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4 MAJOR THREATS FACING NEPAL’S BIODIVERSITY AND THEIR ROOT CAUSES

The biological resources of Nepal are identified and quantified in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 analysed protective and management mechanisms already in place in Nepal. This chapter deals with weaknesses, gaps, difficulties, and other problems in conserving Nepal’s biological diversity. First, a list is presented to determine the major threats to biodiversity; this is then followed by an analysis of their immediate and root causes.




4.1 MAJOR EXISTING AND EMERGING PROBLEMS




4.1.1 WEAKNESSES, GAPS, DIFFICULTIES, AND OTHER PROBLEMS

In the extensive array of mechanisms for the protection of biodiversity, great reliance is placed on the Protected Areas System of Nepal. Table 4.1 below summarises the problems known to be affecting specific Protected Areas (PA) in Nepal, and the significance of each PA.


Table 4.1 Biological and cultural significance of protected areas and their major problems


Protected Area

Physiographic Location

Biological and Cultural Significance
Major Problems

Royal Chitwan National Park

Terai – Siwalik Hills

Sal, Sal-pine, riverine grassland, rhinoceros, tiger, leopard, wild dog, sloth bear, crocodile, gharial, king cobra, Bengal florican.

World heritage site, Balmiki ashram.



Collection of firewood, grazing, crop-raiding by wild animals, rhino & tiger poaching, environmental pressure from tourism, factory effluent pollution.

Royal Bardia National Park

Terai -Siwalik Hills

Sal, pine, acacia, sissoo, grassland, wild elephant, tiger, sloth bear, hispid hare, Gangetic dolphin, black buck, crocodile, gharial.

Poaching, hunting, grazing, fishing using explosives and poison,

hydropower plant construction.



Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve

Terai

Acacia, sissoo, riverine forest, grassland, wild water buffalo, Gangetic dolphin, otter, wild boar, python, gharial, leopard, swamp francolin & richest water fowl diversity.

Ramsar site.



Grazing, genetic erosion of wild buffalo population, over-fishing, high tension electrical transmission, irrigation canal, flooding, siltation.

Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve

Terai – Siwalik Hills

Sal, acacia, sisso, extensive grassland,

elephant, swamp deer, tiger, hispid hare, Bengal florican.



Collection of wood, grazing, crop-raiding by wild animals.

Parsa Wildlife Reserve

Terai – Siwalik Hills

Sal, acacia, pine, mixed hardwood, riverine vegetation, elephant, tiger, sambar deer, leopard, giant hornbill, king cobra, cobra, python.

Kailash parbat (Shiva temple).



Collection of wood, poaching, grazing.

Shivapuri National Park

Middle Mountain

Main watershed of Kathmandu Valley.

Schima, castanopsis, oak, type locality of many nepalese plants, leopard, wild boar, langur, rich bird species diversity, habitat for relict Himalayan dragonfly.



Collection of firewood and fodder,

grazing, deforestation.



Langtang National Park

Mid-hills – High mountains

Sal, oak, blue pine, hemlock, fir, birch, rhododendron, 15 endemic plant species, red panda, snow leopard, clouded leopard, wild dog, musk deer, thar, goral.

Gosainkunda lake pilgrimage site.



Poaching for musk deer, crop raiding by wild boars, refuse and garbage, collection of medicinal plants.

Rara National Park

High Mountains

Blue pine, fir, birch, musk deer, leopard, red panda, impeyan pheasant, high altitude wetland.

Grazing, collection of firewood and

medicinal plants.



Khaptad National Park

High Mountains

Oak, fir, conifer, musk deer, leopard, black bear.

Ashram of late khaptad baba (sage), Shiva shrine, Khaptad daha - a shallow lake.



Grazing, crop depredation by wild boars, firewood collection, fires in the chir pine forest.

Sagarmatha National Park

High Mountains - High Himalaya

Blue pine, fir, juniper scrub, alpine meadows, red panda, snow leopard, goral serow, musk deer, black bear, Indian muntjac.

World heritage site.



Environmental pressure from tourism, waste disposal, tree felling,

heavy grazing by yak and sheep.



Makalu Barun National Park

High Mountains - High Himalaya

Sal, castanopsis, oak, rhododendron, orchids, high species richness, snow leopard, red panda, musk deer.

Excessive human encroachment, slash-and-burn agriculture, poaching for bears, collection of medicinal plants.

Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve

High Mountains - High Himalaya

Fir, hemlock, spruce, birch, junipers, grassland.

Game hunting reserve.



Over grazing, grass burning, firewood cutting.

Annapurna Conservation Area

High Mountains - High Himalaya

Hill sal, alder, oak, birch, junipers, Tibetan plateau, 56 endemic species of angiosperm,

blue sheep, musk deer, thar, red panda, pheasants.

Extensive tourism.


Environmental deterioration, cultural deterioration, tourism pressures, collection of wood, hunting, waste disposal.

Kanchenjunga Conservation Area

High Mountains - High Himalaya

Rhododendron, birch, blue pine, larch, magnolia, oak, snow leopard, red panda, musk deer, blue sheep.

