State of Ecotourism in Nepal

State of Ecotorism in Nepal

(Source: State of Ecorourism Nepal 2004, NTB and FSD-Nepal)

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background

Although the concept of 'sustainable development' was introduced by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) during the 1980s, it was the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 that made it binding on States to work towards its goals. The Summit prepared action plans and made it mandatory for signatory nations to prepare status documents on the environment. As a signatory to the Convention, Nepal is also expected to prepare status reports with environmental concerns. This report aims at meeting that international obligation while also providing an overview of the status of ecotourism in Nepal for planners and tourism sector stakeholders.

Tourism is now an important source of foreign exchange for many developing countries. The development of tourism in and around protected areas is seen as one of the best ways of delivering economic benefits to remote areas by providing local employment, stimulating local markets, and improving transportation and communication infrastructure (Mackinnon et al., 1992; Ross and Wall, 1999). These are vitally important for a developing country like Nepal.

Tourism has grown in Nepal since the first ascent of Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, although at a slow pace. For long Nepal's tourism was basically associated with travel to remote areas, mountaineering and trekking. In recent years the sector has also been influenced by new concepts and trends in world. Since ecotourism is related with nature travel in rural, remote and protected areas, tourism in Nepal is often viewed from an ecotourism perspective. Therefore the need to explore the current status of ecotourism and its growth in the country was realized. 

Ecotourism projects have been established across the world since the concept was first introduced. In many cases these endeavors have been successful and present useful lessons. Therefore, to supplement its value, this study does not confine itself to Nepal but also examines ecotourism efforts in other parts of the world. 

1.2 Objective of the Study

The broad objective of this report is to present a conceptual framework for a review of ecotourism and the status of ecotourism in Nepal, along with an examination of the potential for ecotourism development at the local level. The more specific objectives are:

-                To present a conceptual framework of ecotourism,

-                To examine the status of ecotourism development from a regional perspective,

-                To assess the efforts made for ecotourism development in Nepal,

-                To explore ecotourism potential in Nepal with respect to protected areas and heritage sites,

-                To analyze the contribution of ecotourism to poverty alleviation.

1.3 Methodology

The study is based on secondary data. The sources include published and unpublished articles, study reports, progress reports, and books. Visitor records were collected from the concerned tourism agencies. An extensive web search was carried out for more recent information on ecotourism. Organizations working in the field of (eco)tourism development were visited and relevant documents were collected. The study team closely worked with Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and other key stakeholders in the tourism sector. A draft report was circulated to stakeholders in the conservation and tourism development sectors and their feedback was solicited. Similarly, a consultative workshop was organized and comments and suggestions were received from participants. All these comments and suggestions were incorporated in the report.

The study team agreed to discuss and prepare the report by identifying the concept, problems, issues and lessons learned in various aspects of ecotourism as mentioned in the Terms of Reference (TOR). A Pressure-State-Impact-Response (PSIR) framework was used to analyze the data and information wherever possible.

Pressure indicates the stress or strain created on tourism as well as natural resources. The factors creating pressure might be natural incidents, visitors to or the inhabitants of any location. State refers to the present state of tourism or resources on which tourism depends. Impact describes the results of the activities carried out by visitors or other relevant stakeholders. This study deals with both positive and negative impacts of tourism. Finally, response refers to the efforts made by government, non-government and international agencies or private sector for improving the tourism resource base. The response could be in the form of policy measures or programs or projects.

1.4 Limitations of the Study

 

The foremost constraint of this study was the dependency on secondary data. The entire report is based on previously published or unpublished study reports, journals, books and other relevant resources. The report is very detailed in its treatment in areas where data and information were readily available whereas in some other areas scanty information has resulted in somewhat imbalanced reporting. 

Due to limitations of time and resources it was not possible to make field visits for gathering primary data. This would certainly have helped in capturing the most recent practices in ecotourism, particularly in the more remote parts of the country.

1.5 Concept of Ecotourism

The term 'ecotourism' is defined as traveling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areas with specific objectives such as studying, admiring, and enjoying the scenery with its flora and fauna, as well as any existing cultural manifestations (both past and present) found in these areas (Lascurain, 1987). By this definition, nature-oriented tourism implies a scientific, aesthetic or philosophical approach to travel, although the ecologically motivated tourist need not be a professional scientist, artist or philosopher. The main feature of such tourism is that the person who practices ecotourism has the opportunity of immersing himself/herself in nature in a manner generally not available in the urban environment (Boo, 1990; Fillion et al., 1994).

Ecotourism is assessed from various perspectives. According to Scace (1993) nature travel is an experience that contributes to conservation of the environment while maintaining and enhancing the integrity of the natural and socio-cultural elements. He presents it as a new tourism strategy that balances development and economic gains by stimulating local economies. It is seen as a new force that can benefit both nature and developing destinations (Ross and Wall, 1999; Sullivan, 1989 cited in Scace, 1993), while it is also expected to be simply a travel to enjoy and appreciate nature (Filion et al., 1994).

Ecotourism is also seen as an interfacing of conservation concerns and tourism interests, setting free the synergy required to jointly preserve the quality of the environment while protecting nature and promoting tourism. It is a timely strategy that is vital to the maintenance of healthy ecosystems along with economic benefits to any host-area communities. Therefore, ecotourism has been viewed as a new tourism strategy that balances development and economic gains by benefiting both nature and destination areas (Farrell and Runyan, 1991).

"It promotes a code of ethics in relation to other species that grants rights of continued existence to those species; it promotes non-destructive, aesthetic, spiritual values. And it actually does something for wildlife in so far as it provides humans with an economic and moral incentive to set aside and maintain space (habitat) for wildlife and it discourages harassment" (Gauthier, 1993).

Nature tourism frequently uses simpler facilities and less expensive and less sophisticated infrastructure. Thus, it may be practical in cases where funds for large-scale development are not available (Sherman and Dixon, 1991). Therefore, from an economic point of view, it is expected to be beneficial for both the hosts and the visitors.

'Ecotourism' is now seen as a model of development in which natural areas are planned as part of the tourism economic base, and biological resources and ecological processes are clearly linked to social and economic sectors. It is also expected to be a natural fit to protect biological diversity and find non-consumptive uses of natural resources which still show up on the national balance sheet" (Kutay, 1989).

Ecotourism differs from other forms of tourism particularly due to the opportunity for observation and learning it provides to tourists and its contribution to cultural conservation and long term sustainability of communities and natural resources. Therefore, it is a form of sustainable tourism that benefits the community, environment and local economy. This may be achieved through various means such as employment for local people or programs where tourists contribute money or labour to community activities such as tree planting or conservation of local monuments or sites (SNV, 2003).

1.5.1 The Rationale for Ecotourism

The major reasons for ecotourism development cited in contemporary literature on the subject are:

 

·                 Being one of many forms of tourism, ecotourism has been the source of foreign exchange for the country and therefore is also source of capital and additional resource for the host economy.

·                 Ecotourism is also the source for diversification of the local economy, particularly in rural areas where agricultural employment may be sporadic or insufficient.

·                 Unlike mass tourism, since ecotourism involves travel to rural and natural areas, it attempts to provide a fair distribution of benefits and costs.

·                 Ecotourism stimulates profitable domestic industries—hotels, and other lodging and food related facilities such as restaurants. Transportation system and handicraft production are other positive outcomes of ecotourism.

·                 It necessarily contributes to natural resource conservation and management.

1.5.2 Characteristics of Ecotourism

Ecotourists are distinguished from mass tourists due to their unique behavior towards nature and host community. Wearing and Neil (1999) list these as characteristics of ecotourists.

 

·                Possession of an environmental ethic.

·                Willingness not to degrade the resource.

·                Focus on intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation.

·                Biocentric rather than anthropocentric in orientation.

·                Aiming to benefit wildlife and the environment.

·                Striving for first hand experience with the natural environment.

·                Possessing an expectation of education and appreciation.

The WTO identified characteristics of ecotourism, listed below, are also not very different from the above mentioned (Baumgartner, 2002):

 

-                All nature-based forms of tourism in which the main motivation of tourists is the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas.

-                It contains educational and interpretation features.

-                It is generally, but not exclusively, organized for small groups by specialized and small locally-owned business. Foreign operators of varying sizes also organize, operate and/or market ecotourism, generally for small groups.

-                It minimizes negative impacts upon the natural and socio-cultural environment.

-                It supports the protection of natural areas by:

·          generating economic benefits for host communities, organizations and authorities managing natural areas with conservation purposes,

·          providing alternative employment and income opportunities for local communities, and

·          increasing awareness towards the conservation of natural and cultural assets, both among local and tourists.

 

As such ecotourism appears to have much in common with the concept of 'alternative tourism' or 'appropriate tourism' (Lascurain, 1996).

Various authors have described various elements of ecotourism.

Ecotourism is defined by some as travel restricted to relatively undisturbed or protected natural areas. This is basically because of the ecotourists' focus on experiencing natural areas. Such areas provide "best guarantee for encountering sustained natural features and attractions" (Lascurain, 1990).

Secondly, ecotourism is often considered as travel to developing countries to relatively undisturbed natural areas for study, enjoyment or volunteer assistance. It is also concerned with the flora, fauna, geology and ecosystem of an area – as well as the people who live nearby, their needs, their culture and relationship to the land (Swanson 1992 cited in Wearing and Neil, 1999).

 

Thirdly, ecotourism is conservation-led. As a segment of the tourism industry, ecotourism has emerged as a result of "increasing global concern for disappearing cultures and ecosystems" (Kutay, 1990 cited in Wearing and Neil, 1999).

 

The fourth element is related to the educative role which refers not only to the tourists themselves but also to industry operators and local communities. "The need to disseminate information to tourists on appropriate behavior in fragile social and ecological settings is increasingly being recognized as the responsibility of industry operators" (Blangy and Epler-Wood, 1992 cited in Wearing and Neil, 1999).

 

"Ecotourism also includes such essential elements as travel to natural tourist spots where all concerned parties have a responsibility towards the environment, or the ecological system i.e., a form of travel without substantially disturbing the `integrity' of nature. It gives tourists the opportunity to appreciate, learn and gain quality tourism experiences, while raising their environmental awareness. Finally, it is a form of travel which feeds returns back to nature, and the neighboring local communities, either directly or indirectly" (Chettamart and Emphandhu, 1994).

 

As ecotourists are assumed to prefer areas, which are remote and uncrowded, ecotourism is distinctly different from mass tourism. They are eager to learn about wildlife, view plants and watch animals, encounter cultures, and see some benefits accrue to local communities. Such type of travel is mostly associated with some physical challenge (Wight, 1997). In addition, ecotourists often show an interest in trekking/hiking, bird watching, nature photography, wildlife safaris, camping, mountaineering, fishing, river rafting, and botanical study. 

 

Nature tourists are different from other forms of tourists in that they are generally more accepting of conditions different from home. They do not expect accommodation, food or nightlife that meets the standards of comfort or luxury enjoyed by mass tourists. For many nature tourists, living under local conditions, learning about customs, and partaking of food may even "enrich" their vacation experience (Boo, 1990). 

1.5.3 Ecotourism and Environment

Despite all the features mentioned above, ecotourism is not always flawless. Against the principles of ecotourism there is always the possibility of ecotourism causing harm to the environment. Unlike mass tourists it is the ecotourists who visit the fragile and virgin natural resource areas where precious flora and fauna including endangered species occur. Even a highly sensitive researcher might disturb the natural wilderness in a most inaccessible area. Therefore, unless proper precautions are not taken, there is every chance that environmental impacts of ecotourism will be more severe than that of tourists who are content with a stay in an urban or an isolated resort hotel (Bamford, 1993).

Though many countries have established protected areas to guard against the over-exploitation of natural resources, the high dependency of local residents on such resources will surely harm them. For instance, studies in Nepal revealed that trekkers greatly increased the rate of local deforestation (Karan and Mather, 1985 cited in Dearden, 1991) thereby threatening the very people whom they encountered and the natural beauty they came to see. There is evidence, although sporadic, that with sincere efforts some ecotourism projects are able to make significant contribution to conservation (Box 1.2).

 

 

Box 1.2: Tourism accompanied by Forest Conservation

Ghorepani is one of the famous tourist centers in the Annapurna Conservation Area where comparatively dense forest has been conserved. The fulfilling of wood requirements and conservation of forests has been reconciled through the villagers' active participation in forest management under the auspices of the actively involved Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP).

Source: Pradhan, 2000.

Evidence from remote areas like Everest Base Camp reveals that visitors' consumption behavior has given rise to severe environmental hazards caused by the littering of plastic and paper containers/ wrappers, clothes, shoes, and pieces of equipment strewn all along the routes. To check against such reckless discarding and dumping of garbage, the local economy should make efforts to supply the needs of tourists, and visitors on their part should be satisfied with what has been made available for them. These changes are not unfeasible. Unless such conditions are created and benefits are realized, the said vision will remain mere wishful thinking.  

In order to protect the environment it is important that local people are provided with alternatives. In this regard, ecotourism is expected to be a sustainable and relatively simple alternative. It is expected to support local communities while allowing for the continued existence of the natural resource base (Scace, 1993). However, such expectations cannot be fulfilled unless the resource on which it is based is protected against unplanned extraction. Therefore, proper arrangements must be made to educate travelers about the importance of the ecosystems they visit and ensure active involvement of locals and tourists in conservation efforts. Also, with the justifiable aim of creating benefits for communities, measures can be taken to empower them through fostering a sense of pride in their natural resources and enabling them to exert control over their development.

 

1.6 History and Birth of Ecotourism

The history of nature travel is traced back to Aristotle who is known to have traveled to the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea where he spent time studying marine creatures. Nature travel during the 19th Century was essentially a quest for spectacular and unique scenery. This was also the time when the concept of national parks came into being. The founders of national parks wanted to protect the environment but it was the tourists inside the national parks who "provided the economic and political rationale needed to translate philosophy into accomplishment" (Lascurain, 1996). 

"The restoration of peace after the Second World War appealed and opened the world market for travel throughout the world and this was the reason for explosion of tourism. This opportunity not only helped to establish tourism as one of the most important industries, but it also became cause for deterioration of the early image of tourism. During the Fifties and Sixties, Americans who formed an important segment of the world tourists were known for their insensitive behavior towards nature and culture of the destination they were visiting. They were recognized as 'ugly tourists'. During the Seventies, the Germans appeared as 'ugly tourists' followed by Japanese in the Nineties. The 'ugly tourist' phenomenon does not come from actual personality traits. It is the feeling and experience brought about by the cultural and social invasion by visitors who are different from the host community. More recently, the 'ugly tourism' phenomenon continues with uncontrolled tourism development, and variation in cultural and societal values in the destination areas where tourism thrives" (Butler, 1992 cited in Lascurain, 1996).

 

The concept of ecotourism is also rooted in the environmental concerns raised by industrial development in Europe during the Sixties. The unprecedented industrial development essentially raised awareness regarding environmental conservation and conservation organizations that came into being demanded that governments set aside a landmass not just for tourism purposes but for preservation of ecosystem integrity. The whale conservation movement during the second half of the Sixties was an example of such a campaign and this period marked the birth of ecotourism (Butler, 1992 cited in Lascurain, 1996). With the unprecedented development in transportation, even travel to most inaccessible areas is now feasible. Therefore, ecotourism today is not confined to popular national parks but has expanded to include even the most remote parts of the earth.

However, actual nature tourism began in Costa Rica in the early Eighties. The word 'ecotourism' was first coined by a Costa Rican tour operator while registering his business, which soon became a popular word and frequently appeared in the literatures in Costa Rica (Kunwar, 1997). But the 'ecotourism' phenomenon became more prominent and came into wide use after Hector Ceballos Lascurain published an article in 1987 with definition of ecotourism. He described ecotourism as nature based travel to relatively undisturbed areas with focus on education. It was then formally recognized by the 1989 Hague Declaration on Tourism that advocated rational management of tourism to contribute to the protection and preservation of the natural and cultural environment. Since then ecotourism has increasingly become a popular word for academics, professionals and businessmen.

 

Box 1.3:  WWF Ecotourism Recommendations for Tourism Boards and other Government Institutions

 

For Tourism Ministry/ Board

-    Include aspects of ecotourism in national tourism policy.

-    Carry out marketing program for ecotourism, including product identification, inventory of ecotourism attractions, and visitor surveys to determine demand.

-    Design mechanisms, with the national park service, for collecting entrance fees.

-    Modify legislation pertaining to tourism laws to include environmental protection clauses for natural areas.

-    Develop mechanisms to record statistical information about ecotourism.

-    Work with private sector and international funding agencies to develop adequate tourism infrastructure at each site, not only to accommodate tourists but also to provide opportunities for tourists to spend money.

-    Create natural resource and tourism management training programs with the park service and tour operators, for park personnel and tour guides.

-    Develop mechanisms to channel a percentage of tourism revenue back into maintenance and protection of the park or protected area.

-    Monitor the quality of nature-based tourism services and facilities.

 

Ministry of Planning/ Public works

-    Identify role of ecotourism in national economic development plan.

-    Ensure that environmental impact studies are part of any development projects that deal with natural areas.

Ministry of Environment/ Agriculture/ Forestry

-    For any national protected area system plan, identify wildland units where nature tourism will be developed and areas where it should be prohibited.

-    Modify legislation concerning protected areas to include ecotourism requirements.

-    Ensure that environmental impact and carrying capacity studies are undertaken for all nature-based tourism sites.

-    Create management plans for each protected area, highlighting tourism needs for those with substantial visitation.

-    Provide adequate park personnel to maintain parks and reserves and to control tourists.

-    Cooperate with the Ministry of Education to provide environmental education at park sites and schools.

Ministry of Budget and Finance

- Increase the budgets for those protected areas that are attracting tourists, so that additional management tasks can be carried out and additional tourist facilities provided.

- Develop self-financing mechanisms for parks and reserves based on tourism revenues.

-  Participate in revision of the entrance fee collection scheme.

Ministry of Education

- Participate in creation of a guide training program.

- Give high priority to environmental education in general education curriculum.

- Participate and/ or fund the design and distribution of environmental education materials in schools and parks.

Source: Boo 1990 cited in Lascurain, 1995.

 

The decade of the 1990s saw a remarkable growth in ecotourism. Various countries adopted and started ecotourism projects. In an attempt to emphasize the importance of ecotourism, the United Nations declared 2002 as the 'International Year of Ecotourism', which with 18 preparatory meetings in Asia, Europe and Australia finally concluded in Quebec, Canada with a 15-point declaration.


2. ECOTOURISM AND OTHER FORMS OF TOURISM

 

2.1 Principles of Ecotourism

As presented in the previous chapter, scholars have defined ecotourism in various ways, although the essence of each definition is more or less the same. The characteristics of ecotourists and principles of ecotourism have been also described. The principles of ecotourism developed by the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) are presented hereunder (Shrestha and Walinga, 2003):

 

-                Avoids negative impacts that can damage or destroy the integrity or character of the natural or cultural environments being visited.

-                Educates the traveler on the importance of conservation.

-                Directs revenues to the conservation of natural areas and the management of protected areas.

-                Brings economic benefits to local communities and directs revenues to local people living adjacent to protected areas.

-                Emphasizes the need for planning and sustainable growth of the tourism industry, and seeks to ensure that tourism development does not exceed the social and environmental 'carrying capacity'.

-                Retains a high percentage of revenues in the host country by stressing the use of locally owned facilities and services.

-                Increasingly relies on infrastructure that has been developed sensitively in harmony with the environment - minimizing use of fossil fuels conserving local plants and wildlife, and blending with the natural environment.

Other authors have described ecotourism principles differently but the essence of these principles (Blamey, 2000; Dhakal and Dahal, 2000) is not too different from those mentioned above.

 

·                It should not negatively impact the resource that helps to develop ecotourism in any destination. Rather it should be developed in an environmentally friendly manner.

·                It should provide benefits to all parties—local natural resources, people and the tourism industry - with a stake in ecotourism.

·                It should extend first-hand information to visitors.

·                It should provide educational opportunities for all parties - local communities, government, NGOs, industry and tourists.

·                It should encourage all-party recognition of the intrinsic values of the resource.

·                It should involve acceptance of the resource on its own terms, and in recognition of its own limits.

·                It should promote understanding and partnerships between many players, which could involve government, NGOs, industry, scientists and locals.

·                It should promote moral and ethical responsibilities and behavior towards the natural and cultural environment by all players.

2.2 Ecotourism and other Forms of Tourism

Mass tourism remained dominant in the world tourism market for a long time. But with change in times, tourism too has taken various forms, some of which are described hereunder.

2.2.1 Alternative Tourism

Alternative tourism can be defined as 'forms of tourism that set out to be consistent with natural, social and community values and which allow both hosts and guests to enjoy positive and worthwhile interaction and shared experiences'. Therefore, ecotourism can be assumed to be one form of alternative tourism (Zurick, 1992 cited in Sheedy, 1995; Wearing and Neil, 1999).

Butler (1990 cited in Kunwar, 1997) identified several characteristics of alternative tourism. He observed it to be of small scale and developed and owned by local people. It involves traveling to relatively remote, undisturbed natural areas with the objective of admiring, studying and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals and cultural attributes. It also considers the conservation of the environment and sustenance and well-being of local people.  Further, clients are expected to be individuals. Accommodations are locally owned and small-scale.

 

Box 2.1: Features of Alternative Tourism

 

-          The attempted preservation, protection and enhancement of the quality of the resource base which is fundamental to tourism itself.

-          The fostering and active promotion of development, in relation to additional visitor attractions and infrastructure, with roots in the specific locale and developed in ways that complement local attributes.

-          The endorsement of infrastructure, hence economic growth, when and where it improves local conditions and not where it is destructive or exceeds the carrying capacity of the natural environment or the limits of the social environment whereby the quality of community life is adversely affected.

-          Tourism which attempts to minimize its impact upon the environment, is ecologically sound, and avoids the negative impacts of many large-scale tourism developments undertaken in areas that have not previously been developed.

-          An emphasis on not only ecological sustainability, but also cultural sustainability. That is, tourism which does not damage the culture of the host community, encouraging a respect for the cultural realities experienced by the tourists through education and organized 'encounters'.

 

Source: Wearing and Neil, 1999.

Kunwar (1997) observes that alternative tourists try to avoid the beaten track and visit places where nobody has been before. Such a tourist seeks to forget civilization for a while and enjoys contact with the local people. S/he may enjoy even without modern tourist infrastructure and travel alone or in small groups. An alternative tourist is anticipated to be well educated and possess above average income and tend to remain in the country for more days than a traditional tourist.

2.2.2 Sustainable Tourism

Although tourism has the potential to become an agent of development and change, due to the way it uses resources, it should not be considered an environmentally harmless industry as such. Therefore, only with careful planning it has the potential to operate and contribute in a sustainable manner (Butler cited in Woodley, 1993). 

According to the WTO "sustainable tourism development meets the needs of present generation tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future." It is expected to lead to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs are fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems (WTO, 2002). The WTO paper further explains the need for achieving several objectives for ensuring sustainable tourism.

 

-                The natural, historical, cultural and other resources for tourism are conserved for continuous use in the future, while still bringing benefits to the present society.

-                Tourism development is planned and managed so that it does not generate serious environmental or socio-cultural problems in the tourism area.

-                The overall environmental quality of tourism areas is maintained and improved where needed.

-                A high level of tourist satisfaction is maintained so that tourist destinations retain their marketability and popularity.

-                The benefits of tourism are widely spread throughout society.

The guiding principle for sustainable development emphasizes the management of natural and human resources for maximization of visitor enjoyment and local benefit and at the same time minimizing the negative impacts upon the destination site, community and local population (Kunwar, 1997).

 

2.2.3 Community based Tourism

More recently, community based tourism has been recognized as another form of tourism. "Community based tourism occurs when decisions about tourism activity and development are driven by the host community. It usually involves some form of cultural exchange where tourists meet with local communities and witness aspects of their lifestyle. Many such remote ethnic communities may be vulnerable to outside influences and decisions about the way tourists are hosted must be owned by the community for successful and sustainable tourism" (SNV, 2003).

Community based tourism can generate a sense of pride in the local population and make funds available for maintaining or upgrading cultural assets e.g. archeological ruins, historic sites, traditional crafts production (World Bank, 2000 cited in UNEP, 2001).

The aims of community based ecotourism largely depend on the issues, problems and needs of the community. In general it serves as a tool for conservation and, at the same time, a tool for improving the quality of life. It also serves as a tool to bring the community together to consult, discuss and work together in solving community problems. Further, such tourism provides opportunity for exchange of knowledge and culture between tourists and the community and helps to provide supplementary income for individual members of the community and for community development (REST, 2002). 

