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CONSERVATIONS

As long as the Nepalese marry early, feel uncertain about infant survival and desire sons to look after them in their old age and to perform funeral rites, the population of Nepal will continue to burgeon. With population tension, the forest will continue to be depleted, erosion caused by humans will compound that which is natural, water supplies will dry up and floods will inundate the lowlands. The visitor should not, however, adopt the role of the vociferous critic. Nepal is making positive changes, but traditional societies require long lead time for change. Amongst others, there are various alternative energy schemes underway, probably the most successful being the soon-to-be-augmented unit above Namche Bazaar, The Annapurna Conservation Area project (ACAP) is also and innovative approach, environmental educations, but an effective strategy of getting the Nepalese people directly involved in determining there own destiny. Conservation is typically a concept of affluent countries with land and resources to spare, a luxury unknown in the Third World. With dwindling space and forests, it is difficult for a farmer to grasp why land should be set aside for tiger and rhino, especially when they ravage crops, take domestic animals, and generally make a hard life even harder. Visitors should ensure that they minimize their impact on the environment. Trekking groups or individuals staying in lodges should insist that kerosene, as opposed to firewood, is used for cooking meals and heating water. One should also minimize the use of non-biodegradable products (especially plastic and batteries) as there are no facilities for their disposal. One potential nightmare is the trend to shell water in plastic bottles –which are expensive and completely unnecessary if you carry your own water bottle and iodine. See the Trekking chapter for more information on minimizing your impact for the visitor chapter for a list of supplementary reading on flora, fauna and national parks.

NATIONAL PARKS &CONSERVATION AREAS OF NEPAL
Nepal has nine national parks and four wild life reserves that protect every significant ecological system in the country –from the tropical plains of the Terai, to the fertile midland valleys, to the highest mountains in the world. Altogether, over 12,00 sq km are protected, or over 8%of the country’s area, and you can add another 2600 sq km if you include the Annapurna Conservations Area. Considering the strength of the demand for land, there has been a particularly impressive commitment to Conservations. Travelers are almost certain to visit a protected area- the Sagarmatha National park includes Mt. Everest, the Annapurna Conservations Area includes many of the most popular treks around the Annapurna Himal and the Royal Chitwan National Park is famous for its elephant –back safaris in search of royal Bengal tigers and one- horned rhinoceroses. All visitors are charged RS 3000 (or around US$35) for entering a park or reserve, except for the Annapurna Conservations Area where the entry fee is RS2000 (US$25). Home movie enthusiasts beware: a US$200 permit is officially required if you take video into a national park, while a permit for a movie camera (from the ministry of Communications) costs a whooping US$1000.The Department of National Park & Wildlife Conservations has a number of brochures on individual parks and can be contacted through PO Box  860, Baber Mahal is a well –known government office complex on the main road to the airport. The problems that Nepal has faced in setting aside areas for conservations are more acute than those faced in most industrially developed countries, but the Nepalese are responding by developing  new management concepts – it is not possible desirable to set aside areas of land that are totally untouched by humans. Firstly, very Little of Nepal can be accurately described as wildness. Most of the country is, in some way, used by humans. Virtually every possible inch of arable land is used for farming; the remaining forests are utilized for firewood and hunting; the high country is used for hunting and grazing; and the whole country is crisscrossed with trade routes. The only exceptions are several royal hunting reserves, some of the Terai (large parts of which were virtually untouched until the 1950s), and mountain peaks at high Altitude.

Secondly, developing national parks and conservations areas by following the western model would have meant totally blocking local people’s access to a resource that might literally mean the difference between life and death. In most cases, therefore, the Nepalese have attempted to marry the competing interests between conservations (and tourist attractions?) on the one hand and farming (and food?) on the other. For instance, the Sagarmatha National Park is the traditional home to several thousand sherpas whose ancestor settled the area 500 years ago. Banishing them from their homeland would have been unthinkable, so the park management has been responsible for encouraging sustainable economic development, as well as controlling the impact of a growing number of tourists. In another example, although thousand of recent settlers were actually moved outside the park’s boundary when it was declared, the Royal Chitwan National Park is still used by them as an important source for thatching grass, which is harvested every year. Despite these essential compromises, there have been some notable successes. The magnificent royal Bengal tiger was saved in Chitwan and there have been impressive achievements in the Sagarmatha National Park and the Annapurna Conservations Area – in forestry, agriculture, health and educations, as well is in protecting the most spectacular scenery in the world. See those sections later.

Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is a small (175sq km) reserve that lies on the beautiful flood plain of the Sapt Koshi (one of the three largest tributaries to the Ganges) in eastern Nepal. It runs north from the massive Kosi Barrage and the Indian borer. The reserve is often flooded during the monsoon, although mostly the shallow depths only. It is, nonetheless, home to tae last surviving group of wild buffalo and several species of deer. The vegetations are mainly grassland with some mixed river forest. A total of 280

Different species of bird-including many migratory birds-have been recorded. Local villages harvest grasses for thatching, as well as fishing and collecting edible fruits and fens. The Mahendra Highway skirts the reserve, but there is no nearby accommodation. See the Terai chapter for more details.

