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6.3 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION




6.3.1 THE ROLE OF THE PUBLIC

There is a strong commitment to make the implementation of the NBS a participatory one. Public participation will be based on effective public information and education campaigns aimed to raise environmental sensitivity and awareness.


In addition to the usual invitations for dialogue, submissions, and objections, it is planned to involve the public at the planning stages of resource use as well as in the bioresources management process. This will avoid confrontational situations and transform opposition into co-operation. Projects under the NBSIP will present real and practical opportunities that will be made available for public participation, and will identify any barriers and how they will be overcome.
It has been realised that conservation programmes will work only if the basic needs of local people are met, which include being able to grow enough food, effective health care, and basic education. Once these basic needs are met, local people may be responsive to conservation. However, communities in Nepal have a long history of protecting certain forested areas for their own benefit, and after the political change in 1990 and the introduction of democracy, decentralisation and public participation in development activities have increased. To enhance responsiveness and promote ownership of conservation programmes by communities, the active involvement of local people will be sought in conservation management systems. The NBS will foster empowerment of local people by making them integral actors in conservation planning and implementation.
Efforts to minimise human impacts on PAs have historically focused on guard patrols and penalties for encroachment and illegal activities. The NBS recognises that successful management of PAs ultimately depends on co-operation and support from local people. Equally important, the NBS will ensure that disadvantaged people barred from exploiting resources from a PA on which they traditionally depended will be provided with alternative means of subsistence. Most national parks of the world would not last very long if handed over entirely to local people (Anonymous 1996). There needs to be a balance between national and local needs. The NBS will seek to do this through community-based conservation by delineating buffer zones around park boundaries as areas where both conservation and development-related activities will be implemented, and by adopting new approaches to management that reflect greater participation by local people in both fields (Wells & Brandon 1993).

6.3.2 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

The NBS has adopted the following elements (CORE 1995) as essential for public participation:



6.3.2.1 Rights and responsibilities

Meaningful public participation in decision-making is both fair and essential. This reflects a change in how public participation is perceived, particularly for developing an effective approach to managing land use conflicts. Greater public participation should not be a privilege granted at the discretion of decision-makers - it is a fundamental right that in the past has received inadequate recognition.


HMGN has acknowledged people’s right to participation in land use and resource management decisions by approving the Buffer Zone Management Regulations, 1996, and the Buffer Zone Management Guidelines, 1999. Key points in the legislation are that:

  • 30-50% of the revenue derived from national parks will be made available for community development in the buffer zone, channelled through the Warden and the Buffer Zone Development Committee

  • the basic community structure for participation in development and other activities will be the User Committee



6.3.2.2 Public participation policy

People will be involved in decision-making and have a significant impact. When participation is called for, the appropriate form may range from a simple exchange of information to extensive public negotiations.


Forest Management The community forestry programme works through a community-based approach for the conservation of forests by forging partnerships between village-based user groups, user committees and specialised community functional organisations. These are based on self-reliance and contribute to the conservation of forests and resources found within them. Forest user groups manage community forests according to the MFSC’s operational plan.
Management of Terai and Siwalik Hills Forests A Cabinet decision made by HMGN in May 2000 provides guidelines for the management of Terai and Siwalik Hills forests. A collaborative forest management approach is to be applied to allow forests and their biodiversity to improve through natural processes. The Siwalik Hills zone, which occupies 12.8% of Nepal’s total area, has been plagued by complicated institutional, natural and anthropogenic problems (Oli 1999), the most serious of which are soil erosion, degradation of catchment areas, and diminished productivity. This high-risk area will be managed as a Government-managed Protected Forest by maintaining permanent ground vegetation cover. Soil conservation and watershed management programmes will be implemented in an integrated manner. 25% of the income generated by the communities from the forest will be provided to local government bodies (VDCs and DDCs) to implement local development activities, and the central government will collect 75% as revenue.