2.2.4 Responsible Tourism

Responsible tourism refers to the type of tourism where tourism organizations take care of tourist destinations while providing visitor satisfaction. As a result, the resources and attractions—both natural and cultural—are not spoiled for local people or future visitors. Further, it denotes care for the environment and cultural resources, and opportunity for locals in terms of employment or other kinds of involvement, sufficient information regarding local resources for visitors, and implementation of the policy of Corporate Social Responsibility (Gyawali et al., 2003).

2.2.5 Pro-Poor Tourism

Pro-poor tourism is another form of tourism where the benefits to the poor are greater than the costs that tourism entails to them. This approach emphasizes the need to extend tourism opportunities for people living on less than US$ 1 per day. This category of people should be involved in tourism for realizing poverty reduction through tourism. By definition, it is obvious that not all community based tourism is pro-poor tourism (Goodwin, 2000). Pro-poor tourism strategies emphasize on unlocking opportunities for the poor within tourism, rather than expanding the overall size of the tourism business (WTO, 2002).

The following observations are based on case studies in Ecuador, Namibia, Nepal, South Africa, St Lucia and Uganda carried out by the Pro-Poor Tourism team on how tourism can be made pro-poor (WTO, 2002).

 

·                Though poor involved in tourism still remain poor, they are better off than before. They are less vulnerable to hunger.

·                Due to access to regular employment, the tourism income helps uplift some households from 'poor' to fairly 'secure' livelihoods.

·                Tourism benefits are spread widely among the poor households yet such distribution remains highly uneven.

·                In exceptional cases communities can actually be said to have 'escaped' poverty. 

Therefore, these examples suggest that tourism must be judged on the basis of opportunities provided for pro-poor growth or the diversity of opportunities it provides for the poor (Goodwin, 1995).

As for Nepal, a Pro-Poor Tourism Policy is being prepared by MoCTCA/ TRPAP. The Policy document is anticipated to support the planning and implementation of pro-poor tourism activities in Nepal (TRPAP, 2004).

2.2.6 Village Tourism

Village tourism denotes tourists visiting villages and staying in or near the villages. Successful cases have shown that the village should have special features to attract visitors. This is also associated with tourist behavior in that they stay in a village and explore the surroundings (McIntyre, 1993). The special feature of this kind of tourism is that the visitors become part of the village for the period of their stay. Such visitors normally do not expect the kind of accommodation and food that they are accustomed to. In other words, they rely on locally available accommodation and food. 

Since village tourists depend on locally available accommodation, with minor modifications in some cases, accommodation does not require large investments. A house in the village serves as an accommodation for the visitor. Therefore, villages could serve visitors even with minimum entrepreneurial skills. Visitors are served local food and cultural programs are organized for entertainment. Such an opportunity allows visitors to immerse themselves in the local socio-cultural environment. It also allows them an opportunity to get to know local social, cultural and religious practices. Since it is these special features of any typical destination that attract tourists, hosts soon understand the need for preservation of the local tourism resources, including their culture and religion.

Evidence from Sirubari (Box 2.2) shows that this form of tourism has high potential for bringing resources to the villages which eventually becomes an important tool for poverty alleviation.

However, since cultures are subject to influence by visitors, there is the possibility that village tourism destinations are affected by the influx of visitors. Therefore, special care is needed to minimize the social and cultural impacts of tourism.

 

 

 

Box 2.2: Sirubari Village - pioneer of Village Tourism

The Sirubari culture of welcoming visitors is very different from others. If informed in advance, the hosts welcome visitors at the entrance to the village with traditional musical instruments, the panchai bajaa. Visitors are then guided to a main house where plans are made for each individual's stay. Then each visitor is taken to his/her place of stay. Visitors do not have the privilege of making the choice; it is the hosts who decide.

 

The houses are all traditional Nepalese homes constructed for the residents themselves. Except for some internal adjustments and toilets, no new construction has been undertaken for tourism purposes alone. The houses are kept clean. Unlike other villages, no traces of dirt can be seen in the streets. The streets are paved with stone that helps keep the walkways safe. This has also added to the beauty of the settlement. Although each house has its own ever-running water tap, there are no problems of sanitation. Overall, the village is well managed in terms of sanitation and drinking water. 

 

In the morning, the host prepares breakfast, which is mostly made up of local food products. It is served in the dinning room, which is next to the kitchen. Lunch is served at around 12 noon, and dinner in the evening. Special attention is paid to preparing healthy food in tidy surroundings. The host serves the meals him/herself.

 

During the day, tourists have the opportunity to see the local tourist attractions, which include sunrise watch and mountain views from atop the hills. In the evenings cultural programs are arranged. 

 

Visitors normally stay for two nights. At the time of their departure, visitors are offered garlands and presented a farewell dance with typical Nepali songs. Finally, hosts see visitors off at the point where they were received.

 

Village tourism in Sirubari has strong linkages with conservation. In the beginning, Sirubari was visited mainly by Nepalese who came to see the community forest. Slowly, with the hard work of villagers, these visits were converted into village tourism. In this sense, village tourism is closely linked with ecotourism.

Source: Pradhan, 2001.

2.2.7 Cultural Tourism

The earliest accounts of cultural tourism can be traced back to ancient history. One such visitor was Huen Tsang from China who visited Nepal and India in the 5th Century AD. One of the important things he did during his visit was to describe the cultural sites in Kathmandu Valley. However, cultural tourism as we know it today was conceptualized by UNESCO during the 1970s. Cultural tourism is regarded as a "force for cultural preservation". It is also defined as "the absorption by tourists of features resembling the vanishing lifestyles of past societies observed through such phenomena as house styles, crafts, farming equipment, dress, utensils and other instruments and equipment that reflects the lifestyle of any particular community during a particular time" (Smith cited in Kunwar, 1997). Further, Zins (cited in Kunwar, 1997) identified handicrafts, language, traditions, art and music, paintings and sculpture, history, work and technology, architecture, religion, educational system, dress and leisure activities as elements of cultural tourism.

As cultural tourism also involves education for visitors and promotes sensitivity towards cultural environment, provides direct benefits to host communities and helps in preservation of culture, it is also closely linked with ecotourism.

The resources that comprise cultural tourism (Kunwar, 1997) are categorized hereunder:

1. Cultural landscape and distinctive cultural aspects

Settlement pattern, lifestyle, dress and jewellery, folk songs and dances, local cuisines.

2. Local art/ craft

Art and architecture, sculptures and paintings, folk dance/ music and musical instruments, and local craftsmanship.

3. Fairs/ Festivals

Fairs - religious, specific local fairs, commercial/trade, popular festivals, and mode of their celebration.

4. Historic/ Archaeological

heritage

Monuments heritage - forts, places, temples and mosques of historical and artistic value, ancient ruins, museums, excavation sites and other places of archaeological importance and sites of important historical events.

Although cultural tourism is different from other forms of tourism, it often becomes an integral part of the total visit. For instance, one of the main interests for tourists to Kathmandu is to see the temples and historical monuments in Kathmandu Valley. Similarly, visitors to Ghandruk in the Annapurna Conservation Area are unlikely to miss the local cultural museum.


3. Regional Experience in Ecotourism

 

Ecotourism has become popular among academics, researchers and practitioners in different parts of the world ever since the concept was introduced in the early 1980s. A number of ecotourism projects came up in different countries in due course and with mixed results. The experience in ecotourism gained in various parts of the world is dealt with briefly in the following sections. 

3.1 Ecotourism in Central America

Located between two continents and two oceans, the isthmus of Central America is biogeographically a land bridge hosting amazing diversity and abundance of flora and fauna. Caribbean and Pacific beaches border a land filled with white-water rivers and waterfalls, tropical rain forests, active volcanoes, mountain cloud forests, coral reefs and ancient Mayan ruins. Rare and exotic wildlife protected in well-known national parks and private reserves make Central America an ideal location for adventure travel and open opportunities for ecotourism. The people of Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama are also known for their warm hospitality and commitment to conservation (online: www.africa/ecotourism safari.doc). 

This section presents an overview of ecotourism development in Central America, with detailed references to Costa Rica, a brief account of Belize and Panama, and the current status of ecotourism in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras.

3.1.1 Ecotourism in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has had a fairly long history of tourism development that began with the establishment of the first National Tourism Board in 1913 (TTI, 1996). Most of the international tourists during the 40 years that followed were from other Central American countries. Their focus remained on the capital city of San Jose. During this era the contribution of tourism to the economy of Costa Rica was minimal. But during the 1990s, the number of international tourists increased greatly compared to other Central American countries (75 percent between 1990 and 1994). This rise in tourist numbers was facilitated by safety in the country and the higher living standard of people. The country is being referred to as the 'Switzerland of Central America' (Weaver, 2001). There was multifold increment in tourism receipts, which reached US$ 577 million in 1993 from merely US$ 117 million in 1984. Thus, by 1992 tourism became the leading source of foreign exchange for the country (Hill, 1990).

3.1.1.1 Ecotourism Development

Although contemporary tourism is highly diverse in Costa Rica, only a small portion of it is related with ecotourism. While the country emphasized convention business, 3S tourism, nature and adventure tourism and cruise-ship excursions were equally important. The convention business and beach tourism have been important for Costa Rica. The latter's growth can be estimated by the expansion of 3S resorts along coastal areas (Weaver, 2001).

According to a 1990 survey of US based tourists, who constituted 35 percent of the total of 435,000 for that year, 39 percent identified nature based attractions as their primary reason for visiting Costa Rica. Further analyses revealed that wildlife watching (37 percent), jungle excursion (33 percent), bird watching (31 percent), boat trips (25 percent), botany (18 percent), hiking/trekking (16 percent), local cultures (14 percent), hunting/fishing (12 percent), camping (10 percent) and mountaineering (9 percent) were specific interests of visitors. Furthermore, this expression of strong nature–related motivations indicates the existence of Popular, Casual, Passive, Diversionary (PCPD) ecotourists, whose visit to one or more protected areas (PAs) represents about their only direct and tangible link to ecotourism (Weaver, 2001).

Today, Costa Rica has attained the status of a leader in ecotourism development with its exceptionally high biodiversity, positive publicity and extensive public and private protected-area network (Weaver, 2001). Further international credentials of the country include the hosting of the 17th General Assembly of the World Conservation Union in 1988 and the Nobel Peace Prize for the then President Oscar Arias for his contribution in resolving the political crises in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

The tropical setting (80N and 130N) with extreme variations in altitude ranging from sea level to 3819 masl and the presence of 20 'life zones' ranging from mangroves and coastal rain forest to sub-alpine grassland (IUCN, 1992) are evidence of its rich biodiversity. It hosts at least 850 bird species, 1,260 tree species, 1,200 orchid species, 237 mammal species and 361 species of reptiles and amphibians (Boo, 1990). Topographically, the country is dominated by a chain of young mountains, including several active volcanoes, extending the length of the country, interrupted at the center by the plateau, the Meseta Central. The country also harbors extensive lowlands along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. All these constitute ecotourism resources of the country.

3.1.1.2 National Parks

Though the first 'strictly' protected area in the country was established in 1963, it was not until 1970 that a National Park Service was created under the purview of the Department of Agriculture (Wallace, 1992). Since then, the protected-area system has undergone several changes with respect to composition, utilization and organizational/ administrative structures.

The first four National Parks were established during 1970/71. By 1992, this number had gone up to 70 with an area coverage of 1,000,000 ha, or 21 percent of the national territory. This indicates the government's high emphasis on protected areas. The level of preservation varies within this system with over one-half considered to be 'absolutely' protected as national parks, biological reserves, and national wildlife refuges. The remainder is made up of forest reserves and protective zones that accommodate a certain amount of forestry and other extractive activities. Thus the country has 28 percent protected area, including 6.6 percent indigenous reserves, and ten out of 20 'life zones' in the country constituting one of the highest proportions within Latin America (IUCN, 1992).

The protected area system has emerged as a focal point of the Costa Rican tourism industry. This can be clearly seen by the proportion of visitor increment in these protected areas. Accordingly, visits by international tourists alone have increased from 43,000 in 1981 to 70,000 in 1986 (Boo, 1990), and with multifold increase it reached over 250,000 in 1991 (Wood, 1993) and almost 269,000 in 1996. Including domestic visitors the number increased from 598,000 in 1992 to over 658,000 in 1996 (Weaver, 2001). This high proportion of domestic visitors during 1996 reflects the relative prosperity of the population among many other least developed countries (LDCs) and the emergence of an environmentalist ethos, at least among the urban and wealthier segments of the population (Laarman and Perdue, 1989).

3.1.1.3 Private Protected Area Network

Apart from public parks, Costa Rica has shown its commitment to establishing private reserves as well. As of 1992, seven privately owned protected areas had been established covering 24,357 ha (IUCN, 1992). These private reserves exercise a disproportionate influence within the national ecotourism sector. The pioneering initiative in this regard is the La Selva Biological Station, established in 1963 by Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), a consortium of mainly US-based universities engaged in scientific research projects. Other such areas are Palo Verde and Las Cruces (Laarman and Perdue, 1989; Weaver, 2001).

The private reserves account for a large share of specialized ecotourism accommodation. Private reserves have also been involved in attempts to incorporate local communities into ecotourism, not only to train local people as naturalists but also to educate them and upgrade their economy and the country's ecotourism industry (Weaver, 2001).

3.1.2 Ecotourism in Belize

With the world's second longest barrier reef, Belize has acquired a high ecotourism profile in Central America after Costa Rica. Belize is also endowed with a heavily forested interior; 12 percent of its territory is deemed to be protected (World Resource Institute, 1994). The country is known for a significant number of effective ecotourism projects such as Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the Cockscomb Jaguar Sanctuary, the Shipstern Wildlife Sanctuary, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the Crooked Tree Sanctuary, Sandy Beach Lodge Cultural Center of the Garifuna people, the privately owned Chan Chic project, and the Community Baboon Sanctuary (Weaver, 2001).

According to a survey in 1980, visit to protected areas was a main reason for traveling to Belize. The popular activities identified were boat trips (60 percent), bird-watching (57 percent), jungle excursion (56 percent) and wildlife observing (49 percent) (Boo, 1990).

 

The efforts of Belize in tourism development have resulted in favorable situation where the positive impacts of ecotourism in the country have outweighed the negative impacts. One of the reasons for such exemplary success is that ecotourism in Belize is emphasized as a tool for development, biodiversity planning and conservation. 

3.1.2.1 Tourism and the National Economy

Tourism is currently the most important contributor to Belize's economy. According to figures presented by the Belize Tourism Board for the year 1999, tourism contributes approximately 18 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for 25 percent of total foreign exchange earnings and one in every four jobs (Wiezsman, 2001).

3.1.2.2 Dominant Tourism Practices

Travelers to Belize look for destinations that are off the beaten track and provide authentic, enriching and educational experiences. Belize is also attracting a small, dedicated birders' market, and is beginning to draw younger adventure tourists interested in kayaking, mountain-biking and wildlife viewing opportunities (Lindberg and Enrique, online: www.beliznete.com).

Some estimate that about 80 percent of all tourists coming to Belize visit the cays to experience the marine environment. Often these travelers are budget-conscious backpackers and students who pass through Belize en route to Guatemala, Honduras and/or Mexico (Wiezsman, 2001).

3.1.2.3 Main Ecotourism Attractions of Belize

Belize offers very diverse types of mainland and marine tourism experiences particularly to visitors interested in natural and/or cultural history. The rainforests, diverse marine and terrestrial wildlife, living Mayan and archaeological sites, and the second longest barrier reef in the world, form the country's diverse tourism resource base. The 200 mile long Belize Barrier Reef provides opportunities for world class diving and snorkeling. While most tourists stay on the island of San Pedro Ambergris Caye, which has the most developed tourism infrastructure, other facilities for visitors have grown on Caye Caulker, Turneffe and the other islands appealing mainly to serious divers and others looking for an out of the way and non-touristic destination (Wiezsman, 2001).

 

Maya ruins are the second most popular attraction for tourists to Belize. The number of visitors to archaeological sites is increasing year after year. There are many sites in the country that are at different stages of excavation, including Cerros in Corozal, Caracol, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech and Pilar in Cayo District, Altun Ha in Belize District, Laminai in Orange Walk, and Lubaantun and Nimli Punit in Toledo District. Caracol, in particular, is an enormous site with the potential to put Belize squarely and quickly on the Ruta Maya map (Wiezsman, 2001).

 

Belize's cultural diversity is another major attraction for tourists. Its many festivals attract tourists. Garifuna Settlement Day (November 19) is a well-known event, where Belizeans gather from all over the country in Dangriga and Toledo to celebrate with the Garifuna on the day that marks their arrival to the region from other Caribbean islands in 1823. Additional efforts have been made in recent years to bring back the traditional dances and celebrations of the Mayan era (Wiezsman, 2001). 

Belize has capitalized on these endowments and focused on ecotourism rather than just marketing of traditional tourism (sea, sand and sun). Ecotourism has been clearly adopted as a development strategy.

3.1.3 Panama

Panama's 17 percent undisturbed natural habitat (World Resource Institute, 1994) and proximity to Costa Rica form the basis for its ecotourism. Several ecotourism schemes have already been initiated in Panama, with mixed results.

Panama harbors a greater diversity of wildlife, more than any country in Mesoamerica, because of its unique geographical position. A natural land bridge connecting two continents, the country is home to many South American as well as North and Central American species. About 29 percent of Panama's land area is protected in 49 parks including 14 National Parks, over a dozen forest reserves and 10 wildlife refuges. It hosts some 1,000 bird species, 220 mammals and 354 reptiles and amphibians (online: www.centralamerica.com/panama). The country also has hundreds of islands and miles of protected coral reef, sheltering a fantastic diversity of marine life. Blessed with this natural bounty, and with a growing store of ecological information, Panama has recently emerged as one of the most exciting ecotourism destinations in the Americas and the world. It offers visitors an excellent choice of destinations, from the remote rainforests of Darien National Park to Metropolitan Park, which is virtually within the capital's city limits.

3.1.3.1 Ecotourism Development 

Tourism, which is envisaged to become a leading contributor to the economy, can be harnessed to support conservation, historical preservation, cultural revitalization, research, and community well-being. The fact that Panama has very little tourism infrastructure actually allows the country to position itself well and take advantage of tourism's new global profile that focuses on the synergy of tourism, conservation, and research i.e. 'sustainable heritage tourism' or 'ecotourism' (online: www.planeta.com/panama).

A serious threat to the long-term development of ecotourism is Panama's high rate of deforestation, which averaged about 64,000 ha per year or 1.7 percent of forested land between 1981 and 1990 (World Resources Institute, 1994).

3.1.3.2 National Parks

There are number of National Parks in Panama of national and international significance. Some of the important National Parks of the country are as following:

Friendship International Park, Bastimentos Island National Marine Park, Major General Omar Torrijos - The Cope Park, Sarigua National Park, Metropolitan National Park, Camino De Cruces National Park, Portobelo National Park, Baru Volcano, Coiba Island National Park, Cerro Hoya National Park, Altos De Campana National Park, Soberania National Park, Darien National Park, The Americas Interoceanic National Park and Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park.

Plans exist for eco-resorts and other tourism development in the Panama Canal Watershed. The watershed's importance as a source of water to the Panama Canal and an important source of drinking water to Panama City and Colon has meant that the area is protected. The area is also important for its biodiversity. A number of organizations have proposed that community based ecotourism could help provide Panama Canal Watershed communities with alternative income sources while simultaneously helping them to preserve their local environment (online: www.planeta.com/panama).

3.1.4 Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador

Nicaragua has made some efforts at ecotourism development. Honduras is also showing interest in ecotourism and has committed to developing ecotourism, while El Salvador is constrained by its high level of environmental deterioration and relatively small protected area (Bogran, 1992). Therefore, ecotourism at the present remains negligible in this part of Central America.

3.2 Ecotourism in Australia and the South Pacific

Many South Pacific nations are in the process of developing nature based tourism. The natural environment is one of the major attractions of the region but the ever increasing number of visitors is affecting its integrity and quality. In 1980 Australia received 904,600 visitors; by 1990 the figure had more than tripled to 3.1 million (Table 3.1). For the year 2000 Australia targeted around seven million tourists (Commonwealth Department of Tourism, 1992). Similarly New Zealand has also witnessed rapid tourism growth (Hall, 1994).

The rapid increase in tourism together with the increase in environmental awareness in these developed countries has made them realize that tourism while smokeless is not harmless (Hall, 1994). There is a growing recognition of the possible and substantial negative impacts of tourism on host communities.

 

 

Table 3.1: Recent Trends in Tourism to selected Nations of the Southwest Pacific

Countries

Tourist arrivals (in thousand)

Tourism receipts (US$ million)

1985

1990

1985

1990

Australia

1143

3191

1062

3797

New Zealand

670

976

413

1072

Fiji

228

251

147

230

Papua New Guinea

30

41

10

28

Solomon Islands

12

9

3

4

Marshall Islands

2

7

NA

NA

French Polynesia

122

132

98

142

Source: World Tourism Organization (1990; 1992).

The term 'ecotourism' in the South Pacific, refers to two different dimensions of tourism which, although interrelated, show distinct management, policy, planning and development problems (Hall, 1992):

 

·                Ecotourism as green or nature based tourism is essentially a form of special interest tourism and refers to a specific market segment and products generated for that segment.

·                Ecotourism is regarded as environmentally friendly.

3.2.1. Ecotourism in Australia

3.2.1.1 Tourism Development

Tourism is one of Australia's fastest growing industries. It is a major source of foreign exchange, and contributes significantly to the GDP, incomes and employment. In 1991-1992 tourism expenditure amounted to an estimated A$26.2 billion, equivalent to 5.5 percent of GDP (Preace et al., 1990). In the early 1990s tourism employed approximately six percent of the workforce, with all of the employment growth being generated by inbound tourism. The Australian Tourist Commission has predicted that tourism will generate 200,000 new jobs in the next decade and generate between A$20 billion and A$30 billion in income from overseas (Hall, 1994). Because of these potential foreign exchange earnings, the national government of Australia places great emphasis on inbound tourism. 

3.2.1.2 Tourism Impacts and Management

Major destinations in Australia such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Alps, Fraser Island, the Tasmanian Wilderness Parks, Kakadu National Park and Uluru National Park are starting to show the effects of both direct visitor impacts, such as trampling, and associated impacts through the construction of tourist facilities, particularly in coastal regions (Hall, 1994).

In many of Australia's National Parks and public lands traditional landowners still control to a certain degree the lands they lost with the coming of the European colonists. National Parks such as Gurig, Kakadu, and Uluru in the Northern Territory are aboriginal-owned and leased back to the management agency. They are living dynamic examples of the interrelationship between society and nature. The extremely successful ecotourism development in Gurig National Park, which has won several tourism awards, has thus rested with the traditional owners (Metcalfe, 1992).

The Australian Tourism Commission, the authority responsible for promoting Australia overseas, and the various state tourism commission have embraced ecotourism as a promotional mechanism and for the development of new tourism products.

Australia's tourism industry is a major user of biological resources. In addition to ecotourism in Australia, many aspects of tourism, through both marketing and actual experience, are dependent on Australia's natural environment. The health of biodiversity and culture will be a major factor in determining the expansion of the ecotourism industry. In turn the ecotourism industry can be a major force in the conservation of Australia's biodiversity (Hall, 1994).

At the national level ecotourism has been tied in with attempts to develop policies for ecologically sustainable tourism, while at the state level it is taken as a mechanism to provide financial assistance for the National Park system and to create employment where other alternative land issues such as mining, grazing or timber cutting can be prohibited (Hall, 1994).

3.2.2 Ecotourism in the South Pacific

The small island nations of the South Pacific lie at the margins of the world economy and face massive problems of economic and social development. For these island states the only natural tourism resources are clean beaches, unpolluted seas and warm weather and water, and vestiges of their distinctive cultures. Tourism is one of the main sources of the region's economy and a major employment provider for many of these countries (Hall, 1994).

The South Pacific islands region accounted for approximately 0.15 percent of international tourism arrivals in 1991, of which two thirds were taken up by Fiji (42 percent) and Tahiti (26 percent). The projected growth in trans-Pacific travel and special interest tourism activities in the region indicates good prospects for further tourism development.

3.3 Ecotourism in Africa

Africa is largely a wild continent. In 1998 Africa was the fastest growing region for international tourism increased by 7.5 percent (24.9 million tourists visiting African countries during 1998) compared to the previous year, according to figures compiled by the World Tourism Organization (WTO). South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Madagascar helped lead the growth of tourism in Africa, particularly in ecotourism. Ecotourism accounts for 20 percent of total international tourism. The WTO forecasts that worldwide international tourists will increase from 613 million in 1997 to 1.6 billion by 2020 resulting into a multifold increase in earnings (online: www.africarecovery.org.).

