Source: Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (January 2001)
(Sagarmatha National Park and Royal Chitwan National Park were declared World Heritage Sites in 1979 and 1984, respectively. Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve was declared a Ramsar site in 1987. Shey Phoksundo National Park is in the process of being included in the WHS list.).
Out of 118 ecosystems identified by Dobremez (1970) in different physiographic zones in Nepal, 80 are represented in the present protected areas system.
Shrestha & Joshi (1996) listed 246 endemic species of angiosperms not known to occur outside Nepal. Almost 90% of the endemic plants do not have a wide distribution in Nepal and are only known from their type collection. The mountain PAs lying between 82o-84o E and 28o-30o N contain the greatest number of endemic species (Table 3.2).
Table 3.2 Number of flowering plants and endemic species in protected areas
Number of Species1
Number of Endemics2
Koshi Tappu WR
Royal Chitwan NP
Royal Bardia NP
Royal Suklaphanta WR
Makalu Barun NP
Shey Phoksundo NP
Source: 1Shakya et al. (1997); 2Shrestha & Joshi (1996).
Several endangered species including rhinoceros, tiger, swamp deer, red panda, musk deer, and gharial have been studied and their status determined. However, the factors that threaten the existence of plants and animals still require extensive research. There is an urgent need to systematically study the biology of threatened plants and animals, identify factors threatening the species with extinction, and develop approaches to manage PAs more efficiently.
The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973, and its subsequent amendments, and the Buffer Zone Management Regulations, 1996, represent the most important legislative measures focusing on the needs of local communities as well as minimising impacts on protected areas to avoid parks and people conflicts. Buffer zones may include forests, settlements, agricultural lands, open spaces in villages, and many other land use forms. Buffer zones have been declared in six protected areas (and are proposed to be established in three more), covering 35.60% of the core zone. 144 VDCs are involved in sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity (Table 3.9).
Table 3.3 Buffer zones of parks and reserves
Buffer Zone area (km2)
No. of VDCs
within Buffer Zone
Estimated Population in Buffer zone
Royal Chitwan NP
Royal Bardia NP
Shey Phoksundo NP
Makalu Barun NP
*Koshi Tappu WR
*Royal Suklaphanta WR
* Proposed. NA=Not Available
Source: DNPWC/MFSC (1998/99)
3.2.2 POLICY AND LEGISLATION
Ecosystems and genetic resources are protected in-situ within the protected areas system of Nepal. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation’s (DNPWC) mandate is to administrate and manage the PAs.
220.127.116.11 Legislation and regulations
Aquatic Animals Protection Act, 1961: This Act provides legislative protection of the habitats of aquatic species. However, no agency has been designated to administer and enforce the Act.
National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (NPWC) Act, 1973: The NPWC Act has been a key instrument in protecting biodiversity within the protected areas system. Section 3 of the NPWC Act prohibits hunting any animal or bird, building any house, hut or other structure, clearing or cultivating any part of the land, harvesting, cutting, burning or damaging any tree, bush or other forest product, and mining within national parks or protected areas. In spite of the absence of adequate data on the wild flora and fauna of Nepal, which makes comprehensive management and conservation difficult, Section 10 provides complete protection to 27 species of mammals, nine species of birds and three species of reptiles (Table 2.25).
The NPWC Act recognises six categories of Protected Area in Nepal, namely national park, conservation area, wildlife reserve, hunting reserve, strict nature reserve and buffer zone.
Out of 16 protected areas, 14 are directly managed by the DNPWC. The Annapurna Conservation Area and Manaslu Conservation Area are managed by a national NGO, the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC). The different protected area categories represent the following percentages of the total PA land: national parks 38.54%, wildlife reserves 3.67%, hunting reserves 4.96%, conservation areas 42.43%, and buffer zones 10.40%. A rough analysis shows that 14.84% (3,957km2) of the country's protected areas system are in the lowland (Terai and Siwalik Hills) regions, only 6.64% (1,770km2) are in the Mid-hills and 78.52% (20,939km2) in the high mountains.
