO of Nepal Tourism Board stated the government has not informed NTB about such a ban and the confusion about the ban might have sprung up as Everest expeditions have not yet been approved because of the CA elections. "According to the rules we need one government official accompanying the expedition. Therefore, due to the CA polls, the appointed government liaison officer needs permission from the Election Commission (EC) to go on the expedition and this is why moving ahead with the expeditions is taking a bit of time,? he said.

Rai shared the same information and said the list of appointed liaison officers for the expedition has been submitted to the EC and it was in the process of being approved. He also stressed that if this was the reason behind the confusion, then the entrepreneurs have nothing to worry about because the expeditions would go ahead and the government of Nepal has imposed no such ban.

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