The Nepal Biodiversity Strategy (NBS) is an important output of the Biodiversity Conservation Project of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MFSC) of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal. The Biodiversity Conservation Project is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The preparation of the NBS is based on the substantial efforts of and assistance from numerous scientists, policy-makers and organisations who generously shared their data and expertise. The document represents the culmination of hard work by a broad range of government sectors, non-government organisations, and individual stakeholders. The MFSC would like to express sincere thanks to all those who contributed to this effort.
The MFSC particularly recognises the fundamental contribution of Resources Nepal, under the leadership of Dr. P.B. Yonzon, for the extensive collection of data from various sources for the preparation of the first draft.
The formulation of the strategy has been through several progressive drafts and rounds of consultations by representatives from Government, community-based organisations, NGOs, INGOs and donors. For the production of the second draft, the MFSC acknowledges the following: Prof. Ram P. Chaudhary, Dr. Damodar P. Parajuli, Prof. Pramod K. Jha, Mr. Narayan Belbase, Dr. Keshav R. Kanel, and Mr. Tulsi B. Prajapati for their contributions, and the Institute of Biodiversity, Nepal for its essential co-ordinating role.
The MFSC is grateful to the national and international experts who completed and finalised the NBS. These are Mr. Philip Tortell, Dr. Bijaya Kattel, Prof. Ram P. Chaudhary, Dr. Shant R. Jnawali and Ms. Sonam Bennett-Vasseux. Prof. Ram P. Chaudhary, Mr. Laxmi Manandhar, the UNDP’s Parks and People Programme and the Nepal Tourism Board generously contributed numerous photographs to illustrate the text.
The MFSC is especially grateful to the reviewers, Dr. Uday R. Sharma, then Chief, Environment Division, MFSC, the officials of the Department of Forest, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management, Department of Plant Resources, Department of Forestry Research and Survey, and Dr. Bhesh R. Dhamala, Assistant Resident Representative, UNDP/Nepal for their substantive contributions. Sincere gratitude also to Ms. Kristiina Mikkola, Programme Officer, UNDP/Nepal for her overall co-ordination in the preparation of the NBS.
Last but not least, we extend our grateful thanks to the Global Environment Facility and UNDP/Nepal, without whose financial support this document would not have been possible.
Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MFSC)
FOREWORD His Majesty’s Government of Nepal is committed to the protection and management of biological resources and their diversity on a sustainable basis for the benefit of Nepal’s present and future generations and for the global community as a whole, in accordance with the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Nepal Biodiversity Strategy records the understanding reached between the Government and the People of Nepal on the thrust and direction to be taken over the next twenty years to protect and manage Nepal’s biodiversity. This Strategy is the result of extensive consultations with a variety of stakeholders over a considerable period of time. The Strategy puts every woman and man at the centre of natural resource management in Nepal. This document is the Government’s commitment to adopt a more cohesive and strategic approach to conservation at the landscape level.It lays the ground for the preparation of periodic Action Plans that will be the mechanism through which the Strategy will be implemented. This Strategy embodies a strong commitment to fulfil our international obligations as signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity. I am confident that this Strategy shall serve as a guide to everyone in the country whose actions may have a bearing on managing our unique biodiversity. However, the implementation of this Strategy through the Action Plans will be on the basis of partnerships between specialised Government institutions and NGOs, conservation partners, the private sector, academia and other exponents of civil society. Sher Bahadur Deuba
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The goal The Nepal Biodiversity Strategy (NBS) is a commitment by His Majesty’s Government and the people of Nepal for the protection and wise use of the biologically diverse resources of the country, the protection of ecological processes and systems, and the equitable sharing of all ensuing benefits on a sustainable basis, for the benefit of the people and to honour obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Biological diversity in Nepal is closely linked to the livelihoods and economic development of most of her people, and relates to agricultural productivity and sustainability, human health and nutrition, indigenous knowledge, gender equality, building materials, water resources, and the aesthetic and cultural well being of the society.
This NBS, which was developed through the participation of a broad cross-section of Nepali society, is intended to serve as a guide to all government organisations, the private sector and civil society. It sets objectives for the protection of biological diversity in Nepal and identifies or restates Government policy on natural resources and their diversity.