Himalayan National Park Regulations, 1979: These Regulations have made special provisions for people living within national parks to collect natural resources for their daily requirements, such as firewood, leaf litter, small pieces of timber and fodder. The Regulations also allow people to continue to graze their domestic animals on park rangeland. However, no provision has been made for handing over parcels of parkland to be managed by the community (Sharma 1999). Despite this, communities can organise harvests and grazing plans so long as they are consistent with the park’s objectives. They can also control or even stop “outsiders” from entering the park or reserve to harvest resources, and thus help reduce the pressure on the natural resources of the area.
Buffer Zone Management Regulations, 1996, and Buffer Zone Management Guidelines, 1999: The NPWC Act was amended to incorporate provisions for conservation areas and buffer zones. Subsequently, the Buffer Zone Management Regulations and Guidelines were approved to design programmes compatible with national park management and to facilitate public participation in the conservation, design and management of buffer zones. The amended NPWC Act makes provisions for 30-50% of the park (or reserve) revenues to be retained for community development activities in the buffer zone. The revenue is disbursed through a Buffer Zone Management Committee and a Users Committee. The Buffer Zone Management Regulations are the only regulations to promote community forestry programmes in the buffer zones and to improve the regeneration of forests by the community. Although private holdings can be within a buffer zone, land ownership is unaffected. Natural boundaries have been taken as the primary demarcation of buffer zones around the periphery of national parks and reserves. Factors taken into consideration for the demarcation of buffer zones include: areas likely to be affected by the existence of the PA, the geographical situation of the PA, the status of the villages and settlements located within the PA, and areas practicable and appropriate for management purposes (DNPWC/MFSC 1999).
The concept of a buffer zone calls for sustainable utilisation of forest resources and environmental conservation within the zone for community development. Legal provisions allow for buffer zones to be managed under community forest, religious forest, and private forest structures. However, these regulations need to be revised for today’s context and must be made clear and easy to understand at the field level (Sharma 1999).
Implementation of the Buffer Zone Management Regulations is a natural outcome of previous policy and planning initiatives. The National Conservation Strategy (HMGN/IUCN 1988) emphasised the need for sustainable use of land and natural resources. It specifically pointed out that the forests outside of protected areas must also be protected from deforestation, that people should be made self-reliant in timber, fuelwood, fodder and other forest products, and that local communities should be given the responsibility of managing forests according to geographical conditions and social needs.
18.104.22.168 International conventions and other obligations
The World Heritage Convention: In 1972, the Convention for the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage recognised that the physical deterioration or disappearance of any cultural or natural heritage site constitutes a harmful impoverishment to the heritage of all nations, and that therefore cultural and natural heritages need to be preserved as part of world heritage. Nepal has been successful in fulfilling its obligations towards the World Heritage Convention, primarily through the implementation of the NPWC Act under which the Royal Chitwan National Park and Sagarmatha National Park were established. Nepal has also proposed that Shey Phoksundo National Park be listed as a world heritage site based on its unique cultural and natural characteristics. The National Conservation Strategy recognised the need to reverse damage and destruction of cultural heritage, as well as encroachment on heritage sites, religious forests and sacred grounds.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Nepal became party to CITES in 1975. CITES has facilitated international co-operation to control international trade in endangered wild flora and fauna with the aim of reducing or eliminating trade in species whose numbers or conditions suggest that further removal from their natural habitat would lead to their extinction. The NPWC Act prohibits the removal or export of species listed under CITES without a licence. In order to establish decision making authorities regarding CITES, HMGN designated the Natural History Museum (Tribhuvan University) and the Department of Plant Resources as the scientific authorities for wild fauna and wild flora, respectively. Similarly, HMGN designated the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and the Department of Plant Resources as the management authorities for wild fauna and flora, respectively.