Several African countries are set to cash in on this development, particularly in ecotourism. Zimbabwe, for instance, is expected to earn more than Zimbabwean$ 6 billion, making tourism the third largest foreign currency earner after agriculture and mining.

Box 3.1: Tourism History and Development in Africa

With the collapse of Apartheid and the emergence of the 'African renaissance', Southern Africa is attracting a rapidly growing interest from around the world for its rich and diverse cultural heritage.

Humankind was born in Southern Africa approximately 3.3 million years ago with Australopithecus africanus and every subsequent phase of our development can be traced to the region's wealth of archaeological sites. The most important of these, the so-called 'Cradle of Humankind' (a recently declared UNESCO World Heritage Site), is a short drive outside Johannesburg and Pretoria, and showcases the various stages of our evolution in three spectacular caves. South Africa also boasts the oldest remains of our species, Homo sapiens, found in a cave in Lebombo Mountains, and dated at 120,000 years old. This was most likely the first of the San bushmen, hunter-gatherers who roamed this fertile paradise for 118,000 years, endowing it with one of the world's greatest cultural treasures: well over 16,000 sites of ancient rock art, the most extensive collection on Earth.

The San were eventually displaced by migrant iron-age pastoralists from central and east Africa, Bantu tribes who were to establish extensive civilizations such as Great Zimbabwe and mighty kingdoms like the empire built by Zulu warriors. The most recent tribe to arrive at the southern tip of Africa was a rag-tag mix of outcasts and adventurers from Europe; for 350 years these white Africans have been an indelible part of the cultural landscape in Southern Africa and, for better or worse, have changed the face of the region forever.

Contemporary Southern Africa is a potpourri of cultural, ethnic, and religious groups. South Africa alone has 11 official languages and some 20 major ethnic groups, with origins in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Its peaceful transition to democracy during the early 1990s is widely regarded as one of the great miracles of the 20th century. Zimbabwe and Namibia are equally as diverse and varied, with an emerging class of urban African professionals alongside vibrant urban townships and some of the world's most traditional rural tribes.

The Classic African cultural experience offers a rare opportunity to explore common African past and gain insight into different 'ways of seeing', opening the pathways towards mutual human understanding and a celebration of diversity.

Source: www.africarecovery.org

3.3.1 Ecotourism Potential

There are various facets of ecotourism in Africa. Tourists are eager to view gorillas in Uganda and lemurs (small nocturnal, endangered mammals) in Madagascar, go trekking in Ethiopia and birding in Botswana, look at rock paintings in South Africa, visit rainforests in Ghana, scuba dive in the Seychelles and enjoy walking and photographic safaris in East and Southern Africa (Frances, 1999). Despite this unmatched potential, ecotourism is still in its infancy in Africa.

Although Africa has significant cultural and social tourism potential available statistics indicate a dominant visitor interest in nature based tourism. For example, according to Satour's 1997 Winter Survey, more than 60 percent of foreign visitors came to South Africa either for the scenic beauty (33 percent) or wild life (30 percent) or the climate (15 percent) (online: www.africa.com). Similarly, in another study, at Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, 66 percent of the visitors said they came for the wildlife; 20 percent were there for the landscape and a mere 9 percent of total visitors surveyed came for the culture (Goodwin, 2002).

Kenya and Tanzania are well-documented examples of nature-based tourism development in Africa. Starting with only a few thousand tourists in the early 1950s, Tanzania's tourism increased to 350,000 in 1995 (Friesen, 1995) and Kenya to 865,300 in 1994 (Anon, 1996). In both countries the tourism industry is closely tied to a world-class system of National Parks and game reserves. The foreign exchange earnings from tourism rival and sometimes exceed those of agriculture, the other important export. Therefore, park-based tourism is a very important economic activity throughout eastern and southern Africa.

It is important to recognize that nature-based tourism forms only a small part of the overall tourism industry in Africa, possibly 7 percent. The majority of foreign tourist arrivals in Africa are accounted for by four countries—Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Kenya (Teye, 1987). Of these, only Kenya has predominantly nature-based tourism.

Most sub-Saharan African countries on the other hand, despite their natural richness, have only marginally benefited from the recent growth in demand for ecotourism products and services, or from the sustained growth of tourism as a whole over the last quarter of the 20th Century. This is particularly so in the case of the countries in the Congo Basin Initiative (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea), which are among the least developed tourism destinations in Africa (online: www.africarecovery.org). Nevertheless, in the decade 1990-2000, total international tourist arrivals in sub-Saharan Africa grew from 6.8 million to 17.8 million, i.e. an annual average rate of 10.1 percent, which was possible due to the rapid growth experienced by countries in Southern and Eastern Africa, especially South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, and also by Ghana and Nigeria. In the six countries of the Congo Basin, arrivals remained practically stagnant during the same 10-year period and totaled less than 400,000. Similarly, foreign exchange earnings from tourism expanded in the African continent at a rate of 9 percent per annum, and reached US$ 7.1 billion in 2000 (excluding receipts from Northern African countries), while in Congo Basin countries revenues from tourism experienced zero growth and remained stagnant at US$ 70 million in total (online: www.africarecovery.org).

Notwithstanding this bleak picture, the potential for ecotourism development in the countries of the Congo Basin is very promising. In Sub Saharan Africa there are about 440 protected areas covering some 2,600,000 square hectares. These protected areas are vital assets for the development of ecotourism, and conservation organizations support ecotourism because of its financial or political contribution to the existence and management of protected areas (online: www.africarecovery.org).

Ghana, which is seriously developing its ecotourism potential, has had a sustained annual growth of 12 percent in tourism revenues. These are expected to reach US$ 1.6 billion by 2010, and tourism will likely become the number one foreign exchange earner in the foreseeable future. Already, some 80-90 percent of Ghana's original forests have been lost or seriously degraded through settlement, agriculture and timber extraction. The ecotourism program currently focuses on the Central Region, including Kakum National Park where forest elephants, seven species of primates and bird diversity provide tremendous potential for ecotourism. The first of its kind in Africa, the Kakum canopy walkway, perched 30 meters above the ground, gives a unique bird's eye view of the rainforest (online: www.africarecovery.org).

The walkway opened in 1995 for visitors and scientists also served as a source of revenue for conservation activities. The number of visitors has increased from 20,000 in 1995 to 59,000 in 1998, while revenue from the walkway rose from US$ 10,000 to US$ 108,000. A portion of the revenue from park admission fees reverts to the Ghana Wildlife Department, the agency that manages the Park. The remainder accrues to the newly created Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust, a local non-governmental organization that will use the funds to support continued operation of the walkway, conservation activities, and sustainable development projects in the communities around Kakum (Vieta, 2002).

3.3.2 Benefits from Ecotourism

Despite several efforts, not all the African countries have been successful in tourism development. A clear picture of the possible benefits from ecotourism is evident in the cases where it is carried out on a sustainable basis. Examples from various African nations are presented below (Vieta, 2002).

The potential for ecotourism based on gorilla viewing led to the establishment of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda in 1991, with gorilla viewing beginning in 1993. Visitors increased from 2,250 in 1995 to 3,450 in 1998 and tour operators estimate that more than 70 percent of Uganda's tourism revenue comes from gorilla tourism (online: www.africarecovery.org).

The case of Bwindi illustrates the difficulties of developing an efficient, equitable and sustainable mechanism for channeling funds to ensure that local communities derive maximum benefit. Early on, Uganda developed sustainable revenue sharing for local communities and a pilot program for benefit sharing in Bwindi. According to the first plan from 1995 to 1997, 8 percent of the US$ 280 gorilla-tracking fee was allocated to the local community, providing considerable funds for building schools, clinics and roads. In 1998, however, the fee-sharing arrangement was changed so that only 20 percent of the US$ 25 park entrance fee was allocated to community development projects, drastically reducing the amount going to the communities and halting many of the previously supported community activities (online: www.africarecovery.org).

Madagascar, which is also promoting tourism (country's second largest foreign-exchange earner), had by 1998 established 40 new protected areas, covering roughly 2 percent of the country's land area. But these areas are densely populated and intensively farmed because of their favorable climate. To reconcile the interests of farmers and the tourism industry, the official tourism policy is based on participatory ecotourism. Revenues from ecotourism are shared with local communities to compensate for restrictions on land use in parks and protected areas, thereby ensuring that these communities benefit from tourism (online: www.africarecovery.org).

For example, Ranomafana National Park was established in 1986 to protect the golden bamboo lemurs. The number of visitors more than doubled, reaching 6,000 between 1993 and 1996. Half the revenues generated by the park were earmarked for the development of the buffer zone around the park, intensively used for agriculture, including irrigated rice, coffee, horticulture, and shifting cultivation. Local communities invest their money in intensified rice production, agro forestry, the construction of small dams, schools and health services, and development of credit schemes. The improvements for local host communities made ecotourism socially and economically acceptable, and not just a marketing ploy.

Box 3.2: Impact of Ecotourism in Amboseli Biosphere Reserve
in Kenya

Ecotourism initiatives that have been introduced by Porini Ecotourism, a private investor, are benefiting Eselenkei Group Ranch in terms of income, improved infrastructure, employment opportunities and exposure. Over US$ 5000 is received annually as land rent, entrance fee and bed charges. Twenty-six Maasai men are employed for the upkeep of project facilities. The community's capacity to facilitate resource related conflicts has improved following support from development institutions. An expanding livelihood base is reducing local vulnerability to disaster and people-wildlife conflicts.  

Source: Ogutu, 2002.

 

Economic benefits, including entry fees, licenses and concessions, often generate substantial funds to support conservation and management of natural environments. In a number of countries, tourist expenditure on lodging, transportation, food, guides, and souvenirs is an important source of income for local communities.

Box 3.3: Effect of War

Tourism is a fickle business. Ecotourists do not travel to areas at risk from war or civil strife or where there are severe health problems. The eruption of such incidents quickly negatively impacts the supply of the would-be ecotourists. Gorilla tracking is a good example. There are only about 630 mountain gorillas in the world and they live exclusively in the forests along the Virunga volcanoes bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda. Wars that broke out in 1994 in the Great Lakes region stopped tourism in Rwanda and the DRC, and pushed up demand to view gorillas in Uganda, where some 300 live in the Bwindi forest.

Source: www.africarecovery.org

Employment generated by ecotourism-related jobs is sometimes one of the most significant benefits for local communities, providing supplementary income to rural farmers, women and young people. Hundreds of people, for example, live off the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, where foreign tourists trek to view gorillas; they work as rangers and camping staff or provide food, crafts and entertainment to tourists. In the Buhoma valley just outside the park, many local businesses have started up, offering goods and services to visitors. The multiplier effect of tourism can be substantial. It is estimated that for every hotel room, one to two jobs are created directly or indirectly. In Zimbabwe, the tourism industry employs about 200,000 people (Frances, 1999).

The link between environmental protection, international tourism and economic development became widely recognized in eastern Africa in the early 1970s (Thresher, 1972; Thresher, 1981). Filani (1975), and Western and Henry (1979) proposed the development of national tourism policies closely linked to national development strategies. Kenya and South Africa have been successful leaders in the development of ecotourism industries based on a comprehensive structure of national legislation, policy planning and site management.

3.4 Ecotourism in Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe is understood to cover the former communist ruled states of Central and Eastern Europe, excluding the German Democratic Republic. The political and economic changes that followed the events of 1989 (end of the cold war) in Central and Eastern Europe brought about remarkable changes in the pattern of international tourism within and from this region. The changes will continue to increase the recreational demand of these east European countries and are likely to have an environmental impact. 

3.4.1 Development of Tourism

The tourism resources of the region can be divided into following five categories (Hall, 1994):

1.             The Sand, Surf and Sun (3S) tourism is popular from Poland's short-season Baltic coast (Dawson, 1991) to Albania's still largely unspoilt Ionian littoral (Hall, 1991). 

2.             Heritage is another resource in the region. With the long and complicated history the region is selectively represented in museums, exhibitions, statues, architecture, domestic artifacts, artisan crafts, music, song, dance and costume. Yet throughout the region, architectural splendour of notable historic centers such as Cracow in southern Poland, recognized by UNESCO as being of global importance, have long been threatened by atmospheric pollution from heavy industry and increasing levels of vehicle emissions.

3.             Spas—mineral springs and curative treatments—have served a wealthy, often-foreign clientele, since classical times (Carter, 1991; Turnock, 1991) and in recent years the Middle East has been a notably lucrative source of clients. Although care is required to protect the quality of the waters of such locations, they too have not been immune to atmospheric pollution.

4.             Winter sports now attract large numbers of Western tourists and major land use conflicts have arisen, such as at Bansko in the Bulgarian Pirin Mountains, where a winter sport resort was opened in 1981 within a National Park (Carter, 1991).

5.             Wildlife is another important tourism resource in the region. Although all countries of the region possess the equivalent of National Parks and have designated areas devoted to the protection of Flora and Fauna, considerable land use conflicts exist. Hunting and fishing have been important and highly profitable tourist pursuits. 

 

Tourism during the socialist era was low due to economic barriers, constraints on mobility, ideological hostility, and the low priority accorded to service industries. Further, the cold war placed this part behind the iron curtain so that it became an unattractive choice of vacation for the rest of Europe and the world. Hence, in the 1960s, when the West European holiday business was taking off, Eastern Europe was ill-equipped to respond to the expanding market demands and was often by-passed by western tour operators. However, the exception was Yugoslavia, which adopted a pragmatic attitude to tourism mobility (Weaver, 2001). The country saw a rapid growth in tourist arrivals from the West, unmatched in comparison to the other countries of the region. Consequently, the dominance of the Western market secured a higher level of tourist income for the country such that by the 1980s the amount, all in hard currency, was greater than the sum total for the rest of the region (Table 3.2).

The data in Table 3.2 suggests a notable visitor growth, particularly for the landlocked states of Central Europe. For instance, Czechoslovakia experienced 41.4 percent increase during 1985-88 and 16.7 percent rise during 1988-89. Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania, the beach holiday destinations, displayed a modest growth. In 1990 too, Romania showed a 34.6 percent increase, in large part due to cross border influx of low spending Soviet citizens from Moldova. Hungary also showed remarkable growth in tourist arrivals in 1990 (37.2 percent for 1989 and 41.5 percent for 1990), when the region witnessed a reduction in tourist arrivals.

 

Table 3.2: International Tourist arrivals in Eastern Europe

 

Countries

No. of tourists (million)

Percentage change

International tourism receipts (1990)

 

1985

1988

1989

1990

1985-88

1988-89

1989-90

Receipts (US$ million)

Receipts per tourist (US$)

Albania

-

 

0.02

0.03

-

-

-

-

-

Bulgaria

3.4

4.0

4.3

4.5

15.8

8.8

4.3

394

87.6

Czechoslovakia

4.9

6.9

8.0

8.1

41.4

16.7

0.8

470

58.0

Hungary

9.7

10.6

14.5

20.5

8.6

37.2

41.5

1000

48.8

Poland

2.7

2.5

3.3

3.4

-9.2

32.0

3.2

266

78.2

Romania

4.8

5.5

4.9

6.5

15.5

-12.0

34.6

106

16.2

Yugoslavia

8.4

9.0

8.6

7.9

6.9

-4.1

-8.8

2774

352.0

Source: Lowman and Cater, 1994.

The economic impact of international tourism under socialism remained relatively small, except in the case of Yugoslavia. During the last year of the socialist era (1988) Bulgaria's tourist income was just 2.2 percent of that of Spain; in the case of Romania it was 7.3 percent of that earned by Greece (WTO, 1990). During the early stages of transition tourist flows increased in the region in response to easing of cross-border movements but revenues remained low because this was largely intra-regional mobility of low spending visitors. The situation changed in 1990, especially for Czechoslovakia and Hungary, which experienced a growth in international tourist arrivals. Relative stability, more advanced economies, a concentration of international funding (Hamilton, 1991) and initial advantage contributed to this growth. Hungary soon became a leading tourist destination in terms of number and tourist receipts in the region. The industry became the country's largest balance of payments contributor.

3.4.2 Development of Protected Areas

The history of conservation in Eastern Europe is both mixed and inconsistent. Water management for flood control and agricultural development extends back to the 18th Century (Turnock, 1979). Later, in the 19th Century, forest legislation was introduced to combat the serious problem of soil erosion caused by the combined action of increased population pressure and the growth of organized timber exploitation. This acted as the basis for designating nature reserves and National Parks. The first reserves were set up in southern Bohemia as early as 1838, predating the First World War (Carter, 1978), although the National Park legislation with the concept of wilderness was not elaborated until the inter-war period. Poland's Council for Nature Protection (1919) and Romania's Commission for Natural Monuments (1933) are example of some of the bodies established for conservation purposes (Carter and Turnock, 1993). Thus, some genuine concern for the environment could be seen during the post-war period. However, with the policies continuing their emphasis on rapid and heavy industrialization based on outmoded technologies and inefficient fuels, environmental considerations were given low priority.

The modern concept of conservation began in the true sense with the establishment of the European Trust for Natural and Cultural Wealth, established in Prague in 1991 with support from the Czech Government and a grant from the World Bank's Global Environment Facility (GEF). Inspired by the WWF and links with environmentalists in Eastern Europe, the Trust aimed to preserve the region's natural heritage by establishing an 'ecological backbone' across Europe. The first step in this huge task was to preserve the natural habitat along previously militarized border areas ('ecological bricks') where it could extend co-operation with neighbors.

As a result of continuous efforts, several conservation projects with bilateral and multilateral funding with cooperation between Eastern and Western Europe came into being. At the government level, the European Community (EC) through its PHARE program (European Community Environmental Assistance to Eastern European countries, initially Poland/ Hungary Assistance for Restructuring), the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) supported projects and project implementation units in several countries. Other agencies making significant contribution in the field are the IUCN East European Program (IUCN EEP) and the Ramsar Bureau, involved in wetland conservation projects (Ramsar, 1992).

The supportive concepts of ecotourism have originated from the need to protect and manage the borderlands in the region. For over 40 years the borderlands between the countries of the region, and particularly between these countries and the West along the line of the 'Iron Curtain' were largely inhabited and inaccessible. Although regularly patrolled and fortified, large tracts were forbidden to human activity and movement. These no-man's lands became 'protected' natural areas in a way.

3.4.3 Problems related with Ecotourism

3.4.3.1 Local Participation

Active local participation in conservation and development of tourism, a major component of which is ecotourism, is limited in Eastern Europe. This could be due to the lack of experience in bottom-up development from which citizens can draw. Local participation is often seen as a threat to the power structure of both local and central bureaucracies (Weaver, 2001).

3.4.3.2 Support Requirements

Shortages of basic equipment and access to literature are still commonplace. Inventories of natural and human resources, data collection, processing, analysis and representation are still required across much of the region. Hence, tensions can arise from a number of sources, such as between public and private sector representatives; environment and tourism administrators; ecological and economic objectives; central and local governments; those with and without appropriate training and skill; those differing over the perceived needs of the local population (Hall and Kinnaird, 1994).

3.4.3.3 Strategy Formulation

The formulation of strategies for ecotourism development is still lacking. In addition, a clear statement of the nature and aims of ecotourism needs to be incorporated in literature and publicity material to educate and encourage active participation by all interested stakeholders—locals, tourism organizations, state bodies and tourists themselves.

3.5 Ecotourism in the Third World

 

The advantages in terms of the sheer variety of unspoiled natural environments, from tropical rainforests to savanna grasslands, beaches fringed by coral reefs, trekking in the high Himalayas, scenic beauty of waterfalls, sunrise and sunset through the majestic mountains, in the less developed world has helped in the development of ecotourism in these countries. The development patterns among these countries are quite similar partly due to similarities in tourism destinations, tourism enterprises and tourists alike. 

3.5.1 Development of Ecotourism

The major initial attempts at alternative tourism development within the less developed world were made by a variety of church-related groups through a series of high-profile tourism-related conferences. These events can be collectively described as the first step in an effort to have an organized alternative tourism platform (Weaver, 2001). The earliest among these was the 1969 World Consultation on Leisure Tourism, convened by the World Council of Churches in Tutzing, West Germany. The event recognized the power of tourism to effect change across a broad range of destinations and called for the implementation of alternatives to the conventional mass tourism model (Gonsalves, 1987). More explicit reference to the Less Developed Countries (LDCs) was made during Penang Conference 1975, sponsored by the Christian Conference of Asia. A primary outcome of the conference was a code of ethics for tourists traveling to the less developed countries, clearly addressing the perceived problem by influencing the individual behavior of tourists from most developed countries (MDCs). The approach later formed the basis for initiatives of Just Travel, founded in Australia in 1980 for the benefit of Australians traveling to LDCs (Wenham and Wenham, 1984).

 

The Manila Workshop on International Tourism in 1980 introduced the phrase 'alternative tourism'. This workshop was also sponsored by the Church and critically analyzed mass tourism. The workshop was deliberately timed and located to coincide with the World Tourism Organization (WTO)-sponsored Manila Conference on Tourism, which was seen by the militant Christian sponsors of the Workshop to be supportive of the status quo. Other such initiatives were the formation of the Third World Tourism European Ecumenical Network (TEEN) formed in 1981 (Gujer, 1988), and the North American Coordinating Center for Responsible Tourism (NACCRT) in 1984 (Gonsalves, 1987). The alternative Tourism Conference held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in the same year, was one of the first major attempts to identify actual alternative tourism strategies in order to advance a process that promoted a just form of travel between members of different communities to achieve, mutual understanding, solidarity and equality amongst participants (Holden, 1984 and Weaver, 2001).

 

The third phase in the evolution of advocacy within LDCs involved two developments: the widespread adoption of alternative tourism (AT) principles and philosophies by mainstream tourism institutions and the synthesis of the socio-cultural and environmental mainstreams (Weaver, 2001). The social and environmental perspective of tourism was recognized in Hague in 1989. The WTO Hague Declaration was directed primarily toward the less developed world:

 

"Countries should determine their national priorities and tourism role in the 'hierarchy' of these priorities as well as the optimum tourism strategy, within these priorities. This strategy should define, among others, the balance to be sought between international and domestic tourism and take into account the carrying capacity of destinations within the overall national tourism strategy, priority attention should be given to selective and controlled development of tourist infrastructure, facilities, demand and overall tourist capacity, in order to protect the environment and local population, so as to avoid any negative impacts which unplanned tourism might produce. In tourism planning and area development it is essential for States to strike a harmonious balance between economic and ecological considerations" (WTO, 1989). 

 

Table 3.3: Growth in Tourism to selected Destinations

Countries

Tourist arrivals
(In thousands)

Tourism receipts
(US$ millions)

1981

1990

1981

1990

Belize

93

222

8

91

Costa Rica

333

435

94

275

Ecuador

245

332

131

193

Dominica

16

45

2

25

Kenya

373

801

175

443

Botswana

227

844

22

65

Madagascar

12

53

5

43

Maldives

60

195

15

85

Source: World Tourism Organization (1986; 1992).

The popularity and significance of ecotourism for the Third World countries are obvious in terms of tourism revenue when some of the prime ecotourism areas are examined (Table 3.3). A ten-fold growth in receipts was witnessed in Belize over the decade of the Nineties. Similar growth was experienced in Costa Rica and Maldives.

Table 3.4: Ecotourism Venues identified by US-based Tour Operators

Activities

Countries

Trekking

Argentina, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Turkey

Natural history

 

Antarctica, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Madagascar

Wildlife safari

Central Africa, Kenya, Tanzania

 Source: Zurick, 1992.

Another survey of 100 US-based adventure travel firms in 1989 showed only a small number of LDCs (Table 3.4) as primary providers of various nature-based tourism opportunities (Zurick, 1992). 

3.5.2 Impacts of Ecotourism

3.5.2.1 Economic Impact

As a form of alternative tourism, the emphasis on ecotourism development in the Third World should be on small-scale, locally owned activities (Weaver, 1991). There are three important features of ecotourism in LDCs:

 

·         The facilities in terms of infrastructure and superstructure are simpler and less expensive than those demanded by mass tourism. Hence ecotourism can prove a viable alternative in cases where funding for larger scale tourism development are scarce or unavailable.

·         It offers market for local products and labor. This has much higher multiplier effects throughout the local economy.

·         The profits should accrue locally instead of flowing back to the country of origin. This is the most attractive prospect for Third World countries.

3.5.2.2 Environmental Impact

It is almost unwise to assume that ecotourism will not have an adverse environmental impact. Even the most environmentally conscious tourists have some kind of impact on the natural environment. Although the obvious adverse effects of tourism development are usually confined to well defined areas in the more famous and mainstream tourism sites, the concentration of visitors in natural areas may result in an unacceptable level of degradation. For example, at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize, divers are amply warned of the consequences of irresponsible behavior, such as the careless handling of scuba equipment. The pressure of numbers is so huge that the coral reef is showing signs of black band disease, algae that attack broken coral.