Sagarmatha National Park
North- east of Kathmandu and alongside the Tibetan border the Sagarmatha National Park covers 1148 sq km, all above 3000 meters in altitude. Mt Everest (Sagarmatha to the Nepalese) is the single main attraction, but there are a number of other well-known peaks, including Lhotse and Ama Dablam. The mountains are broken by deep gorges, glacial vallys and lakes. Three species include pine, fir, juniper and birch, and there are numerous species of rhododendron. Amongst the animals, there are musk deer, Himalayan tahr, black bear, wolves, and fascinating bird life. The most famous would be the beautiful impeyan pheasant, the national bird of Nepal, but there are choughs, snow pigeons and Himalayan griffons among 130 others. Over 3500 sherpas use the park for cropping and grazing (There villages are not included an the park proper) and there unique culture provides yet another reason to visit, There are several important monasteries. For details information on this park try to find a copy of Mt Everest National Park: Sagaarmatha , Mother of the Universe by Margaret Jefferies, an excellent book that gives fascinating background information, as well as some magnificent photos. This is one of the most popular trekking regions in the country, but it’s only accessible by foot, with the nearest airstrip at Lukla and the roadhead at Lamosangu. Many trekkers visit, lured by the highest and most spectacular mountain scenery in the world and Sherpas culture. See the trekking chapter for general information on trekking, and treks in this region in particular.  

Makalu- Barun National Park &Conservations Area
Makalu- Barun National Park & Conservations Area, just to the east of Mt Everest, was inaugurated in November 1992. it will cover 2330 sq km and its boundaries are marked by the Sagarmatha Nationa Park to the north-west and the Arun rivers to the east its northern boundary is the newly established 35,000 sq km Qomolangma (Mt Everest) Nature Preserve in Tibet. Together these three parks will protect a vast area around the Everest massif. The park includes Makalu, at 8463 meters the fifth highest mountain in the world, and a small number of trekkers walk in to the base camp. Elevations range from 435 meters on the Arun rivers to the 8000-meters summits of the Himal (a himal is range or massif with permanent snow).Nearly all ecological zones, from subtropical forest to the arctic snow of the Himalaya are found in the area. Some of the valleys contain some of the last remaining tracts to pristine mountain landscape in Nepal that are not yet permanently inhabited. The wilderness area will have the status of a National park, but the surrounding regions, which are home to more than 32,000 people, will be managed according to the model pioneered by the Annapurna Conservation Area project (see flowing section). The majority of people are Rai, followed by Sherpa and Tibetan-speaking groups. There are plans to build a visitors centre at Khandbar, which will have road access thanks to the proposed construction of the 402-megawat Arun III hydroelectric project (via Dhankuta). There is an airstrip at Tumlingtar about 10km south of khandbari.                                     

Royal Chitwan National Park
South-west of Kathmandu, near the Indian border on the tropical Terai, the Royal Chitwan National Park and contiguous Parsa Wildlife Reserve cover just over 1431sq km. The park includes a section of the Chure Hills and the Rapti, narayani and Reu valleys. Sal forest covers 70% of the park, with the remainder consisting of grassland and riverine forest. This is home to the only significant number of one-horned rhinoceroses surviving in Nepal, and other endangered species like the royal Bangle tiger, Gangetic dolphin and gharial crocodile. Altogether, there are over 50species of large mammals and over 400species of birds. There are no human communities actually in the park, but the surrounding countryside is intensively cultivated. For detailed information on this park try to find a copy of Royal Chitwan National Park: Wildlife Heritage of Nepal by Hemanta R Mishra & Margaret Jefferies some of the photos are magnificent. The park is easily accessible boy road, and accommodation ranges from five-star and expensive, to zero-star and cheap. Many people visit for two or three days(especially if they are going to or from India) to take advantage of elephant safaris through the forest. See the Terai chapter for more details.

Annapurna Conservation Area
North of Pokhara and extending to the Tibetan border, the Annapurna Conservation Area covers 2600sq km. It includes the Annapurna peaks, the famous Annapurna Sanctuary and a significant section of the Kali Gandaki valley. The conservation area is run by a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization (the Annapurna Conservation Area Project or ACAP) which is funded by various trusts. Its primary objectives are to improve local standards of living, to protect the environment and develop more sensitive forms of tourism.

