E-tags launched to rescue troubled trekkers
In order to ensure safety and prompt rescue of a trekker caught in an accident or an unforeseen disaster along the foot trails, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project has introduced ‘E-tags (Entity Tags).
The E-tag comes as a huge sigh of relief for the country’s ailing tourism sector as it had been lacking a proper mechanism to ensure the safety of trekkers. The system, however, is not a gear to protect trekkers; instead, it is a device that locates the trekker lost in the woods or in need of rescue. The E-tag was designed by Mahabir Pun, the Magsaysay award winner known best for his contribution to connecting remote parts of the country through wireless technology. The Asia-Pacific Tele Community in Bangkok, Thailand funded the project. In the first phase, E-tags have been distributed to trekkers in the Ghandruk-Ghodepani area of the Annapurna foot trail.
The control room is at the ACAP headquarters. ACAP has appointed a separate operator to monitor the technology. The E-tag is designed in a way that does not infringe upon the right to privacy and security of the bearer and only contains the name, address, and their current location, the developers have claimed.
E-tags do not rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS) or the Global Positioning Radio System (GPRS) technology. It transmits signals through relay stations placed at various locations. Although the process is a bit lengthy, the trekkers will no longer need to carry a satellite phone. Trekkers can get the device after depositing Rs 1,000 to the ACAP centre and they will be refunded once they safely return the device. The control room at the ACAP office will maintain a record of the date of arrival, and the destination reached by the trekkers.
The Nepal Wireless Networking Project led by Pun has installed solar-powered relay stations at Birekathi, Ghandruk, Tshomrong, Annapurna Base Camp Deurali, Pritamdeurali in Kaski, and Ghodepani and Sikh in Myagdi for constant monitoring.