The NPWC Act regulates national and international trade in species of all wild animals. Pursuant to Section 10 of the NPWC Act, the hunting of animals protected under Schedule 1 is prohibited throughout Nepal. Many of these species are also listed under CITES, Appendix I. Under the NPWC Act, it is illegal to collect, obtain or keep any part of a dead animal protected under Schedule 1 without a certificate, and such goods are prohibited from sale, purchase or disposal. Pursuant to Section 26, any person illegally killing, wounding, purchasing, selling or transferring a protected animal, or keeping as a trophy, selling or purchasing any part thereof, will incur a fine or imprisonment or both. The Ninth Five-Year Plan also emphasises the importance of CITES in protecting Nepal’s endangered wild species of flora and fauna.
Ramsar Convention: The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, known as the Ramsar Convention, was signed in 1971 and came into force in 1975. It is an independent international convention designed to protect the wetland ecosystems from further destruction. It calls on all signatories to conserve wetlands, promote their sustainable utilization, and set aside special areas as wildlife reserve. Every country is required to designate at least one wetland for inclusion on the list of wetlands. The list of Wetlands of International Importance (LWII) is maintained by IUCN, in Gland, Switzerland.
His Majesty’s Government of Nepal ratified the Ramsar Convention in 1987, and designated Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR) for inclusion in the Ramsar site. KTWR is an important habitat for Nepal’s last surviving population of wild water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis arnee).
3.2.3 MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS
Buffer zone management: The Buffer Zone Management Regulations is the most important legislative initiative focussing on the needs of local communities who are most likely to be adversely affected by protected areas, and subsequently avoids conflicts between parks and people.
Management strategies: The DNPWC has been developing innovative park management strategies in collaboration with local residents, NGOs, INGOs, and donors. Major programmes in the protected areas include: the Makalu-Barun National Park and Buffer Zone, the Terai Arc Landscape Project, the Northern Mountain Conservation Project, CARE International’s Buffer Zone Development Project, the World Wild Fund for Nature’s Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Project, and the London Zoological Society’s Wildlife and Domestic Veterinary Programme. Central to all of these programmes is the participation of user groups in the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources and the equitable distribution of benefits to local communities. The DNPWC also manages a long-term monitoring programme to assess numbers of wildlife species, population trends, and habitat requirements to provide a scientific basis for all management decisions on endangered species conservation.
Tourism: PAs support eco-tourism, and vice-versa, thus providing a leading source of foreign income for Nepal. Approximately 45.50% of tourists (191,617 out of a total of 421,188) visited protected areas in fiscal year 1998/99.
The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP): The ACAP began as a pilot project in a 200km2 area of the Ghandruk Village Development Committee in 1986. By 1990, its work area had expanded to 16 VDCs, covering 1,500km2. The ACAP was officially gazetted in 1992 and the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation was given the responsibility of managing it for 10 years. The ACAP has evolved from an experimental Integrated Conservation and Development Project to the largest protected area (7,629km2) in Nepal. The project serves as a model throughout Asia for integrating public participation in biodiversity conservation.
The Parks People Programme: The Parks People Programme is a demonstration by the MFSC and the DNPWC on how community institutions can function as partners in self-reliant, socio-economic development to support conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in protected areas. The primary objective of the programme is to improve the socio-economic condition of men and women of buffer zone communities and to engage them in biodiversity conservation. The programme was launched in seven protected areas and buffer zones in the Terai and the Mid-hills.
The Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area Project: The DNPWC implemented this project to demonstrate a new model for conservation. The project gives strict protection to the biodiversity of the park while developing sustainable use activities for the people who reside in the surrounding conservation area. The Makalu-Barun National Park and Buffer Zone is managed by the DNPWC.
The Tiger Conservation Action Plan: The Tiger Conservation Action Plan has been approved to recognise, restore, preserve and increase the effective land base that supports Royal Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) to maintain viable tiger populations in Nepal (DNPWC/WWF-Nepal 1999).
