The NBS was developed with the participation of a broad cross-section of Nepali society and following the guidelines developed by UNDP/GEF (Hagen unpublished) for the preparation of effective national biodiversity strategies and action plans.
Following an initial analysis and review of existing conservation plans, policies, legislation and institutions, and in order to identify biodiversity conservation issues throughout the country, five regional workshops were organised by the contractor, Resources Nepal, with representation from all 75 districts of Nepal. Participants at these workshops represented District Development Committees, NGOs, INGOs, sectoral government agencies, and Community-Based Organisations. These in-depth, district-level interactions helped to identify and prioritise conservation issues. Concerns raised were presented to national-level, inter-sectoral government agencies, professional societies, NGOs and INGOs to explore opportunities to enhance biodiversity conservation within and outside the protected areas system.
The NBS is also the result of extensive consultations with government representatives at management level as well as with local experts and international scientists. Eight national experts workshops were held on protected areas, community forests, non-timber forest products, plant resources, rangeland biodiversity, wetland biodiversity and agrobiodiversity (crops and livestock genetics).
Over 120 NGOs and INGOs and all 75 District Development Committees participated in the development of the NBS. Over 350 government officials and national and international technical experts were consulted on various drafts. In addition, three biodiversity field surveys were conducted, 43 technical papers and a Geographical Information Systems manual were written, and a Geographical Information Systems document on protected areas was published. A team of nine national experts contracted by the Institute of Biodiversity, Nepal further reviewed and updated the Strategy.
The first draft comprised strategic elements, a plan of action and specific project proposals, and was known as the Draft Nepal Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP). The NBAP was reviewed by an independent expert who also incorporated additional ideas. The, a team of experts and reviewers further revised the draft and brought the NBAP to its final draft shape.
At this stage, a formulation team was formed and there was a final round of extensive, structured consultations at the grassroots level with the primary objective of substantiating earlier findings and reaching as many grassroots level people as possible. Consultations took place in 10 districts representing the Terai, Mid-hills and Mountain regions. The districts selected were Morang, Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Bardia, and Kailali in the Terai, Kavre, Dhading and Myagdi in the Mid-hills, and Mugu and Humla in the Mountains. There were 29 sample sites in the Terai, 22 sites in the Mid-hills, and 14 in the Mountains within districts selected for consultations. The number of respondents totalled 1,254, of which 492 were women.
The draft was again revised to reflect inputs from these consultations. Comments and consensus arising from a last national biodiversity workshop in July 2001 in Kathmandu were forwarded to the final expert team entrusted with the final editorial work leading the production of the Strategy to its adopted stage; this comprises two documents: the Nepal Biodiversity Strategy and the NBS Implementation Plan.
2 NEPAL’S BIODIVERSITY AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE
2.1 PHYSICAL SETTING
Nepal is situated on the southern slopes of the central Himalayas and occupies a total area 147,181km2. The country is located between latitudes 26o22' and 30o27' N and longitudes 80o40' and 88o12' E. The average length of the country is 885km from east to west and the width varies from 145km to 241km, with a mean of 193km north to south. Hills and high mountains cover about 86% of the total land area and the remaining 14% are the flatlands of the Terai, which are less than 300m in elevation. Altitude varies from some 60m above sea level in the Terai to Mount Everest (Sagarmatha) at 8,848m, the highest point in the world.
Nepal’s biodiversity is a reflection of its unique geographic position and altitudinal and climatic variations. Nepal’s location in the central portion of the Himalayas places it in the transitional zone between the eastern and western Himalayas. It incorporates the Palaearctic and the Indo-Malayan biogeographical regions and the major floristic provinces of Asia (the Sino-Japanese, Indian, western and central Asiatic, Southeast Asiatic, and African Indian desert) creating a unique and rich terrestrial biodiversity.
Wide altitudinal variations and diverse climatic conditions have resulted in four main physiographic zones. The extreme altitudinal gradient has resulted in nine bio-climatic zones from tropical to nival within a short horizontal span.
Table 2.1 Physiographic zones of Nepal
SURFACE AREA (%)
Tundra-type & Arctic
Cool temperate monsoon
Warm temperate monsoon
Lowlands (Terai & Siwalik Hills)
Hot monsoon & Subtropical
Hot monsoon & Tropical
Source: LRMP (1986)
According to Hagen (1998), Nepal has seven physiographic divisions, which are, from south to north: Terai, Siwalik Hills zone, Mahabharat Lekh, Midlands, Himalaya, Inner Himalaya, and Tibetan marginal mountains.
Terai The Terai belt is a flat and valuable stretch of fertile agricultural land in southern Nepal, which forms part of the alluvial Gangetic plain. It lies at an altitude of between 60-300m between the Indian border and the first, outer foothills. The original forest cover in the Terai was dense and this is still so in western Nepal, but in other parts there has been a great deal of habitat destruction and ruthless felling of trees.
Siwalik Hills Zone The Siwalik Hills Zone, which rises abruptly from the Terai plains and reaches an elevation of between 700-1,500m, is wider in the western and far-western regions of Nepal and narrower in the east. It is mainly composed of sedimentary rock and big boulders.
This zone comprises the southernmost hill region of Nepal. The Bhabar rises from the Terai in the north and comprises a narrow but continuous belt of forest, locally known as Char Kose Jhadi, which is about 8-12km wide. The Bhabar is formed by the accumulation of gravel, boulders, stone, and sand that are washed down from the foothills. Water is scarce in these parts throughout the year except during the monsoon, when sizeable streams often rise up.
