Wetlands in Nepal

Wetland is the land or area as tidal flats or swamps containing much soil moisture. Wetlands are defined as marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salty, including areas of man and water the depth of which at low tides does not exceed 6 meters.Wetlands of Nepal range from the torpid ponds of sub-tropical Terai to the glacial lakes of High Himalayas which indicates the diverse wildlife species supported by them. Wetlands of Nepal constitute an important ecosystem that harbors a large number of endemic wildlife species, many of which are on the brink of extinction.

Wetlands cover over 743,500 hectares of area, i.e. nearly 5% of the area of the country. The Terai consists of large numbers of wetlands (163) followed by hills and the mountains (79) extended from Mechi in the east to Mahakali in the west. Among 27 recognized global freshwater wetlands types, 20 are found in Nepal. But at present only 9 wetlands are included in the Ramsar sites. They are Koshi Tappu in Sunsari, Beeshazari in Chitwan, Ghodaghodi in Kailali, Gokyo in Solukhumbu, Gosaikunda in Rasuwa, Jagadishpur in Kapilbastu, Maipokhari in Illam, Phoksundo in Dolpa and Rara Lake in Mugu.

Wetlands of Nepal have 193 out of 841 recorded bird species and out of 91 and 89 globally threatened flora and fauna; 11 flora and 59 fauna are dependent on wetlands for all or part of the year. Wetlands are probably the last refuges of some wild relatives of cultivated plants.

Wetlands have a significant role in conservation of biodiversity and genetic resources. It helps purify static water, its storage and conservation minimize floods and erosion. Further it helps in ground water recharge, nutrient retention and even helps in ecosystems maintenance via supporting food web. People are also dependent on wetlands for their livelihood from fishing, irrigation, religious and cultural use.

The most important threats for wetlands are hunting and associated disturbances, expansion of human settlement, encroachment/landfill, drainage for agriculture and challenge of globalization of economy with respect to the sustainable use of the resources. Political instability and weak laws are also the hindrance for management of wetlands. The wetland policy of Nepal aims to conserve the wetland ecosystem and ensure the participation of local communities for sustainable use of its components.