Increase in the populations of protected animals: The following populations have increased in numbers since they were given protected status:
Rhinoceroses in Royal Chitwan National Park
Tigers in all of the protected areas of the Terai, except Koshi Tappu
Black bucks in Khairapur (near Royal Bardia National Park)
Ungulates in Royal Chitwan and Royal Bardia National Parks as well as in other PAs too
Wild buffaloes in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
Musk deer in Sagarmatha and all mountain PAs
Rhinoceroses translocated to Royal Bardia National Park and Royal Suklaphanata Wildlife Reserve
Gharials reintroduced into rivers in Royal Chitwan National Park, Royal Bardia National Park and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
The Red Data Book of the Fauna of Nepal (BPP 1995b) reports that a number of threatened mammals, such as Sambar Deer (Cervus unicolor), Gaur (Bos gaurus), Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus), four-horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) and Ganges Hog Deer (Axis porcinus), are now found in national forests adjoining the Parsa Wildlife Reserve in Bara District.
In-situ conservation of threatened and endemic plants in PAs and adjoining areas: Nepal allocated 26,696km2 (18.32%) of its total land area and 67.80% of ecosystems as protected areas for effective in-situ conservation. This has been effective for the in-situ conservation of medicinal, food, timber and other threatened plants and their wild relatives. A few examples include different Rhododendron species and Tetracentron sinense, an endangered species, in Makalu-Barun National Park; Larix himalaica, a threatened species, in Langtang National Park; a good population of Dalbergia latifolia, a threatened and valuable timber plant, in Parsa Wildlife Reserve; Pterocarpus marsupium, a threatened and highly valuable medicinal plant, in Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve; Gnetum montanum, an endangered species, in Royal Chitwan National Park and in Seduwa, in the low-lying Arun Valley in Makalu-Barun National Park.
3.2.4 LESSONS LEARNED
The Wildlife Conservation Act, 1957, was the first Act to identify the importance of protecting wildlife and resulted in the creation of a Rhinoceros Sanctuary in Chitwan. The enactment of the NPWC Act in 1973 provided a regulatory mechanism for the conservation of natural areas and wildlife. Any kind of destruction, exploitation or removal of fauna or flora, and any kind of damage to habitat are now strictly prohibited. The Act, with four amendments to date, details various arrangements for the protection of endangered species of wildlife and their habitats, for the protection and management of protected areas, and for the regulation of consumptive and non consumptive uses of biodiversity so that the welfare of the people is sustained.
The Constitution of Nepal, 1990, declares that the "State shall give priority attention to the conservation of the environment ... and also make special arrangement for the conservation of rare animal species, the forests, and the vegetation of the country [Article 26(4)]."
The DNPWC recorded several parks and people conflicts around the Rhino Sanctuary and in response, the buffer zone concept was developed.
Medicinal and aromatic plants are highly exploited in the mountains, and traders take advantage of the poverty of the local people. The Department of Forests tries to control illegal trade and allows sustainable harvesting of some species with special permits.
3.2.5 MAJOR CONSTRAINTS
There are still limitations on management capacity through insufficient staff, weak research infrastructure, lack of logistical support, inadequate financial resources and lack of incentive. Although it oversees the management of 18.32% of Nepal's land area, the DNPWC has only 22 technicians at headquarters and less than 1,000 nation-wide. With no logistical support or incentive, staff attendance in remote protected areas is poor. Furthermore, field-based staff are the least trained and the most inadequately funded among HMGN personnel.
Difficult terrain, harsh environmental conditions and a lack of facilities in the mountains make programme implementation difficult.
Poor representation of Mid-hills ecosystems: The Mid-hills have the greatest ecosystem diversity in Nepal, but what is left of relatively undisturbed areas is seriously threatened by human activities and is insufficiently represented in the protected areas system. Conversely, there are fewer gaps in the protected areas system in the high mountain range, from Kanchenjunga to the east to Tinker in the west. Between the Kanchenjunga CA and the Langtang NP, exisitng gaps are narrow. The area between Kanchenjunga CA and Makalu Barun NP has been identified as potential landscape for a rhododendron reserve, covering the areas around the Milke Danda and Jaljale Himal. The gap between Makalu Barun/Sagarmatha NP and Langtang NP should be protected for its significant Gauri Shanker range.
Trans-boundary protected areas: Establishing new PAs adjoining existing ones in neighbouring countries is needed. Large total contiguous PAs, whether as separate protected areas grouped together (e.g. Chitwan and Parsa) or in different countries, is crucial to maintaining healthy populations of large mammal species.