The Bhabar is not, however, an entirely independent range since in some areas the Mahabharat Lekh, which lies behind it to the north, merges into the Siwalik Hills Zone. In other areas the two ranges are separated by broad and gently sloping valleys, called Dun valleys. Important Dun valleys are the Dang Valley in western Nepal, the Chitwan Valley in central lowland Nepal, and the Trijuga Valley in eastern Nepal. Dun valleys are under intensive cultivation, and due to the removal of forest cover serious soil erosion has been a problem particularly in recent years.
Mahabharat Lekh The Mahabharat Lekh, or range, also known as the inner Himalayan range, lies between the Siwalik Hills to the south and the midlands to the north. The range is well developed in eastern and central Nepal and underdeveloped in western Nepal. It is composed of hard rocks such as granite or quartzite and limestone. The elevation of the Mahabharat Lekh is from 1,500m to 2,700m. Major rivers, namely the Bagmati, Babai, and Rapti Rivers, flow from the northern to the southern edges of the Mahabharat range.
Midlands The Midlands lie north of the Mahabharat and occupy the central region of the country. The average altitude is 2,000m with elevations ranging from 600-3,500m. The Midlands comprise the high valleys of Nepal, of which the most important with very dense human populations are the Kathmandu, Pokhara, Trishuli and Banepa Valleys. Agriculture is intensive in this part of the country where the farmers have made terraces on the steep hillsides, sometimes up to the very tops of the high hills. Forests have been severely degraded in this region and the rate of soil erosion is alarming. All the rivers that flow from the Himalayas down to the plains combine their waters into three great rivers, the Sapta Koshi in eastern Nepal, the Narayani in central Nepal, and the Karnali in far-western Nepal. The midlands are rich in schist and quartz rocks.
Himalaya The Himalayan zone lies in the north of Nepal, above 4,000m in elevation and stretches from the east to the west of the country. It comprises sub-alpine and alpine climates where summer grazing pastures are found in the lower elevations and where high altitude plants species adapted to extremes of cold and desiccation are found in the higher elevations. Heavy snowfall occurs during the winter months. Above 5,500m the Himalaya is covered with perpetual snow and there is no vegetation. Above 6,000m, the region is considered as arctic desert or the nival zone.
Inner Himalaya There are several inner Himalayan valleys with desert conditions such as the upper Kaligandaki and Bheri Valleys, located at altitudes above 3,600m. These valleys are very dry and the monsoon climate is absent.
Tibetan Marginal Mountain Range To the north of the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna Himals are the almost treeless plateaus, called the Tibetan Plateau or arid zone. This zone includes parts of Dolpa, Mustang, and Manang, where the climate and vegetation are Tibetan in character.
2.1.3 Climate A wide range of climatic conditions exists in Nepal mainly as a result of altitudinal variation. This is reflected in the contrasting habitats, vegetation, and fauna that exist in the country. Other important climatic factors influencing biodiversity and the composition of flora and fauna in Nepal include rainfall, winter snowfall, temperature, and aspect.
Rainfall Eighty percent of the precipitation that falls in Nepal comes in the form of summer monsoon rain, from June to September. Winter rains are more common in the western hills. The average annual rainfall in Nepal is about 1,600mm, but total precipitation differs in each eco-climatic zone. The eastern region is wetter than the western region. For example, Taplejung (1,768m) in the far-eastern Mid-hills receives an average annual rainfall of 2,024mm, whereas Baitadi (1,635m) in the far-western region receives only 1,037mm. The southern flanks of the Himalayas, such as at Pokhara, receive a higher amount of rainfall (3,345mm), while the rain-shadow areas of Dolpa, Jomsom, and Mustang receive considerably less (295mm).
Temperature Temperature varies with topographic variations. In the Terai, winter temperatures are between 22-27oC, while summer temperatures exceed 37oC. In the Mid-hills, temperatures are between 12-16oC. In general, the average temperature decreases by 6oC for every 1,000m gain in altitude (Jha 1992). Deforestation, industrialisation, and urbanisation have influenced a rise in temperature in recent years.
Aspect Aspect has an important influence on vegetation, particularly at lower altitudes. In general, moisture is retained more on north and west faces, while south and east faces are drier because of their longer exposure to the sun.
Soil formation is related to physiographic zone. In the Terai, the soil is alluvial and fine to medium textured. In the Siwalik Hills, soil is made up of sedimentary rocks with a sandy texture, while in the Mid-hills it is of medium to light texture with a predominance of coarse-grained sand and gravel. The soil in the high mountains is shallow, stony, and glacial. The hill slopes tend to lose their topsoil through erosion (HMGN/ADB/FINNIDA 1988).
2.1.5 River systems
The major perennial river systems that drain the country are the Mahakali, Karnali, Narayani, and Koshi Rivers, all of which originate in the Himalayas. These big rivers hold water resources with tremendous potential for large-scale hydropower and irrigation development. Medium-sized rivers include the Babai, West Rapti, Bagmati, Kamla, Kankai, and Mechi Rivers; these generally originate in the Mid-hills or in the Mahabharat range. The Terai region has a large number of small and usually seasonal rivers, most of which originate in the Siwalik Hills (HMGN/ADB/FINNIDA 1988).
2.1.6 Land use
The latest physiographic data show that Nepal comprises around 4.27 million hectares (29% of total land area) of forest, 1.56 million hectares (10,6%) of scrubland and degraded forest, 1.7 million hectares (12%) of grassland, 3.0 million hectares (21%) of farmland, and about 1.0 million hectares (7%) of uncultivated lands. It has been reported (HMGN-DFRS 1999) that forest cover in the Terai and hill areas decreased at an annual rate of 1.3% and 2.3% respectively between 1978/79 and 1990/91. On average, forested areas have decreased at an annual rate of 1.7% and scrublands have decreased at an annual rate of 0.5%. In terms of total land area, the Terai occupies only 23.1%whereas hills occupy 41.7% and mountains 35.2%.