Slash & burn, poaching, collection of medicinal plants.

Manaslu Conservation Area

High Mountains - High Himalaya

Oak, blue pine, larch, birch, snow leopard, musk deer, blue sheep, red panda, Himalayan thar.

Poaching, collection of firewood

and medicinal plants.



Shey Phoksundo National Park

High Mountains - Trans Himalaya

Tibetan plateau ecosystem, oak, spruce, fir, birch, 30 species of endemic plants, blue sheep, musk deer, red panda, snow leopard. Religious Bhuddist site.

Grazing, poaching for musk deer, hunting for blue sheep, collection of medicinal plants.

Table 4.2 incorporates the above problems with the weaknesses, gaps, difficulties, and other problems that threaten biological diversity in Nepal, and which are discussed in Chapter 3.


Table 4.2 Weaknesses, gaps, difficulties and other problems, and the likely threats they

pose to biological diversity in Nepal (greater degree of threat indicated by more )


Weaknesses, Gaps, Difficulties and Other Problems

Threat to:

Ecosystems

Species

Genetic Diversity

Difficult terrain, harsh environmental conditions and a lack of facilities in the mountains







Introduction of alien species







Slash and burn agriculture, grass burning







Incomplete baseline and other information







Lack of clear conservation objectives in forest management plans








High impact of tourism








Weak policies and weak institutional support for managers







Illegal collection of medicinal plants (including harvesting in excess of permit limits)








Lack of inventory, survey, monitoring and assessment








Abandonment of traditional pasture management approaches








Low priority accorded to biodiversity conservation work







Inadequate financial, technical and staff resources in scientific establishments







Unclear institutional mandates







Lack of awareness and community participation







Excessive market demands leading to unsustainable harvesting









Deforestation and conversion to agriculture









Illegal tree felling for timber and fuel









Market forces causing a depletion of genetic resources









Loss of traditional, indigenous pastoral knowledge









Dilution of genetic resources through introduced races









Out of date legislation and regulations







Lack of research and development








High tension power transmission lines








Lack of training in basic scientific and technical aspects









Fishing with poisons or explosives, over-fishing









Fire









Undetermined carrying capacities









Absence of certain key ecosystems within the protected areas network









Lack of inter-sectoral and inter-agency co-ordination mechanisms









Lack of integrated management of some protected areas









Delays in preparing Operational Forest Management Plans









Unskilled staff in extension work on biodiversity conservation









Irrigation dams and distribution canals









Flooding and siltation









Hydro-electric plant construction and power generation









Solid and liquid waste disposal









Illegal grazing in protected areas









Illegal hunting, poaching









Raiding of domestic crops by protected species









Poor management of large blocks of forests in the Mid-hills









Some of the likely negative outcomes that arise from the weaknesses, gaps, difficulties, and other problems identified above directly threaten biodiversity, and these are usually easy to identify and address. However, some of the problems only indirectly affect biodiversity, which nevertheless pose serious threats. Two very serious indirect threats to biodiversity are lack of sensitivity and awareness among the general public and inefficient management of natural resources.



4.1.2 MAJOR THREATS TO BIODIVERSITY

Before attempting to determine the immediate and root causes of the threats to biodiversity, it is useful to discuss the three major levels of biodiversity threatened. With little difference between them in magnitude of impact, these are:



  • the threat of ecosystems loss,

  • the threat of species loss, and

  • the threat of loss of genetic resources.

Each is discussed briefly below, bearing in mind that the distinction between ecosystems, species, and genetic resources can sometimes be very hazy. It must also be remembered that often an impact on one of these three elements also has an impact on the other two.



4.1.2.1 The threats of ecosystems loss

Loss of ecosystems can be a result of direct or indirect impacts. Direct causes include the conversion of the natural environment (forest, grassland, wetland, hill country, or mountain) to agriculture, horticulture, plantation forest, residential or industrial development, roads, and other infrastructure developments. The greatest threat comes from the need of subsistence farmers to extend their agricultural activity, and the perception that this is best achieved through the conversion of forests and other “virgin” lands.


Habitat Loss and Deforestation
Nepal has approximately 4,268,000 hectares of forest (29% of the country’s total land area), and 1,562,000 hectares of scrubland (10.6% of total land area). The latest available statistics reveal that forest area decreased at an annual rate of 1.7% between 1978/79 and 1994, whereas forest and shrubland together decreased at an annual rate of 0.5%. The decrease in forest area was not uniform through the different physiographic zones (Table 4.3). In the Terai, forest area decreased at an annual rate of 1.3% from 1978/79 to 1990/91, whereas in the hill areas it decreased at a rate of 2.3% per annum from 1978/79 to 1994.
Some areas classified as forests may have only a few trees per hectare, and only 15% of forests have a crown cover greater than 70%. Uncontrolled grazing and frequent fires limit regeneration and undermine the future status of forest areas. Reforestation of 13,500 ha/year has been targeted by HMGN, but only 5,300 ha/year was achieved in 2001.

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