There are over 130 traditional canoes on the three lakes in the Pokhara Region. These are being supplemented by the planked boats built at the fisheries boatyard. Over 80 of these canoes and boats are on Lake Phewa. Many of these craft are used by tourists with little experience on water. Others are used for transport of local people across the lake. About 15 canoes are used by the local fishermen.
At the present time there are no safety regulations in force that will minimize the danger of accidental drownings in boating accidents.
Often it has been observed that these boats are dangerously overloaded or are being handled carelessly. In the spring when strong squalls sweep over the lake with little or no warning, canoes are swamped or overturned. Tourists in particular have been caught this way because of their lack of knowledge of local weather conditions. It is only a matter of time before one of these overloaded canoes or boats with tourists or local people aboard overturn, and people lose their lives.
With the rapidly growing use of boats on the lakes it is important to initiate regulations regarding the safety of the passengers in these canoes and boats.
The following are a few suggestions:
Every canoe or boat used for tourism or transport should be measured and its maximum carrying capacity calculated. The maximum number of people (both tourist and local) would be prominently painted on the boat. The boats and canoes could also have a mark painted on each side showing the maximum loading capacity.
A life jacket for each person aboard should be carried on these canoes and boats. These life jackets can be made from local materials cotton duck for a covering and filled with the local kapok from the Bombax tree (semal go Blua) see drawing.
Floatation material such as styrofoam which is available in Kathmandu could be built in under the seats of the canoes and boats.
There should always be a seaworthy boat available and ready to go to the rescue of victims of an acciden. This boat could be moored at fisheries and kept ready and in order by the fisheries staff. The 7.3 meter transport boat would be ideal for this as with a crew of five for paddling it could still carry another 10 people safely. Several of the more capable of the fisheries staff could be trained in the use of this boat.
All these boats and canoes would be registered with a local authority (such as fisheries) and examined regularly to see that they conform to regulations.