A great deal of effort has been made over the years in Nepal to protect and manage biological resources and their diversity. The impetus for this has been the recognition that biodiversity is the mainstay of Nepal’s economy and of the well being of its people. More recently, Nepal joined the world community in recognising the global importance of biodiversity and acceded to a number of international conventions and other agreements to conserve it. While there is ample room for improvement, many mechanisms are already in place for biodiversity protection and resource management, and a number of lessons can be learned from past experience. This chapter discusses these mechanisms and the lessons learned, as well as the gaps and constraints that exist in the system.
3.1 INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK
Appropriate and effective institutions are fundamental to the implementation of policies, legislation and international conventions relating to the conservation of biodiversity. Nepal has developed its institutional capacity for the protection and management of its valuable biological resources and its main elements are described below. However, while the Nepal Biodiversity Strategy builds on the legacy of enlightened environmental planning that has resulted in several successful conservation stories in Nepal, the present institutional structure does require strengthening (Belbase 1999), and the NBS will provide for this.
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, 1990, provides for the establishment of a Natural Resources and Environment Committee in the House of Representatives. The powers and functions of the Committee include the evaluation of the policies and programmes, resource mobilisation and administration in collaboration with the Ministries of Water Resources, Land Reform and Management, Agriculture, Forest and Soil Conservation, and Population and Environment, and relevant departments and agencies under these ministries. The Committee is required to submit a report to the House of Representatives, including comments and recommendations. While preparing the report, the Committee is empowered to consult representatives of the ministries and departments and relevant experts.
The Committee on Natural Resources and Environment has existed since July 1991; however, it has been dormant for most of the time. As multiparty democracy matures in Nepal, the efficacy of such parliamentary committees is expected to improve. When fully functional, this Committee can be expected to have a very positive impact on the conservation of biodiversity.
3.1.2 ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION COUNCIL
The Environment Protection Council (EPC) was first established in 1992 and carried out several important activities during its first two years. Acting on the initiative of the EPC, HMGN ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Climate Change, and acceded to the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layerand the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Furthermore, on the EPC’s initiative, vehicular emission standards have been developed and, to some extent, are being enforced.
The Environment Protection Act, 1996, recognised the EPC and provided for its establishment as a statutory body. However, the Act does not provide for the composition, powers, and functions of the EPC, which has therefore remained under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, with seven independent experts as members. The Environment Protection Regulations, 1997, are also silent on the role of the EPC. In the absence of such guidance under the Environment Protection Act and Regulations, it is hard to determine whether the EPC would be an appropriate institution for developing policies and legislation and overseeing their implementation as well as those of various programmes.
Article 10 of the CBD requires each party to integrate consideration of conservation and sustainable use of biological resource into national decision-making. In order to do so, and for the co-ordination of such, the establishment and effective functioning of a high-level, multidisciplinary body is crucial. It would probably not be advisable to entrust this responsibility to an institution such as the current EPC unless its advisory status, powers, functions, and secretariat are strengthened by law.
3.1.3 LOCAL AUTHORITIES
The District Development Committee (DDC) is the apex body of local government in each district, and Section 189(g) (1) of the Local Self-Governance Act, 1998, requires the DDC to formulate and implement plans for the conservation of biological diversity and soil. Section 189(g) (2) further requires the DDC to ensure the protection and promotion of the environment. Similarly, Section 28(h) (2) requires Village Development Committees (VDCs) to formulate and implement programmes for the conservation of biological diversity and soil. Development activities take place in each district with the approval of the District Council of each DDC. Since the majority of the population lives in the 3,912 VDCs and 58 Municipalities, activities for the protection of indigenous knowledge, innovations and practices should begin at the local level. However, no practical measures have been taken to integrate conservation, sustainable use of biological resources and equitable and fair sharing of the benefits arising out of these into district level decision-making in Nepal.
3.2 PROTECTED AREAS
The first legislation to protect Nepal's wildlife was introduced more than a hundred and fifty years ago in the 1840’s, during the regime of Jang Bahadur Rana, when restrictions were placed on the hunting of certain animals. The Central Zoo was also established during this period. The importance of conserving wild species of fauna and flora was first recognised by HMGN in Nepal's first Five-Year Development Plan (1956-1961). The Rhino Patrol, established in 1961 as a result of this first Plan, was fairly successful in controlling the poaching of large mammals. It was only after the 1970’s that an effective conservation programme allowed for the establishment of protected areas. So far, nine national parks, three wildlife reserves, three conservation areas, and one hunting reserve have been established in the three different ecological zones of Nepal: the Terai, Mid-hills and high mountains (Table 3.1).
Protected areas (PAs) were initially established in Nepal for the protection of wildlife, especially endangered wildlife. However, the objectives have since been broadened to include the preservation of natural, historic, scenic, and cultural values. According to the latest estimates, 26,695km2, 18.32% of the total area of Nepal, is now declared protected.
The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (NPWC) Act of 1973 provides the legal basis for the management of PAs. The Act, subsequently amended four times, in 1974, 1982, 1989 and 1994, recognises the following six categories of PAs in Nepal:
The NPWC Act defines a national park as an area set-aside for the conservation and management of the natural environment, including the ecological, biological and geomorphologic associations of aesthetic importance. To develop the area for eco-tourism is the second objective, provided that this is compatible with sustainable conservation.
Strict Nature Reserve
This is an area of unusual ecological or other significance, set aside for the purpose of scientific study. The inaccessible lower Barun Valley, fed by the Saldima River, a glacier-fed tributary of the Arun River, is the most pristine area in the Makalu-Barun National Park, and thus has been designated as a Strict Nature Reserve, the first in Nepal.
A Wildlife Reserve is an area established for the conservation and management of plants and wildlife and their habitat.
This is an area set aside for the conservation and management of wildlife to provide opportunities for legal recreational hunting.
This type of protected area is managed according to an integrated plan for the conservation of the natural environment and the sustainable use of the natural resources contained within it.
A buffer zone is a designated area surrounding a national park or a reserve within which the use of forest products by local people is regulated to ensure sustainability.