Mountain biodiversity has never been specifically catalogued or addressed in past conservation plans, although eight protected areas representing 63 ecosystems are located above 3,000m in the High Mountains.
The DSCWM is mandated to “declare, operate, develop, protect, and conserve critical watersheds”. At the district level, the DSCWM is represented by a District Soil Conservation Office. The DSCWM currently has District Soil Conservation Offices in 55 districts of Nepal, although it did have plans to cover all 75 districts under the Ninth Five-Year Plan.
The objectives of the DSCWM are to:
(i) Contribute to maintaining ecological balance by reducing pressures from natural disasters, such as floods and landslides, through proper management of the country's important watersheds.
(ii) Assist in maintaining land productivity by implementing soil conservation programmes in an integrated watershed management approach. In line with overall Government policy, the DSCWM implements all soil conservation programmes with the participation of people and user groups.
Biodiversity conservation in the mountains must be integrated with soil, water, and biodiversity conservation. Nepal is initiating integrated catchment management projects to protect soils, waters, and natural vegetation on which the majority of Nepal’s population depends. These activities are implemented in co-ordination and co-operation with Government staff and local farmers. The Bagmati Watershed Project is a prime example of this effort. The project has not only brought significant benefits for villagers in terms of a stronger rural economy, solidarity amongst the villagers, and a well managed resource base, but has also provided a strong foundation for future conservation and development.
In the Siwalik Hills of Siraha and Saptari districts, catchment conservation ponds are being constructed and maintained for multiple uses. These conservation ponds retain rainwater and help in conserving the soil and water. They also recharge the groundwater of the Terai.
Multiple use plants, such as bamboo and fodder trees, are being planted to control erosion and for land reclamation. Local varieties of grasses are also being planted for stabilising soils and conserving water.
The integrated mountain catchments conservation programme is being implemented with the active co-operation of local villagers. User committees implement the programme while technical staff provides advice and supervision. The official policy is to empower local villagers to implement integrated catchment conservation.
The programmes of the DSCWM have great potential for contributing to mountain biodiversity conservation. Integrated catchment management through the active participation of local people is a viable option that can contribute to mountain biodiversity conservation by improving ecosystem health and the economic condition of the people inhabiting catchment areas.
The programmes of the DSCWM are:
Land productivity conservation activities, such as on-farm conservation, plantation of grasses and Multipurpose Tree Species, and agroforestry.
Natural hazard prevention activities, including treatment of gullies and landslides, torrent control, stream bank protection, and rehabilitation of degraded land using bioengineering methods.
Infrastructure protection activities, such as stabilisation of slopes, roadside erosion control, trail improvement, protection of canals, and conservation of water sources.
Community soil conservation activities, including training, study tours, and exhibitions.
Income generating activities.
Action research activities to assess the status of rare and indigenous plant species used in forestry, soil conservation, fertility enhancement, and agriculture.
In-situ conservation of agrobiodiversity through traditional farming practices.
In addition to the DSCWM, the DNPWC is also involved in the management and conservation of biodiversity through the establishment and management of mountain protected areas.
The programmes of the DSCWM focus on integrated participatory management of critical sub-catchments, although they also benefit mountain biodiversity and ecosystems (Box 3.2). Mountain biodiversity is highly endemic and unique.
BOX 3.2 Participation of User Groups/Communities in Catchment Management
Participation of user groups has been a cornerstone of successful government and NGO initiatives in catchment management for over 20 years in Nepal. In 1975, the Tinau Watershed Project developed a catchment management plan with beneficiaries participating in the planning and implementation of project activities. In 1985, the Begnas Rupatal Watershed Management Project, with the support of the Dutch Government through CARE, capitalised on the Decentralisation Act to form user group committees. A sister project of the Begnas Rupatal Watershed Management Project was initiated in the Upper Andhi Khola catchment of Syangja in 1992 with a similar approach, and is particularly well known for applying the Participatory Community Problem Analysis approach to map village resources and plan grassroots activities. HMGN began a District Soil Conservation Programme in Parbat and Tanahun districts in 1990. Although it institutionalised a subsidy policy to encourage participation, the mechanism for ensuring people's participation was left open to accommodate various approaches. The Inter Regional Project for Participatory Upland Conservation and Development in Bhusunde Khola catchment area in Gorkha district is unique in that it focuses on the socio economic aspects of the participating community by incorporating gender analyses and participatory assessments in the very initial stages of project planning.
The following catchment management projects are also implemented with the active participation of local people:
Community Development and Forest Watershed Management Project (JICA)
Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Component of the Natural Resource Management Sector Assistance Programme (DANIDA)
Bagmati Integrated Watershed Management Project (EU)
Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Component of the Nepal/Australia Community Resource Management Project (AUSAID)
Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Component of the Environment and Forest Enterprise Activity Project (USAID)
3.7.1 MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS
Establishment of ICIMOD: The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal is committed to mountain development, sustainable resources use and biodiversity conservation. ICIMOD has matured into an international clearinghouse for the accumulation, generation, and dissemination of knowledge on all issues concerning mountain biodiversity and development. ICIMOD played an important role in ensuring the inclusion of a special chapter on mountain ecosystems in Agenda 21 (ICIMOD 1999).
Biodiversity conservation: Progress has been made in conserving biodiversity in mountains. Habitat conservation is the most effective means of protecting most species, genetic variability and ecological diversity, and large areas of natural habitat have been protected in mountains, in the form of national parks, conservation areas and one strict nature reserve.
World Heritage Sites: Nepal has two natural world heritage sites. Sagarmatha National Park, which has the highest peak in the world (8,848m), and the Royal Chitwan National Park were declared World Heritage Sites in 1979 and 1984 respectively.
Eco-tourism: Mountains provide an excellent source of revenue for HMGN through eco-tourism.