HIMALAYAN TAHR
This is the most popular trekking region in Nepal, especially for individual trekkers, and this influx of visitors has added to the pre-existing problems in the mountains. The trekkers’ demands for heating and hot water have led to increased deforestation, there are litter and sanitation problems, and wildlife has been driven away from many parts.           Is response, ACAP has started work on a number of project, like forestry nurseries, introducing wood-saving technologies (egefficient stoves), banning fires altogether in certain areas, and building rubbish tips and latrines. Many problems still remain, and it is vital that trekkers cooperate with this and other initiatives. If you would like more information on ACAP activities, contact the King Mahendra Trust (01-223229) PO Box 3712, Baber Mahal, and Kathmandu. The treks around the Annapurna Himal are undoubtedly some of the best in the world not only for the grandeur of the mountains, but also for the variety of fascinating cultures that you can visit (Bhotiya, Tibetan, Tamang, Magar, Gurung, Thakali, and others) . The area is easily accessible from pokhara and there is an airstrip at Jomsom. See the Trekking 1710sq km. The park encloses the catchments for to major rivers-the Trisuli and the Sun Kosi - several 7000- meters mountains. The complex topography and geology of the area together with the varied climatic patterns means there is a wide variety of vegetation types and animals. There are small areas of subtropical forest below 1000 meters, then temperate oak and pine forest, subalpine juniper, larch and birch and finally alpine scrub, rocks and snow. The fauna includes pandas, muntjac, musk deer, black beer, ghoral, serows(antelope) and monkeys.

And 45villages lie within the park boundaries (although they do not come under park jurisdiction). In total, around 18,000 people depend on the park’s resource, mainly for wood and pasture land. There are several ethnic groups, but the majorities are Tamangs, (settlers from Tibet and flowers of the pre- Buddhist Bon religion). There are number of popular treks in the park, ranging in length and difficulty. There is road access to Dunche (near the park headquarters) from Kathmandu, or you can walk in from Sundarijal , panchkhal, or from Chautara or Tatopani on the Kodari road. See the trekking chapter for movie details.                       

Dhorpatan Hunting reserve 
The dhorpatan Hunting reserve lies in the Dhaulagiri Himal in western Nepal. It is characterized by a dry climate in the north and well-developed mixed hardwood forests at lower elevations. The  1325-sq km reserve is one of the prime habitats for the blue sheep, a highly prized trophy animal. Other ‘game’ animals include ghoral, serow, Himalayan tahr, Himalayan black beer, pheasants and partridges. I imagine trekkers would also make good sport. The only access, unless you have a helicopter, is by foot from Jelbang.

Shey phoksundo National Park
The Shey Phoksundo National Park is the largest park in Nepal at 3555sq km. It encompasses the Kanjiroba Himal in western Nepal and runs north to the Tibetan border. The park stretches across all possible vegetation zones- from the luxuriant forest of the lower Himalaya to the near desert of the Tibetan Plateau. Typical animals include the Tibetan hare, Himalayan weasel and the beautiful snow leopard. Lake Phoksundo and the Shey monastery are the two main attractions in the park, but the entire region has been little touched by the 20th century. Very few people visit this region, partly because access has, in the past, been officially restricted and requires a dangerous 14day trek from Pokhara. Permits can now be arranged through trekking companies. See Trekking in Hidden Land of Dolpa- tarap & Shey Poksumdo by Paulo Gondini (Tiwari’s Pilgrims Book House, Kathmandu) for Sumduwa from Dunai, the district headquarters for Dolpo.

Rara National Park
In little- visited western Nepal, the 106-sq-km Rara National Park was established to preserve the catchment surrounds of the beautiful Rara Lake- a clear high-altitude lake ringed with pine, spruce and juniper forests and snow-capped peaks. The lake is the largest in Nepal and is an important water-bird habitat. The only way to get to Rara lake is a strenuous four-day walk from the airstrip at Jumla, or from the roadhead at Surkhet. Trekking in this area is much more difficult than in east or central Nepal: some area are still closed and there are frequent food shortages. See lonely planet’s Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya by Stan Armington  for more details.

Royal Bardia National Park

In the western Terai bordering the Karnali Rivers, this 968-sq-km reserve is reminiscent in many ways of the Royal Chitawan National Park. The relative difficulty a access however, means it is mush less popular. And there is a higher likelihood of seeing a royal Bengal tiger. There reserve is bordered to the north by the Chure Hills but is predominantly flat and dominated by sal forest and grassland. Apart from tigers there is a small herd of introduced rhinoceroses, blue bull, a variety of deer and at least one wild elephant. If you’re lucky you might also see Gangetic dolphin in the river. The park is 21/2 hours by road from Nepalganj and there is comfortable (through expensive) accommodation available. See the Terai chapter for more details.

Khaptad National Park
Another rarely visited park, Khaptad covers 225sq km in far western Nepal. Lying at around 3000 meters it is largely a rolling plateau with grasslands, and oak and coniferous forests.
 
 
Royal Sukla phanta Wildlife Reserve
This 155-sq-km reserve lies in the far southwestern corner of Nepal on the Indian border. It covers a riverine  flood plain, dominated by sal forest, but like both the Chitawan and Bardia national parks, there are also grasslands which make it ideal for wildlife observation. Shukla phanta is one of the last strongholds for the endangered swamp deer, but there are also tigers and possibly a wild elephant or two. Access to the park is by road from Mahendranagar and it is possible to stay in comfortable tents. See the Terai chapter for more details.
 
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