6.3.2.3 Framework for participation

While the overall goal of integrated conservation development projects is to conserve biological diversity, specific project activities focus on people and their attitudes. Most integrated conservation development projects emphasise local participation by encouraging people to become active and make use of their capacities, to be social actors rather than passive subjects, to manage resources, make decisions and take control of activities that affect their lives (cf. Wells & Brandon 1993). The NBS will continue with integrated conservation development projects. Where guard patrols and policing is required to ensure responsible behaviour, the NBS will facilitate a more co-operative relationship between PA management and local people through public participation, making enforcement more acceptable by local communities.


The NBS has adopted the successful elements of the Parks and People Programme, implemented by the DNPWC with UNDP’s financial and technical assistance since 1994, whose goal is participatory biodiversity conservation in buffer zones. The NBS will further the objectives of improving the socio-economic well-being of buffer zone communities and conserving biodiversity surrounding the PAs. Community mobilisation has been adopted as one of the most powerful measures to initiate people-centred conservation programmes by empowering buffer zone communities to be self-reliant and to undertake development and conservation activities. The NBS will support the Parks and People Programme’s policy on the formation of separate groups for men and women to ensure active participation by women (DNPWC/PPP 1998).
Key policies of the Parks and People Programme on public participation that have been adopted in the NBS include:

  • the empowerment and mobilisation of women for the conservation of natural resources and community development

  • the formation of user groups under each user committee in order to guarantee fair representation within the committees, particularly the participation of women and people from lower castes



6.3.2.4 Protected Areas and Buffer Zone management

The establishment of PAs places restrictions on the use of resources found within them. Economic and other incentives can encourage community support and participation, thus eliminating or reducing pressures on PA resources and opposition by communities dependent on natural resources to the establishment of PAs.


A buffer zones is "a zone peripheral to a national park or equivalent reserve where restrictions placed upon resource use or special development measures are undertaken to enhance the conservation value of the area" (Sayer 1991). Buffer zone development is primarily focused on improving the socio-economic well being of local communities surrounding PAs whilst restricting access to the PA. Open access to PA resources is not sustainable in the long run (Sharma 1991). Conservation programme are designed to meet local needs and reduce the dependency of local people on PA resources by developing an alternative natural resource base in the buffer zone. This strategy includes organising local communities into users groups, improving their skills, providing opportunities for income generation activities, encouraging individual savings, and providing access to credit. Green enterprises, including eco-tourism, are promoted with strategies to minimise negative environmental impacts and to maximise socio-economic benefits at the local level.

6.3.2.5 Ecosystem landscape management

In the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1997-2002), emphasis has been placed on proper land use management for higher economic benefits by increasing agricultural productivity as well as maintaining a healthy environment. It is indispensable to protect biodiversity, forests, and water, and to ensure sound land use according to the particular social and economic circumstance and the quality and capacity of the land. Therefore, the programmes in the Ninth Five-Year Plan have emphasised greater public awareness of land use issues.



6.3.3 INVOLVING NGOS AND CIVIL SOCIETY

HMGN reiterates that the protection and management of biological diversity in Nepal is seen as the Government’s responsibility on behalf of the people of Nepal. However, while accepting the lead role, HMGN welcomes the participation of NGOs and civil society to complement its work in partnership.


The role of NGOs has become increasingly important in local, people-oriented development activities and in extending services and facilities at the grassroots level. However, only a few NGOs are well organised, have sufficient resources and are effective. As in the Ninth Five-Year Plan, the NBS emphasises mobilising NGOs to contribute to socio-economic development projects and encourages their activities in the poor, remote regions of the country.
Local people and commercial enterprises harvest significant quantities of medicinal herbs and other NTFPs from the wild, including from PAs. Given the rich biodiversity of Nepal, the NBS recognises the potential for commercialisation of these natural resources, for example ornamental plants (both plants and seed) or the production of allo cloth and lokhta paper. The challenge is to provide guidelines, incentives, and controls to ensure the sustainability of these enterprises and to directly benefit PAs (McNeely 1999).


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