Kathmandu, December 9
Conservationists have warned that the country might lose its flagship species like the Bengal tiger and one-horned rhinoceros very soon if all the proposed highways, link roads and local roads were constructed through core conservation areas.
Besides the East-west Highway and Postal Road, other roads including the North-south road, proposed railway, proposed BSF road of India and several local motorable roads pass through the Tarai Arc Landscape areas.
According to WWF Nepal, a conservation partner of the government, there is high risk of disappearance of the country’s endangered species if the proposed roads were constructed through wildlife conservation areas.
“The core habitat of tigers and rhinos will be fragmented into more than a dozen areas if the roads and development infrastructure are constructed as per the proposed design. In the long run, such rare species may eventually go extinct if their movement and habitat are disturbed,” said Gokarna Jung Thapa, senior GIS manager of WWF.
He said proposed development projects that are located on or pass through Chitwan National Park, Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Bardiya National Park, Shuklaphanta wildlife Reserve and other corridors of the country could take a toll on wildlife habitat.
According to the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Department, Nepal has 34,437 square km area under national protection, and that is 23.39 per cent of the country’s total land. Of the total, 19.51 per cent is core protected area and 3.88 per cent is buffer zone.
Conservationists have warned that the construction of different linear infrastructures will be a major problem along the Tarai. They added that forest fragmentation, poor genetic dispersal, less trans-boundary movement and habitat dieback, among other problems, may also arise due to rampant infrastructure construction in the name of development.
At present, there are 198 tigers and 645 one-horned rhinoceros in Nepal. According to the DNPWC, so far 20 protected areas have been established in Nepal with the aim of nature conservation.
They cover landscapes and ecosystem from Himalayas and high mountain watershed to flood plains of Tarai with a low representation in mid-mountain area. As many as 80 out of 118 ecosystems of Nepal are covered by the protected areas.
Nepal has been utilising its natural resources, local community participation and related stakeholders for management and conservation of the protected areas. The DNPWC has also focused on programs that provide support for the development of local community. Tourism has also been an integral part of the protected areas.
Despite the cumulative efforts of Nepal government, local community and various NGOs, protected areas are facing a number of challenges due to increase in human population and development activities.
Encroachment of forest and dependency of local community on protected areas for grass, wood and other forest products have also been a great challenge to wildlife habitat. The implementation of buffer zone has resulted in increased availability of forest products to the local community, community development support and conservation education programs.
As much as 30 to 50 per cent of the income generated from the protected areas is utilised for the development of bio-diversity. This has helped reduce human encroachment in protected areas.
A version of this article appears in print on December 10, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.