Shared responsibilities for co-ordination: The responsibility for the management of PAs is shared between different organisations, and there is room for strengthening the roles and responsibilities. The DNPWC is responsible for their management and administration. The Royal Nepalese Army is responsible for surveillance and protection activities and works in collaboration with the DNPWC. The army protects biodiversity in national parks and wildlife reserves from wood smugglers, poachers, domestic animals, fires, and encroachment by the public. The Immigration Department is responsible for issuing trekking permits, including to national parks. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation is responsible for issuing mountaineering permits and for the development of auxiliary services and infrastructure to accommodate trekkers and tourists who visit high mountain national parks.
Implementation of management plans: Management plans have been prepared for some PAs, including Royal Chitwan NP, Langtang NP, Royal Bardia NP, Parsa WR and Koshi Tappu WR, and these now require effective implementation. Management plans for other PAs still need to be developed or upgraded.
Pressure on resources use: In Nepal, people interact with protected areas in numerous ways. There has been a growing conflict over land use rights and practices (Nepal & Weber 1993, 1995; Studsrod & Wegge 1995). The right to collect firewood and graze animals was denied in PAs in the Terai, while in for the collection of thatch grass, access was restricted by limiting the collection period to two-three weeks a year during the dry season. Grazing is allowed in mountain PAs however. As a result, parks and people conflicts are common in all the reserves of Nepal, but the extent of the conflicts vary in different reserves.
Livestock grazing in the park: Usually, a limited number of cattle and buffaloes may be grazed inside PAs in the hills. But encroachment by domestic animals has threatened the existence of the red panda in Langtang National Park and the pure wild water buffalo in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve.
Illegal hunting: Hunting was banned after the establishment of protected areas except in the hunting reserve. However, cases of rhinoceros and tiger poaching in Royal Chitwan National Park, and occasional poaching of musk deer in Sagarmatha National Park and Shey Phoksundo National Park, are still being recorded.
Crop raiding and depredation: Crop depredation by wild animals in adjoining cultivated fields has occurred in all the protected areas. As a consequence, wild animals have often been poisoned.
Alien species: Different parts of Nepal, including protected areas, are suffering from invasion by alien species such as Eupatorium adenophorum, E. odoratum, Lantana camera, and Mikania micrantha.
Revision of the list of protected animals: The protected fauna list of the NPWC Act, 1973, which includes 27 species of mammals, nine species of birds, and three species of reptiles, has not been revised since 1973 in terms of population status, distribution, etc. The list also needs to be updated for inclusion of other species.
Tourism: High concentrations of visitors in a few protected areas (Royal Chitwan National Park, Annapurna Conservation Area, Sagarmatha National Park, and Langtang National Park), which are biologically fragile and already under stress from local populations, have accelerated negative environmental impacts (Wells 1993). Large amounts of garbage have been reported in Himalayan peaks and other mountain protected areas. While there are reasons to encourage tourism, there is a need to determine the carrying capacity of the protected areas.
Weak integration: At present, the policies and strategies of the Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management do not explicitly address mountain biodiversity conservation. The challenges of poverty, isolation, and environmental sensitivity are mutually reinforcing in mountain areas, and an integrated approach is necessary to overcome them. The level of understanding of the relationship between socio-economic and biodiversity processes in mountain areas is still very limited. There are large gaps in understanding sustainable agriculture, development of non-agricultural opportunities, the unique aspects of space and micro-environmental variation and their implications for biodiversity.
Indigenous knowledge: The indigenous knowledge of mountain peoples in forest management and traditional practices of ethnoecological relationships would contribute to biodiversity resource management in mountain ecosystems. Amongst several mountain ethnic groups, information about plants and animals is passed from one generation to the next through oral folklore and is often kept secret. Sometimes it is very difficult to extract information from these people, even with some form of payment (Rao 1991; Shengji 1996). There is an urgent need to identify and document indigenous knowledge through proper research approaches; ethnobiology has a great potential for contributing to Himalayan biodiversity conservation (Shengji 1996).