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Environment: Selected Articles

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Selected Articles


Conserving ecological corridors by Shyam Bhatta

Published on 2011-01-14 10:17:03 | My Republica


Humans created borders, not Nature, and these human-made restrictions should apply only to them. Based on this belief, Nepal has been working on different projects at landscape-level approach in the conservation areas of Terai, mainly in those connected with India. These projects aim to advocate the rights of wildlife to freely move in and around in their natural pathways, called ecological corridors, and buffer zones. 

Ten years down the line, the government and local residents have clearly understood the importance of landscape-level conservation projects; but even so, most remain ignorant.


Working with the neighboring country on the identified ecological buffer zones for the conservation of endangered wildlife with landscape-level projects is to set priorities for national parks and wildlife reservation areas. The Department of Forest is now set to join along in the project as well.

On September 23, 2010 on the occasion of the Third National Conservation Day, the government declared the areas with important biodiversity as protected forest areas for the conservation of buffer zones. That included corridors like Khata of Bardiya, Basanta of Kailali, and Laljhadi and Mohana of Kanchanpur. The Department is excited as the buffer zones now fall under the protected forest areas.

Kailali’s Basanta area, with 40,782 ha, is considered to be Nepal’s biggest buffer zone, and has been declared as protected forest area along with 24,664 hectares in Kailali-Kanchanpur’s Laljhadi and Mohana and 5,000 hectares in Bardiya’s Khata corridors. 

Similarly, 10,400 hectares in Chitwan’s Barandabhar area, 18,000 hectares in Baglung’s Panchase, and 13,800 hectares of forest area in Gulmi’s Madani have also been declared as protector forest areas. Though the declarations seem promising, no plans have yet been made to immediately start implementations in these areas.

The encroachments in Basanta, which was secure until People’s Movement-II, started after 136 families of freed Kamaiya (bonded labor) were rehabilitated around the southern parts of the Basanta corridor in Kailali. A huge part of the total forest area of the Kailali region, which holds the foremost position in the abundance of forest resources in the country, is taken up by the Basanta corridor. The corridor is also considered important as it is connected with Dudhwa in India and with Khata, the major corridor of Bardiya National Park in the east. There are 70 community forests inside the estimated 30,000 hectares area of Basanta. In a way, this area is the most important and vast community-protected area in the country.

After Basanta came to notice in 2000, organizations like WWF Nepal, UNDP’s Global Environment Fund, SNV, and later the Western Terai Landscape Complex Project (WTLCP) with the Prime Minister as its patron have been working in the conservation sector.

Spread over Nepal’s western Terai, it is reported that there are 21 rhinos in Bardiya, six in Shuklaphanta, and on the Indian side, 29 in Dudhwa and four in Kartaniyaghat. All these four conservation areas are attached to one another. These areas in both countries have been enlisted in priority regions (Part of Global 200 Eco Region) for the conservation of biodiversity, and are an important part of the Terai landscape.

According to conservationist Dr. Shantaraj Gyawali of National Nature Conservation Trust, Nepal, reproduction of rhinos is less when their population is small. Consequently, their number cannot increase.

From the beginning of the decade-long landscape-level projects for conservation of the rhinos, both Nepal and India need to work, taking the total number of rhinos as a metapopulation. For that, it is important to properly manage the buffer zones and make them suitable for the rhino population to thrive.

The situation of Basanta region in Kailali was first identified by the local community, and the area has been preserved through local-level initiatives. The locals deem that it is important to form proper conservation policies. However, they also stress on the need to connect conservation with sustainable use of biodiversity for their livelihood.

Along with the declaration of protected buffer zones, the government has to implement conservation projects right away. The Department of Forest is anxious that the ecological corridors through which important wildlife species such as tigers, rhinos and elephants move about will vanish with growing human encroachment.

If huge encroachments wipe out such corridors that provide for wildlife movement, the possibility of conflict between humans and wild animals is sure to increase. Thus, in order to avoid conflict, it is important to quickly act on the management of the buffer zones.

The government has been working on the buffer zones following the Terai Landscape Policy made in 2004. WTLCP has been implemented in the buffer zones of Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur in the west since 2006 whereas the Terai Landscape Development Program by WWF, Nepal was implemented since 2001. But the buffer zones have not been well conserved due to political instability.

Though the Mohana area on the Kailali side of the Laljhadi corridor spread over Kailali and Kanchanpur is declared as protected forest region, the Chure area adjoining the corridor has a provision for human settlement. Even though the Mohana River banks are made verdant with local community initiatives, there is still a lot to be done.

The central region in the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in India connected with Basanta corridor has been infiltrated with human settlements due to a huge encroachment during the election period. Smaller encroachment activities are also prevalent in many different parts of the region, which must be stopped.

According to Ek Raj Sigdel, Kailali chief of WTLCP, there are many encroachments going on in different parts of the corridors in Kailali as well, and it is important to seriously address the situation.

Nepal signed agreement letters regarding biodiversity with India last May and with China last July. This opened new gates for Nepal to work together with both the neighboring countries on landscape-level approach, and also brought forth the highlighted importance of corridor conservation.

The major habitats for tigers and rhinos in India such as Balmiki, Sohelwa, Katarniyaghat, Dudhawa and Lagga are connected with Chitwan, Bardiya and Shuklaphanta in Nepal. As the conservation areas in India are not attached with one another at landscape level, experts say it is necessary for India to work together with Nepal for genetic conservation of wildlife.

Specially, if the conservation areas and buffer zones of Nepal connected with India are not protected, both countries agree that conservation efforts on both sides will not be successful. Experts say that the experience and support from India will only be an added advantage for Nepal to work on the landscape-level approach.



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