Govt lacks policies to promote urban forestry

Kathmandu, January 22

Kathmandu has very low coverage of forest compared to other municipal areas of the country.

According to National Urban Development Strategy published by the Ministry of Urban Development, the forest cover is only three per cent in Kathmandu against 10 per cent in Pokhara as of 2011.

Study on urban forests has not been conducted since. Urban forests have not been adequately integrated into urban land use and planning process in Nepal. Urban forests provide greenery, reduce pollution and balance CO2 level, help control erosion, moderate temperature, preserve natural diversity, add to aesthetics of the city, provide open and social recreational space for  public, add value to the place and attract tourists.

In the hills and Tarai, forests cover an average of 22 per cent and 17 of the total municipal areas. Similarly, it covers 30 per cent of total municipal areas in mountain region. “Urban forests and greenery, however, have to be important elements of an urban area. Urban greenery and forestry require coordination between municipal authorities and other related organisations.

Most municipalities do not have any specific plans, programmes and activities to address the issue of urban forests in spite of the fact that people’s  perception of urban forestry as a way of improving urban environment is encouraging,” read the strategy.

A joint five-year survey conducted by the Department of Forest Research and Survey and the National Forest Products Survey Project between 2011 and 2015 shows that forest area is gradually increasing and makes up 44.74 per cent of the total area of the country.

Of them, 40.36 per cent is covered by forest and remaining 4.38 per cent is scrubland. The forest survey conducted between 1987 and 1998 showed that there was 39.6 per cent forest area in the country.

An integrated approach is lacking to promote and support urban forest promotion and conservation programmes. Haphazard urban growth, encroachment of land and lack of enforcement of land use policies is an impediment in the process. Similarly, role of municipalities in promotion and preservation of urban forest has not been well clarified and there is absence of mechanisms and incentives to encourage people to plant trees in private land, said the strategy.