 

On the other hand, in Amboseli National Park in Kenya, the pressure of numbers during the wet season almost reaches 220,000 annually, to the extent that it had to be withdrawn from some of the tour operators' plans in 1992. Widespread flooding in the following year, February 1993, left 80 percent of game-viewing tracks under water, consequently leading to a temporary closure of the Park.

Sometimes the infrastructure and service requirements of ecotourism, which often involve catering to western tastes and needs, results in the destruction of the local ecology. In the Nepalese Himalaya, trekking lodges offer almost impossible menus such that it places excessive pressure on scarce fuel wood and the cook's time. Extra porters are needed for the supplies. It is evident from the above discussion that some environmental degradation in the Third World countries is due to tourism development. This calls for supporting conservation activities in these areas.

Implementation of policy measures is expected to sustain ecotourism. It should be remembered that sustainable development includes the human dimension and therefore the basic needs of the local population must be met. While absolute restrictions may be required in some of the heavily protected core areas of Biosphere Reserves, local people should not be completely denied the development potential that exists in the area (Batisse, 1982).

In brief, ecotourism will have increasing significance in the Third World in the years to come. It is the balanced role of three main players—tourists, tourism enterprises and destination areas—that is important in achieving sustainable outcomes in international tourism (Cater, 1994).

Role of the tourists

Tourist behavior and attitudes plays a vital role in the sustainability of the tourism destination. At the same time, sustainable ecotourism offers tourists the prospect of a guaranteed level of satisfaction whenever a destination is visited. Hence, tourists should become aware of potential damage of their stay in Third World destinations. This will ask tourists of in many instances considerable changes in attitudes and behavior so that indigenous cultures and environments are respected. They must be prepared to forego the standards of comfort and convenience they are accustomed to. If properly handled this would prove part of the attraction of the ecotourism experience (Ruschmann, 1992).

Tourists need to be properly informed about the characteristics of the destination and how to behave in order to reduce impact. This awareness generation is primarily the responsibility of the tourism industry. Communities in destination areas also can reinforce this awareness by advising tourists. For instance, the minimum impact code printed on lodge menus in the Annapurna Conservation Area of Nepal has significantly influenced visitor behavior.

Role of Tourism Enterprises

Tourism enterprises are another important and responsible arm in the effort at sustainable ecotourism development since they deliver the end product to tourists. Trade that maintains the resource base is at any rate the baseline of successful operation.

Role of Destination Area

To ensure sustainable ecotourism development the governments of Third World destinations need to intervene in the market, oversee integration in planning and implementation, and encourage local involvement. These can be achieved by raising funds through entry fees and by encouraging domestic and foreign investment by offering attractive tax holidays and interest free loans. While the integration of tourism planning into national government plans is an essential step, local involvement is equally important and vital to ensuring sustainable ecotourism in the destination areas.


4. ECOTOURISM IN NEPAL

 

Visitors are drawn to Nepal by its unparalleled natural beauty, the challenge of its terrain, its rich wildlife and unique cultural heritage. Tourism in Nepal varies from less adventurous pleasurable activities such as village visits, home-stays, and half- to full-day walking and hiking circuits for non-trekkers, to adventurous and challenging trekking, mountaineering and white-water rafting. This combination of spectacular and diverse tourism resources and a largely rural based population, coupled with the pressing need to deliver development to the remote rural areas, have necessitated the development of ecotourism in Nepal.

 

This chapter deals with the country's geographical context, in terms of biodiversity and human geography, the development of tourism, its environmental impact, and the history and status of ecotourism and its impact. It also discusses the efforts made at ecotourism development and describes some potential sites for ecotourism.

4.1 Geographical Context

4.1.1 Biodiversity

With an area of 147,181 sq. km, Nepal is a country of enormous physical diversity (UNEP, 2001). Even across a distance of 150 km south-north the elevation rises from less than 100 meters above sea level (masl) to the peak of Mt Everest at 8,848 masl, the highest point on the earth. Due to this tremendous altitudinal variation, the country embraces all climate types from tropical to arctic.  

The country consists of five physiographical regions; the high Himalayan terrain (23 percent of the land area) above the tree line, the forested high mountains (20 percent), the middle mountains of central Nepal (30 percent), the Siwaliks or foothills (13 percent), and the tropical lowlands of the Terai (14 percent) adjacent to the Indian border, extending in parallel bands from the northern to southern border. Altogether 38 percent of the country is estimated to be forested, with extensive tree cover found mainly in the Siwaliks, the middle mountains and the high mountains below the tree line (IUCN, 1991).

Phytogeographically, central Asiatic floral elements reach up to the northern foot of the Himalayas. The southern foothills of Nepal are mostly dominated by Indo-Gangetic floral elements. Eastern and central Nepalese flora shows a close resemblance to the Sino-Japanese floristic province. The western Nepalese flora has similarities with the Irano-Tourranean, which in its widest sense is a part of the Mediterranean territory. It is one of the priority areas of global biodiversity conservation.

Though the country occupies just 0.03 percent of the world's landmass, it accounts for 2.04 percent of flowering higher plants, 8.6 percent of birds, 4.27 percent of mammals, and 0.21 percent of fishes of the world. There are 213 families, 1,496 genera and 5,833 species of flowering plants and gymnosperms in Nepal (UNEP, 2001). Experts estimate that there are about 6,973 species of higher plants in the country, of which 315 species are endemic to Nepal. Altogether 9 plants species are evaluated as endangered, 7 as threatened and 27 as rare species. Nepal has plants up to 6,300 masl in the Himalayas (Weaver, 2001).

So far 847 birds (two endemic), and 185 mammals (one endemic), 100 reptiles, 43 amphibians, 185 of fresh water fishes, 656 species of butterflies and 144 species of spiders have been recorded (UNEP, 2001). At present, 26 mammals, 9 birds and 3 reptiles are listed as endangered. They also find mention in the world listings of endangered animals (MoPE, 2000).

Population growth and urbanization have caused deterioration of the natural environment in Nepal. Forest depletion is one of the major environmental issues in the country, with significant implications for soil and slope stability. Forests have decreased in both area and density over the last few decades. Between 1978/79 and 1994, the estimated annual rate of deforestation in the hills was 2.3 percent compared to 21.3 percent in Terai, while it was 1.7 percent for the whole country. In the same period, forests decreased by 24 percent but there was increase in shrub area by 126 percent. This was mainly due to uncontrolled cutting of trees for fuelwood and forest clearance for expansion of agricultural land. The agricultural area increased from 235,900 ha in 1980 to 2,968,000 ha within five years; then it remained constant up to 1999. This increase was mainly due to encroachment for agriculture and other developmental construction works and human settlements (UNEP, 2001). The other stresses are landslides, soil erosion and flooding.

4.1.2 Human Geography

The population of the country has grown steadily. The population growth rate has never dropped below 2 percent since 1961. It is expected to reach 24 million by 2008 (UNEP, 2001). Two thirds of the total population resides in the middle mountains, including in the capital Kathmandu. Nepal ranks among the world's least developed states with life expectancy at 53.5 years and an infant mortality rate of 99 per 1000 live births (Weaver, 2001).

4.2 Pressure

Although tourism in Nepal grew and actually flourished after the first scaling of Mt. Everest in 1953, it is characterized by a fairly large proportion of tourists who remain in the urban areas. Even those who travel out of these areas invariably head to some of the protected areas that are major destinations. This pattern has created pressure on environmental resources in these sites in Nepal.

4.2.1 Trends in Tourism Growth

Nepal opened up to the rest of the world only during the early fifties. In the early days, tourism in Nepal was mainly concentrated in the Kathmandu valley and only a few mountaineers visited the Everest and Annapurna regions that are still major attractions today. With the increase in tourist numbers, Nepal developed the necessary infrastructure to support tourism development—an international airport in Katmandu, a full-fledged hotel sector, construction of domestic air-strips, establishment of public and private tourism related institutions, and travel and trekking agencies, all became instrumental to the growth of the tourism industry in the country. As a result of all these endeavors, tourist numbers started to soar, from merely 4,017 in the 1960s to over 162,870 by 1980 and 254,885 in 1990. By 2000, with the joint efforts of government and a well established private sector, tourist numbers had reached about half a million (Figure 4.1). However, arrivals registered a sharp drop during 2001-2002 (MoCTCA, 2002).

 

The Middle-East crisis in 1981, transit treaty deadlock with India in 1989 and Gulf war in 1990 adversely affected tourism during the Eighties and early Nineties. The Nineties also marked the growth and spread of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. Tourism in Nepal was also negatively affected by the 9/11 incident in the US. The Royal tragedy in 2002, followed by the dismissal of the House of Representatives and the elected government only worsened the political situation in the country. Political parties took to the streets agitating for the restoration of democracy. Frequent bandhas (shutdowns) particularly during and after 2000 added to the domestic problems. All these incidents combined together to create a difficult security situation, negatively impacting the tourism industry in the country.

Despite the troubled situation, the number of tourists steadily grew until 2000 and helped the ailing industry to survive. However, the drop in numbers after 2000 presents an alarming situation not only for the tourism industry but the national economy as well (Fig 4.1).

 

On a regional basis tourist arrivals to Nepal for the year 2000 were recorded as: 48 percent from Asia, about 35 percent from Western Europe, 10 percent from North America and 3 percent from Australia and the Pacific (Table 4.1). Therefore, tourists from Western Europe and Asia, which includes Japanese visitors, play a key role in tourism development.

Table 4.1: Tourist Arrivals by Continent

Region

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Percent in 2002

Asia

205809

222849

240460

249793

224532

164989

148670

54.0

West Europe

132787

137028

151070

164913

159325

131661

87912

31.9

North America

30635

36301

43038

46910

49032

39120

21265

7.7

Australia and the Pacific

12233

13047

14635

15207

15641

13036

8420

3.1

East Europe

6114

6416

6741

6723

6992

6201

5276

1.9

Central/ South America

4230

4554

5937

6096

6076

4634

2793

1.0

Africa

1775

1645

1795

1857

2040

1596

1132

0.4

Others

30

17

8

5

8

0

0

0.0

Total

393613

421857

463684

491504

463646

361237

275468

100.0

Source: MoCTCA, 2002.

4.2.2 Components of the Nepalese Tourism Industry

Of the total arrivals in 1999 around three-fifths came for holiday or pleasure and a little more than one-fifth came for trekking and mountaineering. The rest came on business, pilgrimage, and for official purposes. Although there is great potential for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism in Nepal, it currently accounts for only one percent of total arrivals (Figure 4.2).

 

4.2.3 Environmental and Social Influence of Tourism

The increase in tourism demands for new goods and services often places additional pressure on scarce resources and results in the destruction or depletion of natural areas and the loss of habitat, to the extent that the very survival of some species is threatened. Other results might include landslides and erosion, depletion of ground water reserves and despoliation of scenic vistas. Tourism is a symbol of the affluent western lifestyle and consumerism (Gurung, 1995). Many trekking routes are littered with plastics, cans, bottles, tin foils and other refuse, which is mainly due to presence of visitors in these areas. All these eventually contribute to environmental degradation.   

Furthermore, many local traditions and habits have come under the influence of western tourists. As a result generations-old traditions and cultures have been negatively impacted in many areas. This is common among porters and trekking guides of the younger generation who come into direct contact with tourists, to the extent that some of them leave the country to go to the west and work. The increased use of drugs and growth of criminal activities are also linked to tourism (Gurung, 1995).

On the positive side, tourism is increasingly seen as one of the catalysts for environmental conservation. As a result, several pilot programs have been designed to promote tourism that achieves the twin goals of local development and environmental conservation, eventually opening up new opportunities for promoting ecotourism.

4.3 State of Ecotourism in Nepal

 

Based on past experience ecotourism development in Nepal can be viewed from two perspectives, viz. projects conceived and developed as ecotourism projects such as Ghalegaon - Sikles Ecotourism Project, and initiatives that consist strong ecotourism components such as in most protected areas. There are other initiatives that do not mention explicitly an association with ecotourism but since they embrace principles of ecotourism they too are considered as a contribution to the development of ecotourism. Therefore, the discussion on ecotourism in Nepal that follows is viewed from these perspectives.

4.3.1 The Magnitude of Ecotourism

A plethora of definitions of ecotourism have been worked out by practitioners and academicians. However, what invariably remains as the essence of each and every definition is that ecotourism is "travel to natural areas with the motive of education leading to environmental conservation and local economic benefits". By this definition, except for tourism in urban areas such as Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys, tourism in Nepal mostly involves traveling to natural and less-developed areas for adventure and to experience varying socio-cultural and environmental settings. As such, the bulk of tourism in Nepal embraces strong elements of 'ecotourism' or 'nature tourism'. Therefore, the nature of tourism that is being practiced in Nepal makes it 'ecotourism' (Gurung, 1995).

With its spectacular natural landscapes and rich cultural heritage, Nepal has a comparative advantage in terms of ecotourism development. Further, as trekkers in Nepal are inevitably attracted to landscape and biodiversity, and nature tourists for wandering through the mountains, Nepal presents an excellent example of a destination where ecotourism overlaps with adventure tourism and the two are often indistinguishable.

Besides the major trekking routes in the Annapurna, Khumbu and Langtang areas, protected areas have a major role in ecotourism. With more than 18 percent of the country's land being covered by protected areas, and more than 50 percent of tourists to Nepal visiting at least one of these areas, the protected area network plays an important role in ecotourism development in Nepal (see also Chapter 5).

Therefore, the very nature of tourism has led to the protected area and community based ecotourism in Nepal. Gurung and De Coursey (1994) estimated that 70,000 of 270,000 or 26 percent of the total visitors in 1991 were specialist trekkers, while another 60 percent arrived for some combination of trekking, jungle safaris, river rafting and ethnic touring. This would broadly imply that as many as 80 percent of international tourists in Nepal were involved in some form of ecotourism. This finding suggests that ecotourism accounts for a major part of the income from tourism in the country. However, it could be proved only after a detailed study.

 

4.3.2 Impact of Ecotourism in Nepal

Economic impacts are the most measurable impacts of ecotourism in an area. Though positive impacts are always the more desired ones, there are some negative impacts as well. The economic impacts in Nepal can broadly be assessed in terms of foreign exchange earnings and employment, and as a catalyst for regional growth.

 

 

4.3.2.1 Source of Foreign Exchange

His Majesty's Government (HMG) of Nepal recognizes tourism as a priority sector and a major contributor to Nepal's economy. It generates about US$ 170 million annually, which amounts to roughly 4 percent of the GDP and 15 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Tourism provides direct and indirect employment to over 200,000 people. Tourist per capita expenditure was US$ 499 in 1980/1981 but dropped to US$ 474 in 1995. Since then per capita expenditure has dropped to US$ 400 in 1997 (NTB, 2001).

Despite the downsides discussed earlier, tourism has been widely recognized for its role in employment generation and contribution to the national economy. Trekking is recognized as a major part of this industry. It involves people walking either alone or in group or accompanied by trekking support staff and staying in either local houses or tents. This type of tourism activity is able to spread tourism benefits to areas that are only accessible on foot.

Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), Sagarmatha (Everest) and Langtang National Park host more than 90 percent of trekkers in Nepal (MoCTCA, 1999/2000). Apart from trekking tourism, mountaineering is equally important to the tourism industry in Nepal. In  1998, altogether 141 mountaineering expedition teams came to Nepal, with a total expenditure of over US$ 5.6 million (MoCTCA, 1999/2000); but there were only 132 mountaineering expeditions in 2000 and revenues of US$ 9.74 million (KC, 2002).

As mentioned earlier, a significant proportion of tourists visit places other than Kathmandu and Pokhara helping to spread tourism income in the rural and remote areas of the country. However, there remain some leakages, especially in the goods and services that need to be imported from other countries. A study, carried out by Baskota and Sharma (1996) at Ghandruk and Ghorepani of Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), revealed that a significant portion of expenditure on food products spills out as leakage through imports. Appropriate measures are needed to increase retention of tourism income in local areas. Local entrepreneurship development through local technology and food production can reduce leakage and enrich the economy of host areas.

4.3.2.2 Increase Employment

Tourism can generate jobs directly through hotels, restaurants, taxis, souvenir sales, local guides and indirectly through the supply of goods and services needed by tourism related business. In 2002, it was estimated that the tourism and travel economy created 714,991 jobs, or some 6.8 percent of total employment. By 2012, it is envisaged to be about 1,115,670 jobs or 7.9 percent of total employment (NTB, 2001). Therefore, tourism has the potential to be an important employment provider in the country.

4.3.2.3 Regional Development

Tourism can be used as a tool for regional growth, especially in a country like Nepal where there is much regional imbalance in terms of development. The impressive growth of Pokhara is a good example of how tourism can contribute to economic growth. Similarly, settlements along the trekking routes in ACA have received tourism benefits (Pradhan, 2000), which have contributed to development of the Annapurna region. 

4.3.2.4 Community Development

Ecotourism can be a significant, even essential, part of the local economy. It has immense potential to help in poverty alleviation. Besides its unique potential to carry exchange and investment directly to the local level, it can make significant contribution to rural development, agricultural transformation, community enrichment and social empowerment, particularly for women (Shrestha and Walinga, 2003).

The induced infrastructural improvements such as better water and sewerage systems, electricity and telephone can improve the quality of life for residents as well as facilitate tourism. There are several such examples in ACA (Pradhan, 2000).

Ecotourism can offer opportunities for generating local revenues through informal employment for guides and vendors, and by involvement in local culture and festivals, local souvenir production and more. The positive side of such informal employment is that ecotourism incomes are returned to the local economy and have a greater multiplier effect.

There are examples to show that tourism can bring about changes in other dimensions of social development. For instance, because of higher incomes, many parents of Manang District of Annapurna Conservation Area can now afford to send their children to high schools and universities in Kathmandu (Schmelzer, 2000). This will in due course lead to considerable social improvement on all fronts.

4.3.2.5 Social Impacts of Ecotourism

Tourism can bring about both positive and negative socio-cultural changes. For instance, the Sherpas in the well known tourism destination of Khumbu are involved with the cash economy as a result of tourism and have therefore become more westernized. But, they have apparently not lost the essence of their cultural identity and have even developed an enhanced sense of ethnic pride because of the value placed on their services and culture by tourists (Weaver, 2001).

Unlike the above example, tourism has also been a catalyst for socio-cultural change. The Tharus of Terai used to rest their oxen for two days a month. These two days are referred to as barna days and are an integral part of Tharu culture. If someone breached this rule and put the oxen to work, he was fined and compelled to pay a certain amount into the community fund. In Sauraha, the settlement near the Royal Chitwan National Park, some Tharu farmers earn a bit of money by transporting tourists to the main roads on ox carts. Initially, these people refused to ferry tourists on barna days. But then there were several incidents during which tourists criticized farmers for what they considered typical unreliability. The Tharu farmers were in a bind. They had either to break with tradition or forego their extra income. Most of them decided in favor of the good deal and working the oxen on barna days has come to be tolerated and no more fines are imposed (Boeker, 2000).

4.3.2.6 Environmental Impacts of Ecotourism

Trekking and mountaineering tourism can have environmental impacts. The concerns are over the magnitude of such impacts. Although ecotourists are motivated to preserve the environment, there can be many negative impacts (Shrestha and Walinga, 2003). Some of these are mentioned below:

·          Ecotourists often go to environmentally fragile areas, such as the Himalayas.

·          Visits may occur during sensitive periods such as during breeding or hatching periods.

·          Visits by ecotourists eventually may lead to mass tourism at the site, such that the ultimate impact is much greater than the initial impact.

·          Visits may cause off-site impacts, such as the consumption of airplane fuel.

The impacts of all these factors can take several forms such as water pollution, visual pollution (pollution of natural beauty due to construction of buildings in a haphazard manner), land use pollution and ecological disruption. For instance, although the valley between Pisang and Manang is broad and there is enough room for further expansion of settlements, all the new constructions are being built only along the trekking route spoiling the natural beauty of the route (Schmelzer, 2000).

Besides the above-mentioned off-site impacts, tourism can bring on-site impacts like soil erosion and compaction, disturbance to wildlife, trampling of vegetation, accidental introduction of exotic plants and increased frequency of forest fires. For example, most of the natural vegetation between Bhratang, Khangsar and Thorung Pass has been destroyed. Conifer and birch (Betula utilis) forests at an altitude of 3,000 to 4,000 masl remain only at a few locations. Demand for new pastures, arable land, firewood and timber has forced people to clear forests. As a consequence, the soil has dried up and eroded at several places. Yaks, cows, goats and sheep also destroy a lot of vegetation and increase pressure on land. The steep slopes in the vicinity of Khangsar and Yakgawa Kang of Manang are extremely susceptible to soil erosion (Schmelzer, 2000).

The inappropriate disposal of litter and human waste, the gathering of fuelwood and the establishment of permanent constructions such as lodges add to the environmental problems. The litter problem is so widespread such that it has affected Mt. Everest itself. In 1984, a team of Sherpa guides removed over 1,000 bags of trash from the lower elevations of Mt. Everest (Richter, 1989) and 16 tons of plastic were removed in 1996 from the top of the mountain (Weaver, 2001).

 

The Annapurna region has witnessed overcrowding and associated environmental stress. There has tended to be a bottleneck of trekker activity in the Annapurna Sanctuary, at the base of the Thorong Pass and within Ghorepani village, where major trails intersect (Gurung and Coursey, 1994). The consequences are haphazard development of lodges and other services that has undermined the aesthetic appeal of the region (Shackley, 1996). This in addition to the activities of trekkers has been linked to various environmental problems. The lodges in just one small village along the major hiking routes are estimated to consume one hectare of virgin rhododendron forest per year to meet the needs of trekkers, and many of the more frequented routes are know disparagingly as 'toilet paper trails' (Gurung, 1992).

Deforestation to fulfill fuelwood needs has been cited as major problem in the Khumbu region. According to Richter (1989), each trekker in the late 1970s used 106 kg of fuelwood for a 15-day trek, and only 7 percent bothered to carry their own fuel. This caused widespread deforestation, particularly along the trails. Though Government regulations were introduced requiring trekkers to carry their own fuelwood, they are not followed along all the trekking routes.

4.3.2.7 Spatial and Temporal Concentration of Visitation

Trekking and mountaineering tourism in Nepal are characterized by several levels of concentration. The concentration of visitors within some of the major protected areas, and that too along just few major trekking routes, is often highlighted as a limiting trend that deprives other potential areas of the benefits of such tourism. In addition, only a few settlements with tourism facilities are able to reap the benefits. Others, particularly those who are not involved in tourism, have hardly anything to do other than watching visitors pass by. Also, there are issues of temporal concentrations associated with monsoon precipitation (Zurick, 1992; Pradhan, 2000).

4.3.2.8 Alienation of Local People

The tourism industry in Nepal has been associated with several socio-cultural problems. For instance, the establishment of Rara National Park in 1972 involved relocation of several hundreds of Chhetri people from their traditional homeland, thereby forcing them to engage in deforestation of their new territory (Eber, 1992). Alienation has also resulted from instances where tourism has brought inadequate financial benefits, in contrast to the apparent material prosperity conferred upon the Sherpas of Khumbu. Resentment also arose when Upper Mustang was opened to tourism, as incoming trekkers were compelled by the Government to join fully self-contained tenting groups that employed non-locals (Ritcher, 1989).

The situation in Royal Chitawan National Park is different. Encroachment, over harvesting of forest resources and park-people conflicts are some of the notable problems being encountered by the National Park. Altogether 70 percent of the Park budget is used to support the army deployed for the security of the National Park (Parker, 1993). This amount could be used for other constructive work for the benefit of local people.

4.4 Efforts at Ecotourism Development

4.4.1 Ecotourism and Protected Areas

The growth in tourism was accompanied by a growth in undesirable socio-cultural and environmental problems in the destination areas. This situation called for special efforts to protect the environmental integrity and ensure development of the host areas. As a result, several protected areas including environmental projects came into existence with a strong tourism development component. A brief account of ecotourism in the frequently visited protected areas is presented in the following paragraphs (see also Sections 4.2, 5.2 and Chapter 7).

4.4.1.1 Royal Chitwan National Park

Various projects that aim to generate awareness on ecotourism have been successfully run in Chitwan National Park, the biggest National Park in the country (see Chapter 5 for details). The translocation of one horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), due to the increase in their numbers and to create a second viable wild population, and preservation of Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) in Chitwan National Park are taken as examples of successful operation of ecotourism projects in Nepal (KC, 2002).