The outcomes of the NBS will be a stronger political commitment, an information management system, enhanced human and institutional capacity, clear policies and legislation, detailed Action Plans, heightened public awareness and an effective monitoring and evaluation process.
Background Nepal has a population of 23.2 million people, 48.5% of which lives in the Terai, 44.2% in the Mid-hills and 7.3% in the Mountains. The 2001 census indicates an average population growth rate of 2.27%, highest in the Terai and lowest in the Mountains. The economic well being of Nepal is very closely bound to its natural resources – arable land, water, forested areas, and protected areas.
Tourism is the second most important source of foreign exchange for Nepal, after agriculture, and approximately 45% of tourists coming to Nepal visit protected areas, generating substantial revenue. Tourism will therefore remain central to the economic sustainability of the protected area system and the protection of biodiversity.
Biological resources and diversity Nepal’s location in the centre of the Himalayan range places the country in the transitional zone between the eastern and western Himalayas. Nepal’s rich biodiversity is a reflection of this unique geographic position as well as its altitudinal and climatic variations. It incorporates Palaearctic and Indo-Malayan biogeographical regions and major floristic provinces of Asia, creating a unique and rich diversity of life. Although comprising only 0.09% of global land area, Nepal possesses a disproportionately large diversity of flora and fauna at genetic, species and ecosystem levels. This diversity is found in the dense tropical monsoon forests of the Terai, the deciduous and coniferous forests of the subtropical and temperate regions, and the sub-alpine and alpine pastures and snow-covered peaks of the Himalayan mountain range.
The biological resources of the Terai and Siwalik are mostly dominated by Sal trees (Shorea robusta), tropical deciduous riverine forest and tropical evergreen forest. These ecosystems are of international importance both in terms of the number of globally threatened wildlife and floral species found in them as well as their diversity. Unfortunately, the Terai is also heavily populated, resulting in high pressure on the forest and agricultural resources.
The Mid-hills have the greatest diversity of ecosystems (52) and species in Nepal. This is due to the great variety of terrain types and the occurrence of subtropical to temperate climatic zones comprising a rich flora and fauna. Nearly 32% of Nepal’s forests occur in the Mid-hills.
The Mountains are the meeting place of the Palaearctic region to the north and the Indo-Malayan region to the south. There are 38 major ecosystems in the Mountains, and while they are relatively less diverse in flora and fauna compared to the Mid-hills and lowlands because of harsh environmental conditions, they are nevertheless characterised by a large number of endemic species.
Forests play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance as well as economic development in Nepal. Pristine forests are a major attraction for tourists. The forest environment is a major source of energy, animal fodder and timber, and forest catchment areas are the main sources of water used in hydroelectric power generation, irrigation and domestic consumption. Rural people depend on many non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for their subsistence living.
Rangelands in Nepal comprise grassland, pasture, scrubland and forest, and are estimated to cover about 1.75 million hectares, or nearly 12% of Nepal’s land area. Nepal's rangelands are rich in biodiversity, ranging from subtropical savannahs, temperate grasslands, alpine meadows, and the cold, arid steppes north of the Himalayan range.
About 21% (3.2 million hectares) of the total land area of Nepal is cultivated, the principal crops being rice, maize, wheat, millet and potatoes. Crops such as rice, rice bean, eggplant, buckwheat, soybean, foxtail millet, citrus fruits and mango have high genetic diversity relative to other food crops. Many crop species in Nepal owe their variability to the presence of about 120 wild relatives of the commonly cultivated food plants.
There are many different types of wetlands in Nepal, ranging from perennially flowing rivers to seasonal streams, lowland oxbow lakes, high altitude glacial lakes, swamps, marshes, paddy fields, reservoirs, and ponds. These wetlands are biologically diverse and are known to support more than 20,000 waterfowl.
The Himalayan mountain system is unique in the world. Several biologists have reported plants and animals above 5,000m. Mosses and lichens are found up to 6,300m, cushions of flowering Stellaria decumbens in Makalu occur up to 6,135m, and Ephedra species up to 5,200m. An important feature of the mountain biodiversity of Nepal is the number of different levels of biological organisation above the species level - genera, families, phyla, habitats, and ecosystems - indicating high levels of beta diversity.