We can tackle the emerging problem of climate change if we stop using fossil fuel close to all national parks, reserves and protected areas

The Chitwan National Park (CNP) – the country's oldest national park and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – has been under existential threat due to rising temperature, non-native invasive plants, drought, flash floods, erratic rains and habitat loss. Wildlife experts and botanists say the natural grasslands, on which the Asiatic one-horned rhinos, antelopes and buffaloes depend on for their survival, have been invaded by alien plants, such as feverfew, lantana, a vine known as "mile-a-minute" weed, and Siam weed, considered one of the world's most problematic invaders since the past decade. As per the park's recent grassland mapping published in 2016, the area of the park and its buffer zone covered by natural grass has shrunk to 6 per cent, down from 20 per cent in 1973, when the reserve was established.

Scientists say the rising temperature and erratic rainfall patterns have allowed the non-native plans to grow fast. These non-native plants have partially or completely destroyed the tall natural grass in some parts of the 950-sqkm park, home to the one-horned rhino, whose population has gone up to 694 in the park from 605 in 2015, an increase of 89 rhinos in the last six years. One of the main reasons behind the growth of the invasive plants is the climate change.

Apart from the loss of tall natural grass, the park is also witnessing the loss of wetlands due to prolonged drought during the spring season that lasts for more than six months. Unprecedented flash floods that carry heavy silt and pebbles ultimately burry the ponds and wallows, which are the main sources of drinking water for all the wildlife and the most essential natural condition to keep the pachyderms and buffaloes cool during the dry season. The park authorities found that onehorned rhinos had left two areas on the eastern side of the park for lack of water in the waterholes during the intense dry season in 2019. As the water sources dry up and grasslands shrink, the wild animals enter the human settlements, creating the chances of human-wildlife conflict.

Until a few years ago, the park authorities were struggling to protect the wildlife, especially the rhinos, from the poachers. Now they also have to deal with the problem of habitat conservation due to the climate change. In order to address this pressing problem, the park officials have dug as many as 16 new ponds and have repaired another 35 to capture and store rainwater and monsoon runoff. They have also worked to create 2,500 hectares of new grasslands and have removed the non-native weeds that destroy the wildlife habitat and ecosystems. The park has so far spent Rs 50 million or about 40 per cent of its total development budget to maintain the park's ecosystems. On an average, the CNP brings in Rs 295 million from the visitors each year, which is nearly 40 per cent of the total revenue generated by all the 20 protected areas. Nepal has been successful in protecting the wildlife and their habitats and conserving forest cover thanks to rigorous efforts of the government agencies and cooperation from the local community.

We can also tackle the emerging problem of climate change if we stop using fossil fuel close to the national parks, reserves and protected areas.

KMC's directives

The results of the Secondary Education Examinations, taken at the end of class X, are due in about a fortnight, but some private schools have already started taking admission of students in class XI, even though this is against the provisions of the School Education Management Regulations, 2017. It is thus only right that Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), the local body responsible for school-level education under the federal system, should remind the schools about the provision.

The results have been delayed because the exams could not be conducted in the physical presence of the students due to the pandemic. So the National Examination Board had decided rather late that the students should be evaluated by the schools themselves based on their internal performances as last year. Schools cannot afford to be unruly and must follow the law of the land. There are a lot of anomalies in the education sector, and they need to be sorted out, from the exorbitant fees charged to students to forcing students to purchase textbooks, uniforms and exercise books from the school itself. Schools will, however, learn to behave only if the local governments can strictly enforce the regulations.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 21 2021, of The Himalayan Times.