4.4.1.2 Sagarmatha National Park

Sagarmatha National Park (SNP) became a major attraction for tourists after Mt Everest was scaled in 1953. Thousands of people visit this region every year. Altogether 22,029 visitors (second highest number among the PAs) visited SNP in 2001 (MoCTCA, 2002). The trekking route from Namche to Kala Pathar is popular among tourists. Gokyo Lake and Chukung valleys also provide spectacular views. Similarly, the Thame valley is well recognized for Sherpa culture while Phortse is known for wildlife watching (Also see Chapter 5).

 

 

4.4.1.3 Langtang National Park

Langtang National Park was created to conserve central Himalayan ecosystem of the country. Rich in floral and faunal diversity, this park, has spectacular mountains like Langtang and beautiful lakes like Gosainkunda, Bhairabkunda which carry great religious importance. Langtang, Helambu and Gosainkunda are its well known trekking routes. Due to its close proximity to Kathmandu and easy road access, this park has become a popular tourist destination (Refer Chapter 5 also).

4.4.1.4 Annapurna Conservation Area Project

Since its inception in 1986, Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) has been successful in gradually changing the traditional subsistence activities into a framework of sound resource management, supplemented by conservation, development of alternative energy programs to minimize the negative impacts of tourism and to enhance the living standards of local people. It follows the principles of maximum people's participation, sustainability and a catalyst's role. ACAP is spread across 5 districts of the Western Development Region of Nepal and covers 55 VDCs. It is divided into seven unit conservation offices located in Jomsom, Manang, Lo-Monthang, Bhujang, Lwang, Sikles and Ghandruk (Awasthi et al., 2001). 

The focus in Jomsom, Manang and Ghandruk, which are also popular trekking areas, is on integrated tourism management and agro-pastoralism. The program priorities for Bhujang, Sikles and Lwang are poverty alleviation and integrated agriculture and livestock development, agro-forestry and community development. The focus in Lo-Monthang, upper Mustang, which came under the jurisdiction of ACAP in 1992, has been managing controlled tourism on a sustainable basis and promoting heritage conservation, which is the major tourist attraction along with alternative energy, resource conservation and community development programs. The Conservation Education and Extension Project (CEEP) being implemented across the ACAP working area forms the backbone of all the conservation efforts in the region. ACAP has completed its management plan and is implementing the recommendation of its plan that emphasizes building the capacity of local institution to carry out the present activities of ACAP. The Conservation Area Management Committee is entrusted with the responsibility to manage, utilize and protect all the natural resources within its respective VDCs.

After the success in ACAP, efforts are being made to replicate the lessons learned in Kangchenjunga, Dolpa and Humla in Himalayan region, and Palpa and Lumbini in mid-mountain and Terai regions, respectively (KC, 2002).

The ACA has been a prime destination for trekkers ever since it was opened up for visitors. For instance, of the total 100,828 trekkers in Nepal during 2001, altogether 65 percent visited the ACA; this figure dropped slightly during 2002 (MoCTCA, 2002). Further, Fig 4.3 suggests a steady growth in tourism influx in ACA. The ACAP is authorized to collect entry fees from visitors and the revenue from trekking has been used to create an endowment fund with the objective of financial self-sustainability. Because of the contribution of tourism to conservation and development it has now become part of the life of people in ACA.

Today ACAP is recognized as a model conservation project throughout the world because of its outstanding contribution to natural resource conservation and community development. This has been made possible due to able KMTNC management, which diverts significant proportion of the tourism revenue into conservation and development activities. This has brought positive results to the livelihoods of the people of ACAP.

 

 Source: MoCTCA, 2002.

In summary, due to its success in conserving local resources while also providing visitor satisfaction and local community development, ACA is today a widely known conservation area and destination not only in Nepal but in other parts of the world as well.

Ghalegaon-Sikles Ecotourism Project

Realizing the need for environmentally sound and sustainable tourism that contributes to conservation of natural resources and local community development, KMTNC/ ACAP designated Ghalegaon Sikles Ecotourism Project (GSEP) as a model trekking route between Ghalegaon and Sikles in western Nepal in 1992. The Asian Development Bank funded the GSEP as a part of the "Tourism Infrastructure Development Project".

This project, which involved foot-trail construction, forest zoning, proper camping facilities for trekkers and other environmental conservation work, is considered one of its kind for the promotion and development of ecotourism in Nepal. The area enjoys an advantage over the rest of the Annapurna region in that it has fewer trekkers and therefore there is less pressure on the natural and social environment.

Nature conservation, which is one of the major components of the project, includes activities such as forest nursery, afforestation, river training, and sustainable harvest of forest products from defined zones for local communities. These activities are carried out through the Conservation and Development Committee (CDC) and other related sub-committees. The alternative energy program comprises of micro-hydro projects, kerosene depots, low wattage cookers and back boilers (fuelwood efficient ovens).

The community development component includes trail development and maintenance, bridge construction and repairs, school education support, community toilets and drinking water schemes. Local capacity building programs include eco-path finders (tour-guide) training, hotel management training, vegetable production training, leadership training and exposure tours. Conservation education and extension programs involve clean ups and mobile camps, and formal and informal conservation education. The project also works for heritage conservation, which include conservation of cultural sites and management of traditional shows.

The research and monitoring component includes listing of biodiversity (bird diversity), sustainable utilization of non-timber forest products, socio-economic survey and bio-diversity conservation research.

Revenue is generated through an entry fee, and community managed facilities and services. Because of its contribution to local community development and tourism resources, this project area is also popular among tourists.

Upper Mustang Biodiversity Conservation Project

The Upper Mustang Biodiversity Conservation Project (UMBCP) was established in 2000. It covers a total area of 2,567 sq. km in seven village development committees (VDCs) with a population of 5,694. The project is expected to go on until 2005. This project aims to link biodiversity and cultural heritage conservation with tourism management. The basic aims of the project are institutional capacity building, biodiversity database establishment for community based planning, management and monitoring, and demonstration of replicable income generating schemes based on tourism, agriculture and livestock husbandry. ACAP, which is mandated by the government to support and manage natural and cultural heritages in Upper Mustang, has been actively involved in the region. 

Lo-Monthang, the ancient walled city and the then capital of Mustang, can be reached after a 10 day trek from the nearest road head or 4 days from the nearest airport. Due to geographical, climatic and political factors, the Upper part of Mustang was off limits to tourists until 1992. Because it shares its northern border with the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, Mustang was thought to be important from a strategic viewpoint.

In early 1992, HMG opened Mustang for trekking with a fee of US$ 700. It is a very different destination within Nepal. Therefore, only 1,000 tourists are allowed to visit Mustang annually (Gurung, 1996). The tourists are required to visit Mustang using an authorized trekking agency and accompanied by an environmental officer. Visitors are required to carry back their garbage and are restricted from going beyond the authorized trekking routes. The entrance fee has been used in various local development activities.  The ACAP, which is mandated by the government to support and manage natural and cultural heritages in Upper Mustang has been actively involved in the region. Institutional capacity building, biodiversity database establishment for community based planning, management and monitoring, and demonstration of replicable income generating schemes based on tourism, agriculture and livestock husbandry are the basic aims of the project. 

Tourist flows into the area were officially recorded starting 1993. Since then there has been a steady growth in visitor numbers, with records showing a high in 2000 and a slight decline thereafter (MoCTCA, 2002). The potential impact of tourism in the upper Mustang area is identified as follows (Ali, 1999):

·          Weakening of indigenous cultural and religious organizations and the authority of local institutions that has increasingly weakened the strong link between nature and culture.

·          Dearth of information on rangeland ecological processes has hampered effective biodiversity conservation efforts and management of rangeland resources for livestock and wildlife alike.

·          Lack of a comprehensive and progressive biodiversity conservation strategy and conservation-oriented management plan that is linked to ongoing socioeconomic developmental processes in Upper Mustang.

The project was designed to improve the conservation and management activities in Upper Mustang in order to preserve an extraordinary example of the high altitude biodiversity of the Himalayas. The project is in line with GEF requirements that call for the removal of threats to biodiversity within the project area, to achieve its long-term goal that is to conserve biodiversity of actual and potential value and preserve globally important habitats and species of Upper Mustang. 

The funds available for the Project will be used entirely for cultural heritage conservation, arresting the deterioration of cultural monuments, enhancing their role in serving as additional tourist attractions and maintaining the traditional cultural link to nature conservation. The major achievement accomplished by the project in 2001 was the training to community members in plantation skills, wildlife management, surveying techniques and biodiversity database management. In addition, with the help of the American Himalayan Foundation, a large number of villagers were trained in monument restoration, which included cleaning wall frescoes.

In addition, altogether 11 Savings and Credit groups were formed. Studies related to survey on fauna (focus on mammals), medicinal plants, gender roles, rangeland management and people-wildlife conflict, demand for fuelwood, livestock and wildlife interactions, and tourism and rangeland resource inventory were carried out. In the course of biodiversity survey, two new species of mammals—the Tibetan wild ass (Equus hemionus) and Tibetan gazelle—were recorded in Mustang for the first time from Nepal (Ali, 1999).

The results of project evaluation carried out in 2001 revealed that the project was well in line towards achieving the expected outcomes by improving capacity of selected institutions for management of energy and natural resources that respond to the needs of poor women and men. Though the achievements of the project appear modest now it exhibits genuine potential for delivering outcomes of lasting significance and to achieve recognition, nationally and regionally (KMTNC, 2002). 

4.4.1.5 Manaslu Conservation Area Project

The region was opened for organized group trekkers since 1991. The major trekking seasons are March through May and September through November. The trek starts from Gorkha and follows the meandering Budhi Gandaki River and the Darundi River before reaching Larke Pass (5,106 masl) and finally reaches Manang district. The altitude rises from 600 masl to the summit of Manaslu (8,163 masl), the eighth highest peak in the world.

A major threat to the biodiversity of the region is the high level of dependency of local people on natural resources. The opening up of the region to tourism has only added to the pressure on local ecosystems.

Unlike the Annapurna Conservation Area, the difficult terrain and limited access are major impediments in attracting more trekkers to the region. Yet, the data in Fig 4.4 suggests that despite minor fluctuations there has been, a steady increase in tourist influx in the MCAP. Due to limited tourism revenue, the Manaslu region will require external assistance for some years to come. Various programs are being implemented to minimize the negative impacts, uplift the quality of life for local inhabitants and provide quality experience for visitors. Ecotourism is one such program and is expected to grow.

 

Source: MoCTCA, 2002.

The role of the Trust is to facilitate and assist local people to better understand and acquire skills for management of their resources in a sustainable and equitable manner while maintaining their culture and improving on their traditional systems. As women are one of the most effective partners of the Trust in all its conservation and development activities, special focused programs are being launched to address their specific needs so that the efforts are consolidated and benefits are more widespread. The active participation and involvement of local people in identifying local needs and planning and execution is the best way to guarantee long-term sustainability of the project.

4.4.1.6 Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project

The diverse ecosystems in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) host a tremendous array of floral and faunal diversity. With increasing elevation, tropical hardwoods in the lowlands are replaced by oak and pine that subsequently give way to larch, fir and juniper up to the tree line. Spring in Kangchenjunga region is announced by floral blooms of rhododendron, orchids and lilies.

The KCA harbors a rich diversity of wildlife that includes the endangered snow leopard (Uncia uncia), Himalayan black bear, musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster) and red panda. Blue sheep and rhesus macaque abound in the area. Birds of interest include the Impeyan pheasant (Lophophorus impejanus), red-billed blue magpie, ashy drongo and many more.

The Kangchenjunga Area experienced tourism in 1988 for the first time, with 87 visitors. The number jumped to 590 the following year. Although fewer than a thousand trekkers visit the area every year (except for year 2000), the tourist flow in the KCA has increased steadily (Fig 4.5).

 

Source: MoCTCA, 2002.

Major impact of tourism in the KCA area is the solid waste generated by trekking and expedition groups. For the first time in the trekking history of the Kangchenjunga region, 3,000 kg of rubbish was collected in 1998 from the base camps of Kangchenjunga and Kumbhakarna and camping sites at Rhonak and Khambachen. The waste was then properly disposed off. Local Mother's Groups as well as village residents are also actively involved in periodic village clean-up campaigns.

 

 

4.4.2 Efforts made by various Institutions

4.4.2.1 Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC)

His Majesty's Government has provided policy support and financial assistance for environment protection activities in the Sagarmatha region. Various projects and NGOs such as Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee and Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) have been working actively to preserve and rejuvenate the natural and cultural heritage of Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) region. These efforts are closely related to enhancing visitor satisfaction while maintaining environmental integrity.

Founded in 1991 with financial and technical support from the WWF-Nepal program, Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) is a locally formed NGO based in the Solukhumbu region established with the aim of preserving the natural and cultural heritage of Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) region. SPCC operates under the partnership of Tengboche Monastery, and has gained national and international recognition for its contribution to clean-up programs.

Though the initial goal of SPCC was to remove garbage from the Khumbu region and maintain a clean environment, it has since expanded its activities to include tourism development, community development, and cultural and environmental conservation. The following are some of the conservation and tourism related activities that SPCC has successfully implemented in the Khumbu region over the last three years (SPCC, 1997/98):

 

·          Clean-up campaigns to mountain base camps, including Everest, Island and Lobuche peaks.

·          Monitoring the waste removal of all mountaineering expedition teams.

·          Regular cleaning along trekking trails, villages and campsites.

·          Construction and maintenance of garbage pits and public toilets in different areas of the Khumbu region.

·          Trail improvement and bridge construction and maintenance.

·          Installation of incinerators in Namche, Tengboche and Lukla for incineration of trash.

·          Establishment of Rescue Post and HF radio services.

·          Establishment of kerosene depots at Syangboche, Pheriche and Dole to minimize fuelwood consumption by lodges, trekkers and expedition teams.

·          Launching of environmental education programs and training at local schools and formation of eco-clubs.

·          Creation of a Lodge Association for better management of the lodges.

·          Establishment of Visitors Information Center (VIC) in Lukla and Namche.

·          Slide show and talk programs for trekkers, tourism entrepreneurs and local people to raise environmental and cultural awareness.

Recognizing SPCC's practical approach to conservation through local people's participation, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has funded SPCC since 1993. SPCC has also been successful in receiving assistance from various INGOs. The Association Environment Insertion Economic (EIEP) of France donated 3 portable incinerators. Similarly, the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan (HAT-J) has established an incinerator at Lukla and has provided funds for operation. HAT-J has also funded the establishment and operation of an apple farm at Choplung of Chaurikharka VDC. Apart from these sources, SPCC raises funds internally from the sale of eco-friendly products and kerosene. Given the magnitude of the problem, the available resources have not been sufficient to carry out all the necessary activities (SPCC, 1998 /99).

4.4.2.2 River Cleaning Campaigns

Private institutions and national and international NGOs in Nepal have made significant contributions for cleaning rivers also for preservation of the natural environment. For instance, the Bagmati and Bhotekoshi River Festivals are organized annually to create awareness among general public about the need and efforts for maintaining clean rivers (KC, 2002). These activities can be seen in the perspective of enhancing visitor satisfaction, which could eventually attract more visitors than before. Similarly, World Wetlands Day was observed on February 2, 2001 by organizing a clean-up campaign on the banks of the Rapti River with representation from KMTNC/NRCT, RCNP, Parks-People Project (PPP), Bird Conservation Society and a large number of local residents (KMTNC, 2001).

4.4.2.3 Eco-Himal

An ecotourism project is being implemented in the Rolwaling region under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. Eco-Himal, an Austrian NGO has undertaken implementation responsibility (Awasthi et al., 2001).

4.4.2.4 Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Program

Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Program (TRPAP) is already in operation with the financial assistance of UNDP, DFID and SNV. The main objective of this pilot program is to support review and formulation of tourism development policies and strategic planning. The program will focus on disadvantaged and discriminated sections of Nepal's rural women and men, lower castes and ethnic minorities. The program will develop strong backward and forward linkages and facilitate grassroots participation in the decision making process so that benefits reach the poor in rural communities. It is expected that this program will demonstrate models for sustainable tourism development in Nepal. The policy outcome of this project is expected to also guide ecotourism policies in the future.

4.4.2.5 Kathmandu Environmental Education Project

This project was established as an information center in 1992 by the collaborative efforts of a group of Nepali environmentalists and the friends of a British trekker who died on Everest in the same year. The objective of the project is to provide free information on sound and safe trekking and mountaineering in the country for interested persons. Its major activities are:

 

·         Regular lectures on various subjects ranging from ecology, economy, and culture to development.

·         Eco-trekking workshops for managers, cooks, and support staff on environment, health, sanitation, alternative energy, and kitchen management and campsite management.

·         English language classes to improve trekking staff's communication skills with their clients.

 

4.4.2.6 The Partnership for Quality Tourism Project

This was a year-long project supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Nepal in 1995. The main objective of PQT was to develop a partnership between the private and public sector in the tourism sector to foster a good working relationship with the ultimate goal of sustaining the industry. Three major task forces were formed to work on increasing urban attraction, village training and production of video films for international promotional use. The Project closed after making important contributions including the establishment of Nepal Tourism Board.

4.4.2.7 Tourism Plan for Ghodaghodi Lake Area

IUCN Nepal has worked with Ghodaghodi Area Conservation and Awareness Forum (GCAF) for conservation of the lake area, which included cleaning of the lake, construction of a dam, and establishment of nurseries and plantations around the lake. Nepal Tourism Board in partnership with IUCN Nepal worked on developing a tourism plan for Ghodaghodi Lake area. The tourism plan will be used for developing a detailed tourism master plan for the area (online: www.welcomenepal.com).

4.4.2.8 ADB Support

Nepal has a fairly extensive experience in ecotourism. The focus now is to develop this as a vehicle to supplement other programs in poverty alleviation. With technical assistance (TA) of Asian Development Bank a comprehensive project document for ecotourism project has been prepared. This proposed ADB-funded projects will help support infrastructure development, reconstruction of airfields in various parts of Nepal, which is an essential component to develop ecotourism in various locations including in the remote parts. Similarly, this project will also help in capacity building of various ecotourism related software components, such as development of trekking trails and skill development training. HMG of Nepal will be implementing this project in the near future to strengthen ecotourism activities in Nepal.

This project began in September 2000 and was completed by May 2001. The purpose of the project was to explore the prospects for tourism in various regions and to spread visitors from the high flow areas such as Sagarmatha, Langtang and Annapurna to less visited areas. The TA identified potential new destinations. The South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Tourism Development Plan decided to support the TA envisaged projects (NTB, 2004). The projects are presented briefly in the following paragraphs.

Simikot, Humla Development Package

Simikot is located in the north-western most district of the country and sits along an important trek route to the pilgrimage centre of Mt. Kailash and Lake Mansarovar in Tibet. The route goes from Simikot to Hilsa, the Tibet road head for Mt. Kailash. Humla has high appeal with a strong Buddhist culture plus nature focus. Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) and their partner networks in Humla provide technical assistance to the new NTB Ecotourism Unit and to the Humla District Tourism Committee for all its project components. Important among these are physical infrastructure improvement of Simikot town, including trail pavements, waste management, sanitation and drainage. Other components of significance are development and upgrading of village lodges and other attractions of the region including monastery and hot spring, and provide training in small and micro-enterprise development, skill development, and tourism training for lodge owners, village guides and porters to ensure local participation in tourism.

Dolpa Development Package

Dolpa is the country's biggest district and includes some portion of Shey Phoksundo National Park and other significant natural features. It harbors trans-Himalayan flora and fauna and is known to have 205 species of medicinal plants. It is also home to the endangered wolf, snow leopard (Uncia uncia), and musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster). The major ethnic groups of the district are Chhetri, Gurung and Bhotia.

As a scenic and culturally rich trek area, this region has excellent prospects for ecotourism (HMG, 2001). The major project components include development and upgrading of tourism attractions and facilities such as campsites and lodge in the Park, buffer zone and access routes to increase visitor stay days and spending. It also aims to develop the Chharka Trail to create a trek link with Jomson and ACAP, increase revenue opportunities and expand the market base. Other targets are to extend training for small and micro-enterprise development, skill development, and tourism training for lodge owners, village guides and porters to ensure local participation in tourism.

 

Makalu Barun Development Package

Established as an alternative entry to Sagarmatha (Everest) region as well as a trek destination, this area offers a wilderness trekking route (see Chapter 5 for detail). The major project components include development and upgrading of trail infrastructure, tourism attractions and facilities such as campsites and lodge services along the new and existing trekking routes. Other targets include development of small-scale infrastructure, waste management and alternative energy systems, including a micro-hydro system. Other activities include extending training opportunities for small and micro-enterprise development, skill development, and tourism training for lodge owners, village guides and porters to ensure local participation in tourism.

Kangchenjunga Development Package

 

The Kangchenjunga Development Package includes development and upgrading of trail infrastructure, tourism attractions and facilities such as campsite and lodge services along the new and existing trekking routes. Development of small-scale infrastructure, waste management and alternative energy systems including micro-hydro is other important component. Other activities include extending training opportunities for small and micro-enterprise development, skill development, and tourism training for lodge owners, village guides and porters to ensure local participation in tourism.

Tansen Development Package

Tansen, an ancient hill town, is the administrative headquarters of Palpa District located on the southern slope of the Mahabharat range. It is rich in culture. The major attractions of Tansen are its old streets in the core area, Tansen Darbar, Ranighat palace and a number of temples such as Rishikesh, Bhairabsthan and several others.

GETUP Palpa, a local NGO, is responsible for coordinating all the work related to improvement of the Ranighat Ecotourism Circuit in close cooperation with NTB Ecotourism Unit.

Lumbini Development Project

Lumbini was declared as 'The Fountain of World Peace' by the World Buddhist Community at the International Buddhist Summit in December 1998. It is another initiative put forward by the ADB TA mission (see also Chapter 6).

4.4.3 Policy Measures to promote Ecotourism

The Ninth Plan Policy and implementation strategies include promotion of ecotourism. The strategies include programs such as development of model tourist villages and new trekking areas. The Tenth Plan focuses on review of tourism policies, related regulations, institutional arrangements and performance, and assessments of net contribution to the economy from tourism. It will also focus on developing tourism infrastructure in remote areas that will ultimately help to develop domestic tourism in Nepal (Awasthi et al., 2001). Nepal has developed strategies to facilitate the development of ecotourism as well.

Realizing that there is increasing stress on the natural environment, HMG has introduced a legislation that requires tourism service providers to submitted Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports.  

4.4.4 Incentives and Support

His Majesty's Government has played a supportive role not only at the policy level but also in implementation. For instance, it provides grant assistance for environmental protection activities through the Nepal Tourism Board.

Private institutions such as the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal regularly conduct a training course on ecotourism. Their policy is to protect and keep the environment clean. They also conduct periodic refresher courses for their staff. Apart from these, NGOs involved in tourism promotion have shown commitment to conserve the environment.

4.4.5 Institutional Arrangements

Various institutional arrangements are in place for the development of the tourism sector in Nepal. A high level Tourism Council has been formed to develop the industry as a backbone of national development and to maintain coordination and cooperation among various agencies related with the tourism sector. The Council is headed by the Prime Minister. The Council is expected to remove the obstacles faced by the sector, give policy level guidelines to subordinate executive agencies (Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the Nepal Tourism Board and other line ministries/ agencies.), and reviews plans or policies related to tourism (Thapa, 2004, online: www.adobe.com).

The Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), on the basis of the policy and guidelines of the Tourism Council, designs policy for the development of tourism, and makes necessary plans and oversees their implementation through the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).

The NTB is responsible for all marketing activities aimed at promoting Nepal as a premier destination. Although the initial phase of the functioning of the Board will focus on marketing and promotion, the ultimate aim of the NTB is to take over regulatory and product development activities as well. It is working towards repositioning the image of Nepal so as to market and promote Nepal aggressively and extensively both domestically and internationally. The role of NTB is detailed in Box 4.1.

Box 4.1: Role of Nepal Tourism Board

 

·          To develop Nepal as an attractive tourist destination in the international arena.

·          To develop, expand and promote tourism enterprises, while promoting the natural, cultural and human environment of the country.

·          To increase national income, to increase foreign currency earnings, and to create maximum opportunities of employment by developing, expanding and promoting tourism.

·          To establish the image of Nepal in the international tourism community by developing Nepal as a secure, reliable and attractive destination.

·          To undertake or foster research related to reforms to be made in tourism enterprises in order to provide quality services.

·          To help establish and develop institutions necessary for the development of tourism enterprises.

·          To develop Nepal as a tourism hub for South Asia.

 

Source: Thapa, 2004, online: www.adobe.com

 

In short, the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) is responsible for policy, licensing and regulation of the tourism industry in Nepal. The Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) undertakes planning and product development, international and domestic promotion, and tourism research. Other key government agencies are the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC).

The National Planning Commission (NPC) has a strong influence on tourism policy. Tourism is included as a major sector in NPC's five-year plans. Tourism is viewed by NPC as a poverty reduction strategy in its interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). 

