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
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:
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.
220.127.116.11 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.