A privatised view

The government’s plan to privatise the managements of national parks and wildlife reserves for a certain period of time and under some conditions must be taken in a positive light. For this, the government amended the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973 through an ordinance recently. The policy of handing over the managements of national parks and wildlife reserves to private organisations was formulated in 2003 and the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation also called for a feasibility study the same year. Under the current regulations, any private organisation formed under its own respective law can submit a proposal to manage the national parks, conservation areas and hunting reserves. The authorities, after studying the proposal and considering the organisation’s experience and expertise, may hand over the management, thus leaving it with the sole responsibility of monitoring the organisation.

Privatisation per se cannot solve the problems besetting any particular sector. Yet, with the private organisations taking over, one can hope that the managements of national parks and conservation areas will improve and they will be less likely to be the targets of rebel attacks. This may also make the dealings more transparent and help promote tourism. But before privatising, the authorities will have to answer some vital questions like: Will the private organisations be able to control poaching and illegal trade of wildlife parts? Who will provide security to the national parks and reserves? At present, the army takes care of their security and government officials are posted for other arrangements. But with the private staff taking over, will it not provide a fertile ground for illegal trade? Several conservation officials have been displaced after the Maoists targeted them and government installations. Security concerns must be dealt with on a priority basis if Nepal’s natural heritage is to be developed for general benefit through judicious privatisation.