Protected areas, many of which have tourism activities, fall under the jurisdiction of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC). The income from tourism concessions and entry fees contribute significantly to the DNPWC budget. A percentage of tourism income is pledged for the benefit of local communities in the buffer zones. 

The Ministry of Local Development (MoLD) is responsible for decentralizing government services to the district and village level. Like in any development activities, the District Development Committees (DDCs) and Village Development Committees (VDCs) play key roles in promoting tourism in destination areas under their jurisdiction.  

Nepal's active and fairly large private sector has organized into some 20 different associations. The leading ones include the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN), Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), Nepal Association of Travel Agents (NATA), Nepal Association of Rafting Agents (NARA) and Tourist Guide Association of Nepal (TURGAN).

Of the hundreds of national and international NGOs active in Nepal, many have identified ecotourism as a means to achieve their goals of poverty reduction, community development, environmental preservation and conservation. Many of the leading players have international reputations in this field. The King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC) is best known for its Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), which pioneered techniques of integrated conservation and development using ecotourism as a development tool.

The Sustainable Tourism Network (STN) was founded in 1997 to co-ordinate the activities and programs of agencies active in ecotourism. STN is serviced by the NTB and has performed its way to being the key co-coordinating body for ecotourism planning and implementation.

4.4.6 International Partnership

 

Nepal has continuously received foreign assistance for tourism planning and development. International agencies have contributed to capacity building and infrastructure improvement. The key players include the ADB, which has supported tourism planning, infrastructure development and ecotourism projects, and UNDP, which provided technical assistance to help establish the Nepal Tourism Board.

 

ADB has provided the most substantial assistance to the sector, mainly for with Tourism Infrastructure Development Projects. In the past, ADB's aim was to foster strong linkages between tourism, environmental improvements, employment and basic infrastructure development. Since the 1970s, three loans and two supplementary loans totaling US$ 66.74 million were implemented for the construction and extension of Kathmandu's international airport. In addition, two further loans of US$ 27.6 million were provided under the Second Tourism Infrastructure Development Project (STIDP). This Project comprised three components—environmental improvements in Pokhara, the upgrading of six rural airports and ecotourism development in Manaslu Conservation Area. The most remarkable step of the ADB is its recent consideration of the Tourism Working group's (TWG) suggestion for preparation of sub-regional tourism planning under South Asian Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC).

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has been a major player in Nepal tourism since 1971 when the Hotel Management and Tourism Training Center (now NATHM) was formed. Also, Partnership for Quality Tourism Project (PQTP) supported a series of trial, joint public and private sector activities leading to the formation of the Nepal Tourism Board. The Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Program (TRAPAP) is jointly supported by UNDP and SNV with proposed program extensions by Britain's Department for International Development (DFID). Approved in December 2000, this project is based in the NTB. TRPAP is geared towards alleviating poverty through tourism, instituting local and regional level tourism planning mechanisms, and addressing policy issues with the benefit of grass roots experience.

Thus, while ADB and UNDP have historically led the support for development of the tourism sector as a whole, the specific area of ecotourism has received the attention of many other agencies. Ecotourism is used to address objectives ranging from poverty alleviation, community development and heritages preservation to environmental and wildlife conservation.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has been active in Nepal since the 1960s and has helped establish Nepal's protected area system in partnership with DNPWC. A major sponsor of KMTNC in the past, WWF has recently assisted DNPWC with producing detailed tourism plans for six National Parks and Conservation Areas.

Netherlands Development Organization (SNV Nepal) has recently established a track record in using ecotourism as a tool for poverty alleviation. Working with DDC, VDC, local NGO and community levels, SNV has concentrated on ten districts in west and east Nepal.

The Mountain Institute (TMI) is an INGO registered in the United States that has been working on integrated conservation and development programs in the Makalu-Barun area. Active in Nepal since 1983, a recognized strength of TMI is planning and implementing community based ecotourism programs.

In addition to NGOs and other agencies mentioned above, the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has published training manuals on the techniques of developing mountain tourism, and The World Conservation Union (IUCN) is promoting nature based tourism in the eastern mountain areas.

Finally, Nepal is in the process of developing its Tourism Master Plan with technical support of World Tourism Organization (WTO), which can be expected to include ecotourism as well.

4.5 Potential Ecotourism Sites in Nepal

The major tourist destinations for sightseeing in Nepal at present are the Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys. Owing to their rich cultural heritage and natural beauty, these two valleys are obvious choices. Chitwan has emerged as another major tourist destination because of its wildlife. Lumbini by virtue of being the birthplace of Lord Buddha also attracts a sizeable number of tourists every year. As for trekking destinations, the major areas frequented by tourists are Annapurna, Manang, Jomsom, Everest (Sagarmatha region) and Langtang. A better distribution of tourists across the country is much desired, especially for reducing the concentration and associated impacts in these locations and for spreading tourism earnings to other less visited areas. In this way tourism can remain more or less small-scale and can therefore still meet one of the preferred criteria of ecotourism. 

Apart from the well-established tourist destinations mentioned in this study, there are other important locations in the country with potential. Based on secondary literature, which include NTB publications, the ADB Ecotourism Project Report and other relevant publications, the following sites are recognized as potential ecotourism destinations in the country.

4.5.1 Antu Danda and Adjoining Areas

Antu Danda and its adjoining areas, renowned for the splendor of their lush green hillocks, spectacular landscape of tea gardens, and cultural and historical uniqueness. The area is in Ilam district, occupies an area of 1,703 square kilometers and has a total population of 282,806. The area has great climatic and geographical variation, some of its hill stations tower up to around 4,000 masl which, if developed well, could offer tourists the option of skiing in snow clad mountains. These spots also offer breathtaking glimpses of Mt. Everest, Kangchenjunga, Makalu, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and endangered species like red panda. However, careful planning is needed to develop this area as an attractive and competitive ecotourism destination while also safeguarding against any negative environmental, cultural and economic impacts. The important sites of the area are Antu Danda, Maipokhari, Sandakpur, Kanyam and Fikkal Bazaar, Sidhi Thumka, Gajur Mukhi and Pathibhara.

4.5.1.1 Antu Danda

Antu Danda lies close to the Indian border. It is an unspoiled site that beguiles tourists coming to Ilam Bazaar of Nepal and Darjeeling of India. Antu Danda is located some 35 kilometers from the district headquarters of Ilam. It is nestled in a calm and cool environment, enclosed by the Mechi River, Kanyam Tea State, Fikkal Bazaar and Pashupatinagar.

The major attractions of Antu Danda are its natural, cultural, religious and historical dimensions. The landscape and biodiversity includes pine forests, terraces, slopes, flat lands enriched with rich vegetation, cash crop, lakes and ponds, sub-tropical NTFPs and wildlife including some endangered species. Antu Danda is famous for its views of the Himalayas to the north and the flat lands of the Terai to the south. Tourists can enjoy sunrise and sunset on the mountaintop, especially during the month of Kartik and Mangsir (October-December). However, Aswin (September) and Falgun to Baisakh (February-April) are also good times to visit the area (NTB, 2001). Tiger Hill of Ilam is another attraction for tourists. It has a long cave with a carved image of Lord Buddha.

Mountain biking, pony riding, camping sites, angling, boating, rock climbing village tour, comfortable lodging facility, bird watching, skiing and paragliding are possible tourism products that can be developed in the area. In terms of existing facilities Antu Danda has electricity, communication facility, camping grounds, simple tea stalls, simple accommodations, seasonal bus service, earthen roads and trails (NTB, 2001).

4.5.1.2 Maipokhari

Maipokhari is another attractive site in Ilam District. From an ecotourism perspective, Maipokhari possesses some promising potentialities with its religious and archeological values, and its natural beauty.

Maipokhari, the famous lake in Ilam, lies at an elevation of 2,150 masl. It is located about 11 kilometers from Ilam. Of the important sites of the area, Maipokhari Lake is the major attraction. Its religious value and popularity make it a potential site for ecotourism development.

Maipokhari is an important watershed area in the region covering around 450 hectares of land, mostly dense forest. An area of 2.5 hectares exclusive of the pond area has been conserved as natural forest with a proper fence. The forest harbors various valuable species of plants, like ground orchid, white rhododendron and precious NTFPs. The other attraction is the wildlife. The forest of the area has some of the rare animals like musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), leopard, porcupine, jackal, rare birds like Khalij, Tibetan duck and some rare insects which are on the verge of extinction (NTB, 2001).

Maipokhari has great religious and cultural importance. According to legend Maipokhari is the rendezvous of Shiva and Parvati who visit the place once a year during Kartik Ekadashi. Therefore, people from surrounding villages and distant places come to take a holy dip in the pond. A great fair (mela) takes place once a year on the day of Thuloekadeshi. In terms of existing tourism facilities Maipokhari has electricity, communication, camping grounds, standard and simple tea stalls, seasonal bus service with earthen road, and manmade, natural, cultural and religious attractions. The products that can be added to the area's tourism products and services are regular bus service, bird watching, village tour, boating facility, museums, angling facility, camping site, local guide service, souvenir shop, standard tea stalls, pony riding and mountain biking (NTB, 2001).

4.5.1.3 Sandakpur

Sandakpur is one of the highly promising locations from a tourism development viewpoint but it has not gained popularity as a tourist destination. It is also situated in Ilam. It lies at an elevation of 3636 meters above sea level (NTB 2001), so the area is often snow covered. Its height and its slope provide opportunities for skiing. Sandakpur also offers views of Mt. Everest, Mt. Kangchenjunga, Mt. Makalu and some of the world's highest mountains. Rather than cultural and historical aspect, its natural aspect seems highly promising for ecotourism development in the area. The area also has high altitude flora and fauna, including endangered species like red panda. Due to its height, the site offers some spectacular sunrise and sunset views.

The existing tourism facilities at Sandakpur are its exceptional environment and nature, earthen roads and trails, and camping grounds. Bus services are irregular so tourists can use private vehicles that take them to Khorsanitar (Maimajuwa), about 21 km from Ilam Bazaar. From there Sandakpur is a six hour trek. The products and services that can be added to the area by entrepreneurs are mountain biking, pony riding, souvenir shops, local guide service, cable car, skiing and paragliding (NTB, 2001).

4.5.1.4 Kanyam and Fikkal Bazaar

Kanyam and Fikkal Bazaar lie in Ilam district of Eastern Development Region. Ilam has a 140-year history of tea farming. Of the tea plantations that are thriving in the area, Kanyam Tea State is the largest. It is located in Kanyam VDC of Ilam. Spreading flat in the Mahabharat Range, the tea garden and its appealing greenery is something special for the tourists, photographers and sightseers.

The existing products at the Kanyam and Fikkal Bazaar are natural attraction, man made architecture and art. The area is accessible by a blacktopped road linking to Ilam, Fikkal Bazaar and Kanyam. The existing facilities at Kanyam and Fikkal Bazaar are communication, electricity, travel services, souvenir shops, camping grounds, standard and simple tea stalls, simple lodging facilities, regular bus service, black topped road and manmade, natural, cultural and religious attractions. The products that can be added in the Kanyam and Fikkal Bazaar area are travel, tour and cargo services, golfing, village tour, museums, camping sites, local guide services, souvenir shop, standard tea shop, pony ridding and mountain biking.

4.5.1.5 Sidhi Thumka

Sidhi Thumka is in Ilam district of the Eastern Development Region. It lies at an elevation of 1800 meters, west of Ilam Bazaar. Sidhi Thumka is ideal for a short trek and for panoramic views of the mountains and plains wrought in the colors of sunset and sunrise. It is a 4-hour trek to reach Sidhi Thumka from Ilam Bazaar. It can also be reached by road from Ilam Bazaar.

The available facilities are earthen road, trails and camping grounds. The possible tourism products and services that entrepreneurs can add or develop are standard lodging facility, rock climbing, paragliding, skiing, local guide services, souvenir shops, hygienic/standard tea stalls and mountain biking (NTB, 2001).

4.5.1.6 Gajur Mukhi

Gajur Mukhi is another tourist destination in Ilam district. The major attraction of the area is a cave with carved images of gods and goddesses. The cave is about 20 feet long and 10 feet high (Bhandari, 1997). On the full moon day of Kartik, special worship is performed. The place can be reached by road up to Ghuseni from Ilam Bazaar via Gagre Bhanjyang. A seasonal bus service operates along this road. Gajur Mukhi lies on the banks of Deunmai Khola, west of Ilam Bazaar. Its importance is mostly from a religious perspective. The site is a four-hour trek from Ilam Bazaar and enhancing the trekking route from Ilam Bazaar to Gajur Mukhi could add to the attraction of the area.

Recently some tourism facilities have been developed in the area, including seasonal bus service, trails for trekking and comfortable accommodation. Cultural and religious attractions, standard tea stalls, local guide services and regular bus services are potential tourism products of the area (NTB, 2001).

4.5.1.7 Pathibhara

Pathibhara lies in Terhathum district of the Eastern Development Region. It is an important site from a religious and cultural viewpoint, with the temple of Pathibhara Devi being the most important attraction. The temple is sited close to the Mechi Highway in the southeast of Kolbung VDC. The site of the temple is known as Hanspokhari.

 

The existing facilities include beautiful and natural camping grounds, blacktopped road with regular bus service and beautiful trails.

4.5.2 Basantapur and Adjoining Areas

Basantapur lies in Terhathum district. It is the central attraction of Terhathum District, which has an area of 679 square kilometers and some 113,111 people. The area lies at an elevation of 345 to 962 masl (Sharma, et al, 2000). Despite relatively small area, 21 different languages are spoken by the inhabitants. The area, therefore, has immense diversity in linguistic, biological and religious terms. The major sites around Basantpur are Tin Jure Danda, Milke Danda, Pattek Danda, Gupha Pokhari, Marg Pokhari, Sukrabare Bazaar and Panchakanya Pokhari.

4.5.2.1 Tinjure Danda

Tinjure Danda lies in Taplejung district. The name literally means "three humped mountain". The hump-shaped mountain creates a breathtaking scene and offers excellent views of Mt. Everest, Mt. Makalu and other Himalayan ranges. The mountain lies at an elevation of 3,031 meters. The forest that covers Tinjure Danda has more than 34 varieties of rhododendron plants (NTB, 2001). It is well worth viewing sunset and sunrise from the summit of the mountain.

The existing facilities at Tin Jure Danda are communication, graveled road with seasonal bus service, simple tea stalls, and trekking trails. Tourism entrepreneurs can develop other products like mountain biking, lodgings, local guide service, camping sites and birds watching in the area (NTB, 2001). A significant number of visitors travel to this area in the spring season to view the rhododendrons in bloom. 

4.5.2.2 Milke Danda

Milke Danda has great potential for ecotourism development because of its natural beauty. This spot is equally attractive as Tin Jure Danda in terms of rhododendron forests. Its chief attraction is however the trail that links Taplejung from Basantapur Bazaar. Milke Danda is located at a height of 2905 masl (NTB, 2001) and offers panoramic views of the Himalayan ranges from the mountaintop. A road has been planned to link Khandbari to Kimathok, the closest point in Nepal to the Tibetan border of China. Besides natural products of the area, there are standard tea stalls, camping grounds, trails and earthen roads. The tourism products and services that can be added to this list are comfortable camping sites, hygienic tea stalls, pony riding, trekking and mountain biking (NTB, 2001).

4.5.2.3 Pattek Danda

Pattek Danda is situated at a distance of 3 kilometers from Basantapur Bazaar. It can be reached within 15 minutes through the earthen road. The road leads to Chiture from where one can enjoy a slow trek of about 15 minutes to the Pattek Danda which is located at an elevation of about 2500 masl. It provides opportunities for watching sunset and sunrise. There is regular bus service for Pattek Danda from the district headquarters. Apart from them, there are other facilities such as standard tea stalls, trails, earthen roads and other basic facilities. The facilities that can be made available and are needed in the area are communication facilities, more standard tea stalls, pony riding and local guide service (NTB, 2001).

4.5.3 Dhanusha Dham and Adjoining Areas

Dhanusha Dham is located in Dhanusha district. The district occupies an area of 1,180 square kilometers and has a population of 6,771,364 (Sharma et al, 2000). The major attractions of this site are situated mainly in the two VDCs, Dhanusha Govindapur and Dhanusha Dham. Both the VDCs are about 18 kilometers northeast of the district headquarters Janakpur Dham, and 10 km south of Dharapani on the Mahendra Highway. Dhanusha Dham has great religious significance. The place is believed to be the birthplace of Sita (wife of Lord Rama according to Hindu mythology). The famous Ram Janaki Mandir is located at Janakpur Dham.

 

This area also holds possibility for developing village tourism, which could feature the Maithali culture and language. The major ecotourism sites around Dhanusha Dham area are Dhanusha forest, Parashurm Kund, Ram Janaki Mandir, Ram Mandir, Ganesh Mandir, Shiva Mandir, Ramkrishna Mandir, Bhagawati Mandir, Panchamukhi Hanuman Mandir, Baba Makhandada Kuti and Dhanusha Sagar.

 

The Dhanusha Dham area has tropical climate. Therefore, the best season to visit the area is from Kartik to Falgun (October to February). However, Aswin (September) and Chaitra (April) is also considered a good time to visit the place (NTB, 2001).

4.5.3.1 Dhanusha Forest

Dhanusha forest, which is also located in Dhanusha district, occupies about 36 square kilometers. The forest is mainly covered with big sal trees, bushes and ponds. The pond in the middle of the forest could be an added value to the site if it is properly managed. The site is accessible through a blacktopped road. Some of the existing tourism products at the area are simple tea stalls, camping grounds, travel services and electricity. Though this place is not still developed as an ecotourism site, there are possibilities for adding standard tea stalls, souvenir shops, camping sites, boating facility and local cultural programs (NTB, 2001).

4.5.3.2 Parashuram Kund

Parashuram Kund in Dhanusha District has historical and religions significance. Those who visit Dhanusha Dham do not miss this beautiful pond. The pond could be promoted as an ecotourism site. Boating facility and village tours can be immediately added to the tourism products of the site (NTB, 2001).

4.5.4 Tansen and Adjoining Areas

Tansen is the most attractive place in Palpa district. It is also the headquarters of the district and is linked with Pokhara and Butwal by the Siddartha Highway. Palpa as a whole is a potential site for ecotourism development. Its surrounding areas and spots are equally attractive.

Spread in about 1,373 square kilometers (Sharma et al., 2000), Palpa has numerous potential ecotourism sites such as Ranighat, Madan Pokhara, Arghali, Bhairabsthan, Kali Gandaki River, Ridi, Satyawati Lake, Ramdighat, Deule Archale, Achammeshor, Chilangdi and Tansen. These areas present opportunities for developing tourism products like boating, rafting, camping, rock climbing, bird watching, and many more.

As in other potential ecotourism sites of the country, special festivals and ceremonies are performed and celebrated in the area during Baisakh Sankranti, Baisakh Purnima, Nag Panchami, Janai Purnima, Gai Jatra, Krishnasthami, Teej, Dashain, Tihar, Maghesankranti, Basanta Panchami, Shivaratri, Phagu Purnima, Chaite Dashain, and Ram Nawami (NTB, 2001).

 

 

4.5.4.1 Ranighat

Ranighat is historically significant and is famous for the palace constructed by Khadga Shamsher, the governor of Palpa during the Rana regime. The palace was constructed in memory of his beloved queen Tej Kumari and stands majestic in an isolated place. The palace can be reached by a 7 km trail from Tansen to Ranighat. Tourism products and services in this area include natural, cultural, religious, historical and manmade items. Though there are trails and some camping grounds, bird watching, village tour, rock climbing, cultural programs and local guide service could be other important tourism products for the area (NTB, 2001).  

4.5.4.2 Madan Pokhara

Madan Pokhara lies in Palpa district. From an ecotourism perspective Madan Pokhara is a highly suitable place for promoting village tourism. It is one of those beautiful villages that reflect well-preserved beauty displayed in its traditional religions, languages, customs and behavior. It is equally attractive from an environmental viewpoint. The regular bus service to the area has strengthened the possibility of developing ecotourism. Though there are some tea stalls, camping grounds, communication facilities, electricity and regular bus service, other products like local cultural programs, local guide service, standard tea stalls and lodges could help enhance ecotourism (NTB, 2001).

4.5.4.3 Kali Gandaki River

The Kali Gandaki is a holy river and also famous for its whitewater rafting. Notwithstanding these facilities, other tourism products and services should be developed and added. Lodging facilities, mountain biking, pony riding, local guide services and rafting facilities could add to the attraction of the area.

 

 

4.5.5 Khaptad and Adjoining Areas

Khaptad National Park (KNP) is located in the mid-mountain region of far western Nepal. The Park was established in 1984 covering an area of 224 square kilometers (DNPWC, 2000). It is the only mid-mountain National Park in western Nepal, representing a unique and important ecosystem. Its vast sprawling plateaus grasslands surrounded by oak and coniferous forests offer a challenging yet rewarding experience unlike any other protected area in Nepal. It is in a remote place but that remoteness has helped protect its pristine beauty. The park is rich in flora and fauna. The flora can be divided into three basic vegetation zones—subtropical, temperate, and sub alpine (DNPWC, 2000). More than 135 species of flowers and 224 species of medicinal herbs can be found in the area. There are about 226 bird species, including some endangered species (DNPWC, 2000).

KNP is also significant from a religious point of view. The late Khaptad Swami came to the Khaptad jungle in the 1940s to meditate and worship (NTB, 2001). He attained nirvana after 50 years of meditation in the same place. Also this place is known for a Tribeni, confluence of three rivers, with a temple of Lord Shiva.

The Park has minimal tourism facilities. Currently, there are no lodges or hotels but the area has trekking facilities, electricity, communication facilities, travel services, camping grounds, simple tea stalls and trails. Products and services that can be added to the area by entrepreneurs are comfortable lodging facilities, pony riding, standard tea stalls, local guide services, camping sites, angling facility, museums, local cultural programs, rock climbing, village tour, bird watching, wildlife watching, cable car, skiing, golfing, meditation center, horse race and polo, rafting, trekking and historical tours. Besides Khaptad National Park, there are also other attractive places with the potential to be developed as ecotourism sites. They are Shaileshwori, Ramaroshan, Bhandimalika, Surma Devi and Surmasarobar, Hermitage of Khaptad Baba, Ganesh temple, Sahashralinga and Danphe Kot, Upper Tribeni, Naga Dhunga, Khapar Daha and Khapar Masto.

4.5.5.1 Shaileshwori

Shaileshwori temple is in Silgadhi Bazaar which is located at a 10 hour bus ride from Mahendranagar. It is one of the most famous religious centers on the way to Khaptad. Its high religious significance has the power to draw tourists who visit Khaptad. Presently, there are simple tea stalls, simple lodging facility, camping grounds, communication facilities and regular bus service. The products and services that can be added are village tours, cultural programs, local guide service, souvenir shops, standard tea stalls, pony riding, mountain biking and comfortable lodging facility (NTB, 2001).

4.5.5.2 Ramaroshan

Ramaroshan is also a culturally important site that finds mention in Hindu mythology. According to legend, it was called Pancha Pura and it was surrounded by five cities of Goddess Parvati. It could be an attractive ecotourism site from a historical and religious view point. Tourism products and services like rock climbing, local guide service, pony riding and standard tea stalls can add to the attraction of the site (NTB, 2001).

4.5.5.3 Surma Devi and Surmasarovar

Like other sites in the Khaptad area, Surma Devi and Surmasarovar are religiously important places. Both are connected to stories in Hindu mythology. With boating facilities and local guide services in the area it can be an attractive ecotourism site.

4.5.6 Chitwan and Adjoining Areas

Chitwan lies in the Central Development Region of Nepal. The area lies at an elevation of 244-1948 masl. The central attraction of the area is Royal Chitwan National Park. Though the National Park is famous in the international tourism market, its adjoining areas are still unexplored and unexposed. Some of the potential ecotourism sites in Chitwan and its nearby areas are Devghat, Pandav Nagar, Rapti Manauri, Singh Devisthan, Abuthum Lekh, Beneeghat, Bishajari Tal, Balmiki Ashram, Bikram Baba and Danda Mandir of Gaidakot.

4.5.6.1 Devghat

Devghat is situated in Gardi VDC of Chitwan District. The place is mainly in Siwalik and inner Terai or Madhesh ecozone (Bhandari, 1997). Its aesthetic, social, religious/cultural and historical significance make it one of the famous sites where people from all over the nation and India come to celebrate festivals like Maghesakranti, Janaipurnima, Thulo Ekadashi etc. Since it is situated at the confluence of three holy rivers, it is revered as a holy place. It lies at the junction of Nawalparasi, Tahanu and Chitwan districts. The temples of Chakresware Mahadev, Vishnu and Shiva have been constructed atop a small hill (Bhandari, 1997). There is also a cave which is known as Sita Gufa where she is believed to have been swallowed by the earth. Currently, the site has communication facilities, regular bus service, blacktopped road, simple tea stalls and simple lodging. The products and services that can be added for promoting ecotourism are boating facilities, rafting, standard tea stalls, standard lodgings and local guide service. 

