Nepal is set to ban traffic from entering a popular tourist district in Kathmandu by the end of this week in a bid to reduce traffic congestion.
The tourist district of Thamel at the heart of Kathmandu is lined with tour operators, hotels, restaurants and shops for trekking gear. Traffic jams are common in its narrow streets, where vendors ply their trade. Umesh Ranjitkar, a spokesman for the Kathmandu Valley Traffic Police, said on Tuesday the decision was taken on Monday after a meeting among local government officials, the district's residents and tourism entrepreneurs.
"The majority of foreign tourists who come to Nepal pass through Thamel, but the streets are narrow and the population density is very high, so we decided to make it a vehicle-free zone," he said. The spokesman said vehicles that supply water and collect rubbish, ambulances and delivery trucks will be exempt from the ban, which will come into effect on Sunday.
Vehicles are also not allowed in Kathmandu's Durbar Square, another major tourist attraction a few miles south of Thamel. More than half a million foreign tourists visited Nepal in the last eight months, according to the Department of Immigration. Tourism is one of the major foreign currency earners for Nepal, which has launched a campaign to attract 1 million tourists next year.