Efforts to conserve wetlands ‘lacking’

Kathmandu, February 2:

Speeches alone cannot conserve the wetlands of the Kathmandu Valley, an environment journalist said at a workshop organised to mark the World Wetlands Day.

Addressing a workshop on ponds of the Kathmandu Valley, journalist Bhairav Risal said: In the name of conservation of water bodies of the valley, government officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations are busy delivering speeches at formal programmes. The main objective — the conservation of wetlands — has taken a backseat.”

“Only cultural practices and tradition have helped preserve the ponds of the valley,” he said, adding: “The ponds would have disappeared otherwise.”

“Ancestors were wise enough to construct ponds, wells and cannels. But the present generation has encroached, neglected or misused them,” he said.

“There is a contradiction between ponds and development. A sense of co-existence should be developed between the two as both the elements are equally important for human settlements,” he said.

He also lauded the locals of Lagankhel for preventing a school from encroaching on a wetland located next to a stupa.

“The growing trend of constructing private schools on public land has put the wetlands in the city in peril,” he added.

According to the participating experts, major ponds of the Kathmandu Valley have been encroached upon or are being turned into private land. Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City Office built. The Kirtipur Municipality has chosen a dry pond to construct its building. While about one-fourth of Kamalpokhari of Kathmandu, a wetland, has been encroached upon, Ikhapokhari and Khichapokhari are dry.

According to a report by Joshi, Chaudhari and Shrestha (2001), there are 16 ponds in Bhaktaur, five in Kathmandu and 19 in Lalitpur. Purushottam Budhathoki, chairman of the Taudaha Youth Club, said, “Though I have been requesting all authorities to put an end to encroachment on the Taudaha by making an authentic boundary, no one has paid heed,” adding: No one really wants to do anything.

The WWF Nepal Programme said in a statement: “Wetlands, an important source of freshwater in Nepal, are disappearing at an alarming rate because people have yet to realise link between wetlands and their benefits.”

Communities should be mobilised to make conservation and development grow together, the IUCN said in a press release.