4.5.6.2 Bishajari Taal

Bishajari Taal is also in Chitwan district. Bishajari Taal (literally, twenty thousand lakes) is one of the important wetlands of Nepal. Like its name signifies the wetland consists of hundreds of smaller ponds all linked with each other. It is situated near Bharatpur Municipality and is surrounded by the Tikauli jungle. It could be an added site for those who visit Royal Chitwan National Park. As of date, there are minimal tourism facilities in the area but entrepreneurs can add some products like local guide service, and simple and standard tea stalls.

 

4.5.6.3 Bikram Baba

Bikram Baba, located in Chitwan district, is a holy place for Hindus. Each year, on the first day of the Nepali year (i.e. Bikram Sambat) a large number of people from all over Nepal and even from India visit this site to worship Bikram Baba. However, there is no temple in the holy place. Instead, there is an old tree, which is worshiped by people. The site lies just beside the Rapti River near Sauraha. Though the place is not always crowded, there is the need for managing the crowds of tourists on special days, for instance on New Year's Day.

In addition to the locations mentioned above, the Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Project (TRPAP) has identified other areas (Table 4.2) with potential for tourism development.

 

Table 4.2: Tourism Potential in the Country

Zone

Sites

Geographical zone

Seti

Khaptad NP

Hills

Karnali

Dho VDC

Mountains

 

Phoksundo VDC

Mountains

 

Rara NP

Mountains

 

Simikot VDC

Mountains

Gandaki

Lwang

Hills

 

Gorkha

Hills

 

Bhujung

Hills

 

Bandipur

Hills

 

Nar and Phu

Mountains

Lumbini

Tansen

Hills

Narayani

Chitwan

Terai

Bagmati

Langtang NP

Mountains

 

Bhardeo

Hills

 Source: TRPAP, 2001 cited in Shrestha and Walinga, 2003.


5. PROTECTED AREAS OF NEPAL AND

    ECOTOURISM

 

5.1 The Context

The modern era of wildlife conservation in Nepal can be traced back to the enactment of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act in 1973. This Act assigned the major responsibility for implementation to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), whose primary objectives include conservation of the country's major representative ecosystems and unique natural and cultural heritage, and protection of valuable wildlife. The establishment of protected areas thereafter is itself seen as the response to the threats faced by wildlife and ecosystems from both natural and anthropogenic causes.

The specific activities of the DNPWC include conservation of endangered species, scientific management of habitat for wildlife and creation of buffer zones in and around parks and reserves. It is also responsible for regulating eco-tourism to improve the socio-economic conditions of local communities and increasing conservation awareness through education programs.

The Protected Area (PA) system in Nepal (including conservation areas and buffer zones) accounts for 18.32% of the country's total land mass. Some of these PAs are of international significance. For instance, Sagarmatha National Park and Royal Chitwan National Park were listed as World Heritage Sites in 1979 and 1984, respectively for their typical natural, cultural and landscape characteristics. The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, a wetland of international significance, was declared a Ramsar Site in 1987 (online: www. adobe.com).

Buffer Zones are created around National Parks and Reserves to ease the biotic pressure on core areas and to promote sustainable management of natural resources. This conciliatory approach is aimed at motivating local communities through User Groups to undertake participatory management of forest resources to fulfill their needs for forest produce.

Wild flora and fauna form one of the major tourism resources of Nepal. The country has 847 species of birds including 6 pheasant species, about 640 species of butterflies, 6,500 species of flowering plants and 175 mammal species. It also harbors several valuable plant species and herbs of medicinal importance. The country also shelters endangered species such as the royal Bengal tiger, greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), Asian elephant, gaur (Bos gaurus), swamp deer (Cervus duvaucelli), black buck (Antilope cervicapra) and many others (DNPWC, 2002).

The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Forest Act, and the Environment Protection Act, as well as the regulations under each of them, have stipulated provisions for the protection of wild flora and fauna. Notably, the Constitution of Nepal (1990) specifically deals with the protection of wild flora and fauna in the country. Conservation organizations and local communities complement the government's conservation efforts.

The protected areas have been established to restore, improve and conserve wildlife habitats such as grasslands, wetlands and waterholes including the maintenance of wildlife corridors. Likewise, applied and other research studies are conducted on grassland ecology, fire ecology, wildlife behavior, genetic diversity, and human impact on wildlife habitat. The DNPWC has also initiated captive breeding of elephant, musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster) and gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) before releasing them back into their natural habitat. Moreover, there is ex situ conservation of several species in the Central Zoo. Wildlife species such as greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) have been translocated from one park to another to set up other viable populations. The ongoing tiger project focuses on survey, monitoring and census. 

 

The DNPWC has initiated trans-border cooperation with India for biodiversity conservation, to curb poaching and illegal trade of endangered species and their products, training of staff members and cross-boundary research. Ecotourism development has been an integral part of the Protected Areas system in Nepal. The prime objective of ecotourism in Nepal has been to promote a symbiotic relationship between tourism and the environment, with a particular focus on uplifting the local host economy. This concept is equally applicable in the context of villages sited in and around the protected areas (PAs). Protected areas in Nepal have for long been one of the most important attractions for visitors, given the pristine environment in mountain regions and the enthralling beauty of the Himalayas. These environments are blessed with a myriad of wildlife many of which are unique to Nepal (Pradhan, 2000). All these contribute to tourism development, particularly in the remote regions of the country. Of a total of 275,468 tourists in 2002, altogether 36.1 percent visited different protected areas (MoCTCA, 2002). Hence, PAs serve as major tourist destinations in the country and therefore help to distribute tourism income to different parts of the country.

The government has made legal provisions for setting up and carrying out hotel and lodge business in and around protected areas to improve the socio-economic condition of local people. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a pre-requisite before such hotels and lodges are allowed to operate. Local people are provided training on various aspects of tourism with the focus on eco-friendly ways (DNPWC, 2000). All the PA initiatives have aimed at maximizing benefits to local people while maintaining the integrity of the local ecosystem. The available secondary literature suggests that community members have been able to draw benefits from involvement in tourism activities.

5.2 Protected Area System

National Parks and protected areas form a significant portion of the Protected Area System of the country. The growth in the number of National Parks and Reserves in a short span of time shows the country's commitment to conservation of natural resources and the development of human settlements around them. Ecotourism development has been an essential part of this whole process and hence tourism and the PA system reinforce each other. Therefore, a brief account of National Parks and Reserves is presented hereunder.

 

Table 5.1: Protected Areas of Nepal

S.N.

Protected Areas (Year of Establishment)       

Area
(sq. km.)

Altitude
 (m)

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

 

Royal Chitwan NP (1973)

Royal Bardia NP (1976/1988)

Shivapuri NP (2002)

Khaptad NP (1984)

Makalu Barun NP (1992)                   

Sagarmatha NP (1976)

Langtang NP (1976)

Shey Phoksundo NP (1984)

Rara NP (1976)

Total

932

968

144

225

1,500

1,148

1,710

3,555

106

10,288

150-815

152-1,494

1,366-2,732

1,000-3,276

435-8,463

2,800-8,850

792-7,245

2,000-6,885

1,800-4,048

1.

2.

3.

 

Koshi Tappu WR (1976)

Parsa WR (1984)

Royal Suklaphanta WR (1976)

Total                     

175

499

305

 979

90

150-815

90-270

1.

Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (1987)

1,325

2,850-7,000

1.

2.

3.

Kanchenjunga Conservation Area (1997)

Manaslu CA (1998)

Annapurna CA (1986, 1992)

Total

2,035

1,663

7,629

11,327

1,200-8,598

1,360-8,163

1,000-8,092

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

 

Royal Chitwan NP (Buffer Zone)

Royal Bardia NP

Makalu Barun NP

Langtang NP

Shey Phoksundo NP

Sagarmatha NP

Total                                                     

750

328

830

420

449

275

3,051

 

 

Total Area Protected          

(% of Nepal's Territory)     

26,970

(18.32)

 

Source: HMGN/MFSC 2002.

Note:

1.     HMG (2004) has recently declared the buffer zone of Royal Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife  Reserve.

2.     NP - National Park, WR - Wildlife Reserve, CA - Conservation Area.

 

5.2.1 Sagarmatha National Park

 

Established in 1976, Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park (SNP) is spread over an area of 1,148 sq. km of the Himalayan ecological zone of Nepal. The park includes the upper catchment areas of the Dudhkoshi and Bhotekoshi rivers and is largely composed of rugged terrain and gorges of the high Himalayas, ranging from 2,845 masl at Monjo to the top of the world—Sagarmatha at 8,848 masl. Other peaks in the region that are above 6,000 masl include Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Thamserku, Nuptse, Amadablam and Pumori. These mountains are geologically young and are broken up by gorges and glacial valleys (DNPWC, 2002).

 

The vegetation found at the lower altitude of the park include pine and hemlock forests, while fir, juniper, birch, and rhododendron, scrub, and alpine plant communities are common at higher altitude. The park is home to red panda, snow leopard(Uncia uncia), musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), Himalayan tahr, marten, Himalayan mouse hare (pika) and over 118 bird species including the Impeyan pheasant (Lophophorus impejanus), blood pheasant, red billed chough and yellow billed chough and many more.

The famed Sherpa people, whose lives are interwoven with the teachings of Buddhism, live in the region. The renowned Tengboche and other monasteries are common gathering places to celebrate religious festivals such as Dumje and Mane Rumdu. In addition to Tengboche, Thame, Khumjung and Pangboche are some other famous monasteries. UNESCO listed the SNP as a World Heritage Site for its superb natural characteristics.

His Majesty's Government of Nepal declared a buffer zone around the park in 2002 with the objective of reducing biotic pressure on the slow growing vegetation. The government has also made a provision of ploughing back 30-50 percent of the revenue earned by the park to community development activities in the buffer zone. The buffer zone is also expected to conserve biodiversity in collaboration with local people.

To conserve the slow growing alpine vegetation, the use of firewood is prohibited in SNP but alternative arrangements have been made. Kerosene can be bought from depots at Syangboche, Dole and Phortse. The purpose of the depots is to encourage private hotel/lodge owners to use kerosene as an alternate source of energy.

The economy of the Sherpa community is not too different from other economies in the northern parts of Nepal. People in these areas are traditionally dependent on agriculture, livestock herding and trade with Tibet. However, the growing international mountaineering expeditions and trekking tourism have opened up many new opportunities for locals.

5.2.2 Makalu-Barun National Park

Makalu-Barun National Park (MBNP) and its conservation area encompass 1,500 sq. km of pristine ecosystems of the eastern Himalayas. The physical setting of Makalu-Barun is unique. Within 40 kms, the altitude varies from 435 masl at the confluence of the Arun and Shankhuwa rivers to 8,463 masl, the summit of Mt. Makalu. It shares a border with Sagarmatha National Park in the west and with the Qomolangma Nature Preserve in China in the north. The region embraces all ecological zones ranging from tropical to alpine. The area receives annual rainfall over 4,000 mm, the highest precipitation in the country. The region hosts 27 types of forests with 3,128 species of flowering plants. Of them, 56 are rare and threatened species. The region also houses over 88 species of mammals, 421 bird species, 78 species of fish, 43 species of reptiles, 16 species of amphibians and 315 species of butterflies (KMTNC, 2002).

Except for two settlements located inside the park, villages are scattered in the conservation area where the Rai (57 percent) are the dominant ethnic group. Among the others, Bhote (30 percent) and Sherpa (10 percent) form the majority. Majority of the residents practice subsistence farming and pastoralism (Adhikary, 2000).

MBNP has not been able to attract tourists like other National Parks and Conservation Areas in Nepal. Only 209 tourists visited MBNP in 2002 (DNPWC cited in MoCTCA, 2002). The difficult terrain, limited access and prolonged monsoon conditions are cited as reasons for the slow growth in tourism leading to limited tourism activities. Therefore, unlike many other popular destinations, one does not see mushrooming tourists facilities in the region (Adhikary, 2000). However, MBNP is a treasure trove of eastern Himalaya flora and fauna and has great potential to attract visitors.

Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation is preparing buffer zone management plan for MBNP. Ecotourism is one of the key activities of the plan. It is expected that the participatory approach to buffer zone resource management and community development, renovation of cultural heritage, renovation of gumbas, temples and development of infrastructure will help promote ecotourism in the area.

5.2.3 Langtang National Park

Langtang National Park, gazetted in 1977 with an area of 1,710 sq. km represents the central Himalayan ecosystem. Though it is often considered a high-Himalayan park, a full complement of mid-hill flora and fauna are also found in the southern part and deep river valleys lying below 3000 masl (Rai, 2000). With a wide altitudinal variation ranging from 1,000 to 7,245 masl, the park hosts great floral and faunal diversity, from upper tropical forest to regions of alpine scrub and perennial snow where as many as 32 species of mammals, 246 species of birds, and 15 endemic plant species are found. As the people in Langtang area produce enough food only to last a quarter of the annual requirement, forests are seasonal sources of food, medicine, fodder, fuelwood, handicrafts and utility tools (DNPWC, 2002).

Three trekking areas—Lantang, Helambu and Gosainkunda Lake—form the major trekking routes in the National Park and the southern Helambu region. All these routes cater to both free independent trekkers and group trekkers and offer a choice of moderate to more difficult hiking ranging from three days to three weeks duration (Rai, 2000). The MoCTCA data shows that altogether 4,798 people visited the Park during 2002 (MoCTCA, 2002). Therefore, this park has yet to make further efforts for gaining popularity as tourist destination.

 

5.2.4 Royal Chitwan National Park

 

Royal Chitwan National Park spread over an area of 932 sq. km is known for its sal (Shorea robusta)and riverine forests and grasslands. The Park hosts 570 species of flowering plants, 40 species of mammals, 486 bird species, 17 reptiles, and 68 fish species (DNPWC, 2002). Because of the occurrence of many endangered plant species such as the tree fern, screw pine and several rare orchids and endangered mammals such as tiger, rhino, wild elephant (Elephas maximus), gaur (Bos gaurus), striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena), sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) and Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica), it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983.

Due to its closeness to the capital and its collection of valuable wildlife, the Park has been one of the major attractions for tourists in Nepal. There were altogether 46,705 visitors to the Park in 2002 of which more than 26 percent were domestic visitors (MoCTCA, 2002). This data suggest that this destination is gaining popularity among Nepalese too. Its popularity has led to the growth of tourist facilities both inside and outside of the Park area. While there are a number of hotels/ lodges inside the Park, over 40 of such accommodations are in operation outside the Park. These hotels and lodges have added greatly to the fuelwood demand, which is estimated to be 452,000 kg annually (Yonzon, 2000). Therefore, tourism has been putting pressure on local forests.

 

The declaration of buffer zone and its management with the active participation of local communities has been effective in easing pressure on the national park. Natural resource management, community development, tourism infrastructure development are some of the key activities of the buffer zone management. Ecotourism initiatives in particular have been very successful (see also Chapter 7).

 

5.2.5 Royal Bardia National Park

 

The Royal Bardiya National Park is the largest protected area system in the Terai region and encompasses an area of 968 sq. kms. The park was designated as Royal Hunting Reserve in 1968 but was re-designated as the Royal Karnali Wildlife Reserve in 1976 and finally declared as the Royal Bardiya National Park in 1986. The area is covered extensively with sal (Shorea robusta) forest, and grasslands and riverine forests are found in the floodplains of the Karnali and Babai rivers. Important wildlife includes tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, and five species of deer. Small populations of two crocodile species and some resident Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica) are found in the major river systems (DNPWC, 2002).

 

About 126,000 people reside in the villages surrounding the National Park. They include the indigenous Tharu, but Brahmin, Chettri, Magar and other occupational caste groups also live together in the settlements (Dhakal, 2000). There were 5,254 visitors to the park in 2002 (MoCTCA, 2002). There are seven hotels outside the Park and one inside catering to tourists. Local nature and culture guides are available.

5.2.6 Rara National Park

Rara National Park gazetted in 1976 with an area of 106 sq. km and located in Mugu and Jumla Districts is the smallest park in the country. The park was established to protect Rara Lake, which extends over an area of 10.8 sq. km and serves as an important staging area for migratory birds. The other purpose was to conserve the representative flora and fauna of the central Himalayas. The park flora consists of 1,074 species, of which 16 are endemic to Nepal. Over 51 species of mammal including musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), and 212 species of bird including cheer pheasant are available in the park (DNPWC, 2002).

 

The park can be reached either after a 2.5 days trek from Jumla or from Surkhet after 10 days trek. The Park area hosts only a small number of visitors each year because of its remoteness.

 

5.2.7 Shey Phoksundo National Park

 

The Shey Phoksundo National Park, spread over an area of 3,555 sq. kms, is the largest National Park in Nepal and extends across Dolpa and Mugu Districts. The park area is topographically and climatically varied as it covers both north and south sides of the main Himalayan divide. It has annual rainfall averaging 500 mm. The varied physical characteristics coupled with equally complex geology and soil support the unique biotic systems in the park area. Large mammals include the snow leopard (Uncia uncia), Tibetan wolf (Canidae family), blue sheep, and the Himalayan thar. Over 105 bird species, primarily of the Trans-Himalayan region, are also found in the Park.

 

While the inhabitants within the park are from the Tibetan ethnic origin (Lama, Baiji, Rokaya and Gurung), mixed ethnic/caste groups including Lama, Baiji, Rokaya, Gurung, Magar, Brahmin, Thakuri and Chettri live together in the buffer zone area.  The Tibetan mode of life, the language that shows a relationship with Tibet and the ancient religion that people still practice (Ghimire, 2000) could be some of the attractions for visitors to the region.

Despite its huge natural and cultural tourism potential, the park area remained closed to visitors for long. The southern part of Dolpa district was opened up for visitors only in 1989 and the upper Dolpo in 1992 for those holding a special permit. Permission for visiting the upper parts is granted only to groups organized by certified trekking agencies accompanied by a government liaison officer (Ghimire, 2000).

Despite the natural attractions, flora and fauna and interesting culture, tourism has not developed in an impressive manner in this area. As shown by Ghimire (2000) only 500 to 600 visitors travel to the area each year. However, due to political reasons, even this number has not been attained in recent years.

5.2.8 Khaptad National Park

Khaptad, which is also a religious site, was gazetted in 1985 as a National Park. It conserves representative mid hill ecosystems in an area of 225 sq. km between 1,450 and 3,300 masl. Diverse habitats include coniferous forest, mixed hardwood, scrub and grassland. Some 18 species of mammal, 217 bird species, and 567 species of flowering plant including 25 endemic ones are available in the Park area. Rhododendron of various varieties add to the scenic beauty during its flowering season (Rai, 2000).

The National Park is also well known because of Khaptad Lake and Khaptad Baba, a revered saint who drew people from different parts of Nepal. Therefore, the park also carries religious importance. Despite these attractions there are no tourism facilities and not many international visitors to the park.

5.2.9 Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve

Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve with an area of 175 sq. km was gazetted in 1976 and lies on the flood plains of the Koshi River. This reserve was established mainly to preserve the habitat for the last remnant population of wild water buffalo in Nepal. In addition, there are larger ungulates such as gaur (Bos gaurus), hog deer, spotted deer (Axis axis), blue bull (Boselaphus tragocamelus), Indian fox and wild boar (Sus scrofa), and medium-sized predators such as the fishing cat, jungle cat and civets. The Reserve also harbors 280 species of birds including the endangered swamp partridge and Bengal florican (Eupodotis bengalensis). The Koshi River also supports sparse populations of endangered species such as Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica) and gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) (DNPWC, 2002).

Elephant safari, jungle walk, bird watching and boating are some of the tourism products offered to visitors. Despite availability of tourist facilities, only 1,427 tourists visited the Reserve during 2002 (MoCTCA, 2002).

5.2.10 Shivapuri National Park

Established in 1976 as a Watershed and Wildlife Reserve, Shivapuri was declared a National Park in 2002. It covers an area of 144 sq. km and is a true representation of the mid hills in the protected area system and also meets over 40 percent of the drinking water needs of the Kathmandu Valley. It has a high diversity of forest types (sal, Terai hardwood, mixed hardwood, chir pine and oak), which occupy 39 percent of the land. A total of 129 species of mushroom, 150 species of butterfly (many endemic and rare), nine species of birds, which are considered endangered or vulnerable, and 19 species of mammal have been recorded in the park.

 

While there are 13 trekking routes inside the reserve itself, the most important is the trekking route to Helambu that passes through Shivapuri. Therefore, it is one of the popular protected areas. Its great popularity also comes from its proximity to Kathmandu city. Therefore, after Royal Chitwan National Park, it was the most visited area in 2002 with a tourist influx of 26,652. However, the majority of these visitors were Nepali nationals (MoCTCA, 2002).

5.2.11 Parsa Wildlife Reserve

 

Parsa Wildlife Reserve was gazetted in 1984 with an area of 499 sq. km and forms a contiguous protected landscape with the eastern boundary of the Royal Chitwan National Park. The reserve is dominated by the Churia hills, where sal (Shorea robusta) and chir pine are abundant, and the bhavar region with its sal forest and mixed sal forest. The area also suffers from scarcity of water resulting in poor habitat conditions for wildlife. The wild elephant (Elephas maximus) population in the Reserve is estimated between 35 and 40. There are 5 to 7 tigers, a stable population of gaur numbering 75 to 100, and a few Blue Bull or nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus). Other common wildlife species are leopard, sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) and several ungulate species. The reserve is also noted for approximately 300 bird species (Poudel, 2000).

5.2.12 Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve 

 

Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve is spread over an area of 1,325 sq. km in Myagdi, Baglung and Rukum districts. It was gazetted in 1987 for sport hunting of blue sheep. This is the only hunting reserve in the country open to both Nepalese and foreigners. Hunting licenses are issued by the DNPWC.

 

The reserve provides refuge to several rare and endangered mammals such as snow leopard (Uncia uncia), musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), red panda (Ailurus fulgens) and the wolf. Cheer pheasant and the Himalayan pied woodpecker, and 14 other breeding species of which Nepal may hold significant populations, are found in the Reserve.

 

Except for the north, the Reserve is surrounded by villages with the population of Mongoloid stock. Local residents are allowed to collect limited quantity of firewood for domestic use. Despite these special features tourists rarely visit this reserve.

 

5.2.13 Royal Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve

Initially, the Royal Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve extended over an area of 155 sq. km and was managed as a hunting reserve. In 1976 it was gazetted as a wildlife reserve and the area was expanded by adding 150 sq. km, which increased the reserve area to 305 sq. kms. It is famous for deer species, which include the endangered swamp deer (Cervus duvaucelli), and its grassland ecosystem. Among the other wild animals found in the reserve are spotted deer  (Axis axis), blue bull, elephant, wild boar (Sus scrofa), tiger and crocodile.

Despite its attractions as a nature travel destination, there were only 203 visitors in 2002, of which the majority were Nepalese (MoCTCA, 2002).

5.2.14 Annapurna Conservation Area

Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) Project was launched as a pilot program to integrate nature conservation and community development. This initial effort soon proved to be successful. After the area was gazetted as a Conservation Area in 1992, ACA program activities were extended to the entire area with local offices in Jomsom, Manang, Bhujung, Sikles, Ghandruk, Lo-Manthang and Lwang. Upper Mustang was brought under the jurisdiction of ACAP in 1992 (KMTNC, 2002).

Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) is the largest undertaking of King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC) and is also the first and the largest Conservation Area (CA) in Nepal, covering an area of 7,629 sq kms. It is home to over 120,000 people of different ethnic, cultural and linguistic background. Thakali, Manange and Loba are dominant in the northern areas, whereas Gurung and Magar are dominant groups in the south, with Brahmin, Chettri, Damai and Kami in comparatively smaller numbers. Hindu, Buddhist and pre-Buddhist religions and a mix of all these are prevalent across the region. The cultural diversity is rivaled by the biodiversity (see Chapter 4 for details).

In response to the conservation and development needs of Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), ACAP carried out the activities mentioned below (Gurung, and Coursey, 1994): 

 

-                All international visitors were charged an entry fee.

-                Grants from donors channeled through the endowment trust and external resources were brought into ACA for development works such as drinking water, health care and education. To enhance fuel efficiency, solar heaters, back boiler heaters and micro-hydro power plants were established.

-                Lodge Management Committees (LMC) were formed for better management of lodges and training programs were organized for trekking lodge owners and LMCs.

-                Individual and community plantations were established through local nurseries.

-                Formation of Conservation and Development Committees (CDCs) and Forest Management Committees (FMCs) proved to be beneficial for balancing conservation and development.

-                Similarly, conservation education and extension activities such as development of minimum impact code, adult education, introduction of environmental education for children and research were carried out.

5.2.15 Manaslu Conservation Area

KMTNC initiated the Manaslu Eco-tourism Development Project in 1997 with support from the Second Tourism Infrastructure Development Project and the Asian Development Bank. After one year, the Manaslu Conservation Area was designated as conservation area covering over 1,663 sq. kms. It borders the Annapurna Conservation Area to the west, the Tibetan plateau to the north and east and the mid-part of Gorkha district to the south. The Manaslu region was restricted to tourists until 1991. Over 9,000 people inhabit the conservation area with marginal agriculture and animal husbandry being the main occupations. They migrate in search of work and to trade during the winter.

The region offers visitors a glimpse of pristine natural and cultural traditions that are disappearing from other parts of Nepal. Due to prolonged isolation and contact with other urban people, the major ethnic group—the Bhotiyas—still retain a strong sense of attachment towards their traditional culture and rich natural heritage. The region harbors a mosaic of habitats for 33 species of mammals, including the elusive snow leopard (Uncia uncia), musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), Himalayan thar, blue sheep, over 110 species of birds, 11 species of butterflies and 3 species of reptiles. There are approximately 2000 species of plants, 11 types of forests and over 50 species of useful plants (online: www.kmtnc.org.np).

The role of the Trust is to facilitate and assist local people to better understand and realize their own skills for management of their resources in a sustainable and equitable manner while maintaining their culture and improving on their traditional systems. As women are one of the most effective partners of the Trust in all its conservation and development activities, special focused programs are being launched to address their specific needs so that the efforts are consolidated and benefits are more widespread. The active participation and involvement of local people in identifying local needs and planning and execution is the best way to guarantee long-term sustainability of the project.

5.2.16 Kangchenjunga Conservation Area

The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) is situated in Taplejung district in north-east Nepal. The conservation area is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north, Sikkim of India to the east and Sankhuwasabha district in the west. It is spread over an area of 2,035 sq. km and embraces diverse climatic conditions. It has several lofty mountain peaks including Mt. Kangchenjunga (8,586 masl), alpine grasslands, rocky outcrops, dense temperate and sub-tropical forests and low river valleys, supporting high biodiversity.

The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project was initiated in 1998 as a joint undertaking of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) and WWF Nepal Program. The project's goal is to conserve the natural resources and promote sustainable development in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) by strengthening local community capacity to manage their natural resources and to improve their socio-economic conditions (WWF-Nepal, 2002).

KCA is home to a wealth of ethnic diversity and cultural heritage. The Limbu are the dominant ethnic group in the lower regions of the KCA, while the Sherpa/Lama people, who migrated from Tibet over four hundred years ago, are settled in the higher altitudes. The Gurung arrived in the late eighteenth century as Gorkha soldiers of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, and the Rai moved into the area about sixty years ago in search of agricultural land and work. Other groups found in smaller numbers in the KCA include Brahmin and Chhettri and occupational castes such as Kami, Damai and Sarki. Gumbas, temples, chhortens, and prayer-walls are icons of KCA's diverse cultural heritage. Buddhist, Hindu, Kirati festivals add diversity to the culture. 

Forest conservation in the KCA is carried out through protection of existing stands as well as reforestation of degraded lands. This has been made possible through the active participation of community residents, Conservation Area Management Committees, Community Forest User Groups and Mother Groups.

Conservation of the endangered snow leopard (Uncia uncia) and its habitat is a crucial program of the project. Other species of concern in the KCA are the musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), Himalayan black bear (Selenoroctos thibetanum) and the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) (online: www.wwfnepal.org.np).

Extension programs involving presentations, discussions, street dramas, conservation songs and audio-visual shows play a critical role in increasing conservation awareness among the communities. School Eco-Clubs promote environmental awareness among students. Training in group management and forest management is provided to build local human and institutional capacity for natural resource conservation. Non formal education classes and skill-development training, such as carpet weaving and sewing training, are also provided to increase the capacity of User Group members.

All the evidence presented in the foregoing sections suggests that Nepal has made significant efforts for establishment of protected areas. These protected areas have not only contributed to conservation of wild flora and fauna but also to the development of tourism and, to some degree, to the well being of the communities residing within or outside the boundaries of PAs.

HMG has initiated a number of conservation projects across the country with a view to conserving the natural resources, promoting sustainable development while also preserving community rights over local resources. Some of these initiatives serve as world-class models of conservation and development.

 


6. WORLD HERITAGE SITES

 

6.1 The Context

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was founded in November 1945 at a Conference of Allied Ministers of Education during World War II with the aim of "contributing to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture and with a mission that encourages universal respect for justice, rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms for all people of the world" (UNESCO, 2002). It is mandated to promote stewardship of the world's natural and cultural resources, including built heritage, which constitutes collective cultural memory, and the foundation upon which communities can construct their future. The overarching purpose of the Organization is to contribute to international peace and stability via educational, scientific and cultural relationships among people around the world.

In accordance with UNESCO's guiding objectives of contributing to peace and security, the organization has a total of 188 regular and six associate members. A commission is set up in each member country to act as the agency of the government they represent and to involve civil society in UNESCO activities.

UNESCO aims to fulfill its mandate by performing five principal functions (UNESCO, 2002):

1)      Prospective studies for the identification of forms of education, science, culture and communication needed for tomorrow's world,

2)      Advancement, transfer and sharing of knowledge by relying primarily on research, training and teaching activities,

3)      Standard-setting action through the preparation and adoption of international instruments and statutory recommendations,

4)      Provide expertise services the member states for their development policies and projects in the form of 'technical co-operation', and

5)      Exchange of specialized information.

Cultural heritage is defined broadly as the entire spirit of people in terms of values, action, works, institutions, monuments and sites. As a receptacle of memory, it embodies the symbolic value of cultural identities and constitutes a fundamental reference for structuring society. It enables individuals to understand themselves; cultural heritage is one of the keys to understanding others and has contributed to an uninterrupted dialogue between civilizations and cultures since the dawn of time. Heritage contributes to establishing and maintaining peace between people (UNESCO, 2002). Thus, it is that the concept of cultural heritage sites comprises a whole variety of realities from the archeological complex of a living historic center to the remains of an archeological site, being joint heritage calling for protection. Archeological sites are a unique witness to by-gone civilizations (UNESCO, 2002). They are frequently associated with ideas or belief that have marked the history of humanity since time immemorial. The value of such heritage is not limited to a single nation or people; it must be viewed as the global property.

6.2 Pressure on World Heritage Sites

The sites that are today designated as World Heritage Sites in Nepal have been popular with visitors for long. After the UNESCO listing these sites received more publicity leading to more visitors than ever before. Sites such as the Everest region and the Royal Chitwan National Park have suffered from over visitation and associated environmental problems (see also Chapter 5), due to high visitor influx compared to other destinations in Nepal. Despite the natural and cultural richness of the Natural Heritage Sites, these areas are highly vulnerable because the burden on limited natural resources and carrying capacity is increasing day by day.

 

Cultural Heritage Sites are prone to natural disasters. For instance, a portion of Kathmandu Darbar Square was leveled by the great earthquake of 1933. Then there is neglect. The situation of Cultural Heritage Sites in Nepal is a matter of concern. Many statues, temples and ancient buildings are in miserable condition due to the lack of proper and timely repairs. The ever-growing number of visitors and encroaching urbanization are putting great pressure on the fragile heritage.

6.2.1 Endangered World Heritage Sites

Heritage sites are invaluable properties and have to be handled carefully for most are old and need special conservation efforts. Heritage is the instrument of a two-way process between past, present and future (UNESCO, 2002). They are the inherited property handed over through generations and therefore they are most important and precious gifts from environmental, cultural and economic viewpoints.

The World Heritage Committee prepares and publishes a List of World Heritage in Danger that includes World Heritage properties threatened by serious and specific dangers, such as development projects including construction or mining work, the outbreak or threat of armed conflict, or natural disasters. The World Heritage Committee provides for State Party consent prior to any 'in danger' listing. However, in cases where a site is threatened and State Party government processes have broken down, the Committee may reach a decision on its own and may take necessary actions. In such situations, the World Heritage Committee can be informed and alerted by individuals, non-governmental organizations, or other groups regarding the possible threat to the site. Depending upon the degree of the problem, the site will be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Endangered sites on this list are entitled to particular attention and emergency action.

The sites that the World Heritage Committee has decided to include in the List of World Heritage in Danger are listed in Table 6.1.

Table 6.1: List of World Heritage Sites in Danger

Country

Name of Site

Afghanistan

Cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley

Afghanistan

Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam

Albania

Butrint

Algeria

Tipasa

Azerbaijan

Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower

Benin

Royal Palaces of Abomey

Cambodia

Angkor

Central African Republic

Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park

Cote D'ivoire

Comoé National Park

Cote D'ivoire / Guinea

Mount Nimba Nature Reserve

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Virunga National Park

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Garamba National Park

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kahuzi-Biega National Park

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Okapi Wildlife Reserve

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Salonga National Park

Ecuador

Sangay National Park

Egypt

Abu Mena

Ethiopia

Simien National Park

Honduras

Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve

India

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary

India

Group of Monuments at Hampi

Iraq

Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat)

Jerusalem

(Site proposed by Jordan)

Old City of Jerusalem & its Walls

Mali

Timbuktu

Nepal

Kathmandu Valley

Niger

Air & Ténéré Natural Reserves

Oman

Bahla Fort

Pakistan

Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore

Peru

Chan Chan Archaeological Zone

Philippines

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Senegal

Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary

Tunisia

Ichkeul National Park

Uganda

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

United States

Everglades National Park

Yemen

Historic Town of Zabid

Source: WHC, 2004, online: www.whc.unesco.org

Of the sixty-seven reports submitted to the World Heritage Committee (WHC) in 1999, nineteen focused on sites inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger and of the nineteen the majority of reports submitted for examination by the World Heritage Committee showed the necessity of taking immediate actions to safeguard the sites situated in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean from further deterioration.

6.2.2 Endangered World Heritage Sites in Nepal

Among the endangered sites in Asia, Kathmandu was reported to be in the most critical situation. Kathmandu was built by King Gunakama Dev in 723 AD (MoIC, 2000). The growth and development of the city has resulted in massive changes. Therefore, there is growing concern about sites, in particular the Kathmandu Valley where recent deterioration of the historic fabric was reported by the UNESCO mission in October 1999. In addition, the need for proper and timely action by government for conservation and appropriate repair of some sites within Kathmandu valley has been pointed by concerned officials.

6.3 Current Status of World Heritage Sites

UNESCO categorizes heritage sites mainly on the basis of their natural and cultural importance. The World Heritage Site includes specific sites such as a forest, mountain range, lake, desert, building complex, or city that has been nominated for the World Heritage Program administered by UNESCO.

6.3.1 Cultural Heritage Sites

According to the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, "Cultural heritage" is defined as the monuments which include architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science (online: www.whc.unesco.org). It also includes groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science. Also the sites that include works of man or the combined works of nature and man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view are considered as cultural heritage sites.

In order to qualify for the World Heritage list, sites must meet at least one of the criteria (online: www.whc.unesco.org). It must either represent a masterpiece of creative genius or exhibit an important interchange of human values over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments of architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning or landscape design. Sites that bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization, which is living or has disappeared or with outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble, or landscape, which illustrates a significant stage or significant stages in human history or a traditional human settlement or land-use which is representative of a culture or cultures, especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change might be included in the list. Similarly, a site that is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas or with beliefs, or with artistry or literary works of outstanding universal significance could also qualify for the list.

6.3.2 Natural Heritage Sites

The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage has considered natural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view as "natural heritage". It also regards geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation or natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty as "natural heritage" (online: www.whc.unesco.org).

In order to qualify for the World Heritage List, sites must meet at least one of the criteria (online: www.whc.unesco.org). It must be either an outstanding example representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features or outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals. The sites that contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance; or the most important and significant natural habitats for in situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation can also be qualified for the list.

6.3.3 World Heritage Sites in Nepal

Nepal harbors four World Heritage sites, two cultural and two natural heritage sites. The two cultural heritage sites are Kathmandu Valley and Lumbini. While Kathmandu is recognized for its centuries-old traditions of art, culture and craftsmanship, as well as for numerous monuments of archeological and historical importance, Lumbini is recognized as the birthplace of Lord Buddha. The two natural heritage sites are Sagarmatha National Park and Royal Chitwan National Park. They are a refuge for several wild animals, birds and plant varieties, of which some are endangered. While Sagarmatha National Park boasts of Mt. Everest, the Royal Chitwan National Park shelters such rare species as royal Bengal tiger, one-horned rhino and gharial (Gavialis gangeticus).

Of the heritage sites, Kathmandu valley is well known for its ancient art and architecture. Among the 130 monuments are pilgrimage centers, temples, shrines, bathing sites and gardens—all sites of veneration for both religious groups (online: www.whc.unesco.org).

Kathmandu is situated at an altitude of 1,336 masl. UNESCO has described Kathmandu as a unique "living heritage site" unparalleled in the world. It has fascinating sightseeing opportunities with hundreds of ancient temples, places, monasteries, Buddhist stupas and artistic centers. The main sites within the city are Durbar Square (Hanuman Dhoka) where the temples and old palace built between the 12th and 18th centuries such as temple of living Goddess Kumari, Kasthamandap, Taleju temple and the Jagannath temple are located. The Kathmandu Valley has been divided into seven monumental zones, all concentrated within a radius of 20 km. It is difficult to find such a collection of heritage sites anywhere else in the world. Kathmandu is also recognized for its religious co-existance among  followers and places of worship. Because Hindus and Buddhists visit both (Hindu and Buddhist) religious sites it is often difficult to differentiate between them.

Lumbini is a World Heritage Site of immense cultural and archeological value. It is the center for Buddhism where Gautam Buddha was born more than 2500 years ago. In its present condition the site contains the remains of the ancient building of King Suddhodhan, father of Gautam Buddha and the holy garden where Lord Buddha was born. There are also various other ancient sites that are linked with Buddha and his life. 

Nepal's heritage is alive and dynamic. Shamanism and animism are still practiced in remote regions of the country. Temples, shrines monuments and monasteries are an integral part of life of devotees burning butter-lamps, singing hymns, chiming temple bells and playing drums.

6.3.3.1 Sagarmatha National Park

Sagarmatha National Park was listed as a world heritage site in 1979. The reasons behind enlisting the park in World Heritage Site by UNESCO are highly significant. The geographical structure of the Khumbu region where the park is situated is one of the rare cases in the world. The area is best known as the home of the Sherpas who have their own unique culture and lifestyle and are among the world's few communities who live at such high altitudes. Much of the park lies above 3,000 meter and agricultural land is limited. Only less than 3 percent of the region is covered by forests, which are a sanctuary for some of the world's very rare and endangered species. The park is known for its highly diversified vegetation (MoIC, 2000) (see also Chapter 5 for details).  Besides Mt. Everest, there are other high peaks like Lhotse Shar, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, Pumori, Kangtega, Gyachung Kang, Thamserku and Kwangde located in the same region.

Source: DNWPC, 2004.

From an ecotourism perspective, the region possesses several attractions like its unique flora and fauna, museum, Thama Gumba, Tengboche Gumba, Khumgung Gumba, Namche and some of the world famous trekking routes. The trend of visitation in the Sagarmatha National Park is presented in Fig 6.1. It clearly indicates a slow but steady rise in visitor numbers until 1997/98. A sudden rise was experienced during the following year, which however did not continue. Severe fluctuations did exist during 1999/00 and 2000/01. Since then visitor influx has shown a downward trend.

6.3.3.2 Royal Chitwan National Park

The Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP), the next natural heritage site, stretches mostly across the Churia region and accommodates the Rapti Valley, and lowlands and wetlands of the inner Terai. The Narayani and Rapti rivers flow through the park making it a suitable place for wildlife. Chitwan was enlarged from 54,400 ha to its present size of 93,200 ha in 1977. Parsa Wildlife Reserve, which lies adjacent to RCNP, covers 49,900 ha. There was a proposal to further enlarge the protected area complex by establishing the 25,900 ha Bara Hunting Reserve, close to and east of Parsa Wildlife Reserve, but the proposal has since been dropped (UNEP/WCMC, 2004).

The vegetation of the Inner Terai is mainly sal (Shorea robusta) forest, which covers some 70 percent of the park area. However, floods, fires and riverine erosion combine to make it a continually changing mosaic of grasslands and riverine forests in various stages of succession (UNEP/WCMC, 2004). A fifth of the park area is made up of the floodplains of the Narayani, and Rapti Rivers (MoIC, 2000). This ecologically diverse area is the last remaining home in Nepal for more than 300 of the endangered Asian one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and is asylum for one of the largest populations of the elusive and rare royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) (MoIC, 2000) (see Chapter 5 for details).

The area is also important from a religious and historical perspective. The historically and religiously important sites like Bikram Baba, Triveni and Balmiki Ashram have attracted visitors for long.

The Park is important from a tourism point of view too. It attracts a large number of visitors each year (Fig 6.2). The visitor influx increased from a mere 60,000 in 1992/93 to nearly 120,000 during 1999/00. The sharp decline after 2000 indicates that the Park too has been affected by the prevailing political situation in the country.

 Source: DNWPC, 2004.

6.3.3.3 Kathmandu Valley

Kathmandu Durbar Square

The ancient scriptures indicate that Kathmandu Durbar Square was built in 613 (670 BS) by the Lichhavi Kings. It is only during the reign of Pratap Malla, the famous Malla king, that the statue of Hanuman was installed at the main gate in 1672 (1729 BS) and the place named Hanumandhoka Durbar.

Hanumandhoka Durbar Square is considered one of the important heritages within Kathmandu valley. Its architectural value has further amplified after UNSECO declared it World Heritage Site in 1979. The square has several old statues of historical, archeological and religious significance. Part of the Square was leveled in the great earthquake of 1933 (1990 BS), but despite this devastating incident, most parts are still safe. The major attractions at the site are the big statue of Hanuman, Golden Gate, Naxal Square, Nine-storied palace of Basantapur, Basantapur Chowk, Mulchowk, Mohan Chowk, Sundari Chowk, Taleju temple, Laam Chowk, the European style palace, museum, Kumari Ghar, Maijudewal, Siva Parbati temple, Kasthamandap, Vagawati temple, the huge bell, and some other historically important constructions.

Altogether 103,666 tourists visited Hanuman Dhoka during fiscal year 2003/2004 (till April 21) but there were only 76,122 visitors in 2002/03. Since visitors are required to pay an entry fee, these visits have financial implications for the Nepalese economy.

Bouddha

Of the stupas in Kathmandu, Bouddha stupa is the biggest and probably the biggest in the world. It lies some 6 km to the east of central Kathmandu. There are many myths associated with the foundation of Bouddha stupa. According to Neiles Gutschow, the Bouddha stupa was automatically erected by the power of God during the reign of King Dharmadev whereas Daniel Right stated that the stupa was constructed by King Manadev-I who was in power during 464-505 AD. At present, the stupa occupies a sizeable area (82.36 meter × 82.03 meter) with a height of 36 meters (MoIC, 2000).

Its unique construction, large spatial configuration, religious importance and historical significance made it one of the 10 important World Heritage Sites in Nepal. It is the focal point of Tibetan Buddhism. There are more than 45 Buddhist monasteries in the Bouddhanath area. With all these features, Bouddha stupa is a major attraction for visitors to Kathmandu valley.

Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square is a living example of the generations-old heritage, carved in stone and bronze statues, temple and squares, and everyday life. It forms the main part of the ancient Patan City and reminds one of the ancient engineering. Located about 5 km southeast of central Kathmandu, the Square is one of many ancient heritage sites in the valley. The city was engineered by Virdev in 299 AD (MoIC, 2000). However, this claim is disputed. Some historians and archeologists claim that the city was built by Buddhist Emperor Ashoka in 250 BC (MoIC, 2000). Patan city was renowned as a central Buddhist school during 7th to 13th BC (MoIC, 2000). Patan was known for its brilliance architecture since ancient times. In fact, the famous architect Araniko (1245-1306) who took the Pagoda-style of temple architecture to China was also a citizen of Patan.

The temple and the palace of Patan Durbar Square are world famous. A French architect said of the craftsmanship visible in the Patan Durbar Square: "a world of almost luminous white stone, of pillar crowned by bronze statues of light flittering colonnades, and of fragile dream temples, guarded all by a company of fantastic beasts and griffins". The major attractions of the square are Vimsen temple, Vishwonath temple, Krishna temple, Jagatnarayan temple, Statue of Yoganarendra Malla, Harishemakar temple, Sundari Chowk, Mulchowk, Keshabnarayan Chowk, Hyranyavarna Mahavihar, Kumveshor Mahadev temple, Rato Machhindranath temple, Ashoka Stupa and other temples.

The rich cultural heritage is a major tourism resource and draws a large number of visitors to Patan Durbar Square. Though Patan area is an attraction for overseas visitors too, data is available only in the case of visitors from SAARC region. According to the entrance records there were significant fluctuations in the influx between 1999 and 2002, with 121,787 tourists in 2001/02. But there were only 59126 in 2002/03. It further reduced to 47,247 in 2003/2004 (Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City, 2004).

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur is one of the three important ancient cities of the Kathmandu valley. In the past it was also known as Bhadgaon and is recognized as a home of medieval art and architecture. It has religious, historical and natural significance. The main attractions of the city are Durbar Square, which is listed under the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, the Fifty-five Windows Durbar (Pachpanna Jhalley Durbar), Golden Gate, Nyatapole temple (tallest pagoda temple in Nepal) and Dattatreya temple.

Bhaktapur city was founded by King Anand Dev in 889 AD (MoIC, 2000). It is about 15 km east of Kathmandu and is spread over an area of about 5 sq. kms, at an elevation of 1401 masl. Foreign scholars and historians have praised the city as a museum of ancient art and architecture of the Newar community. Impressed by the art and architecture, Moran (1996) wrote, "The city remains a superb example of the Newars' instinctive mastery of urban planning. Despite an urban population density exceeding that of Tokyo or New York, Bhaktapur feels remarkably uncrowded and orderly. Thanks to the masterful structuring of urban space". 

Bhaktapur is also known for ancient palaces built by different Malla kings. Among them are the fifty-five Window Durbar, which is an excellent masterpiece of pagoda style architecture and an outstanding example of artistry from the past. Apart from these palaces, there are several other temples and statues built during 12th and 18th century AD. The Singhadwar (Lion Gate) built during 1666-1722 AD by Bhupatindra Malla is also an example of traditional art. The other attractions of the area are the statue of Bhupatindra Malla, Bastala Devi Temple, the Pashupati Temple, the National Art Gallery and many more. Bhaktapur is one of the most visited sites in Nepal (Fig. 6.3).

Source: Bhaktapur Tourism Development Committee, 2004.

Changunarayan Temple

Changunarayan temple, one of the World Heritage Sites situated in Kathmandu valley, is located at a distance of 5 km north of Bhaktapur (MoIC, 2000). It is one of the finest and oldest specimens of pagoda architecture. It is an important ancient temple and dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu. The temple has great historical, religious and archeological value. The temple is artful in its construction. It was constructed by King Manadev in 364 AD (MoIC, 2000). At the foot of the 108 steps that lead down from the main gate of the temple lies the Shankha Daha.

While there were 20,251 and 19,188 visitors during 2000/01 and 2001/02, the influx decreased to 12,831 and 6,634 during 2002/03 and 2003/04, respectively (Changunarayan VDC, 2004).

Swayambhunath Stupa

The historically and culturally important Swayambhunath stupa is located 3 km west of Kathmandu city and is situated on a hillock about 77 meter above the level of Kathmandu Valley (MoIC, 2000).

Several myths are associated with the divinity of the stupa. Some believe that the stupa is not human-made but was created by the power of god. This belief manifests in the word 'Swayambhunath', which means self-created stupa. 

The stupa, believed to be more than 2000 years old, is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal (MoIC, 2000). It also provides an excellent view of the Kathmandu valley. According to history, the Stupa was already in its majestic position at the time of King Manadeva (5th Century AD). The Stupa was partly damaged when Samshuddin, a Muslim warrior attacked Kathmandu in 1372. Twenty three years after, the stupa was repaired by Mahapatro of Kathmandu (MoIC, 2000).

Swayambhunath is a popular destination and this is evident from the data in Fig 6.4. It drew over 200,000 visitors in 1999/00 and this number remained almost constant for the next three years before it declined post-2001/02.

Source: FSMC, 2004.

Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath temple is a world famous temple and shrine, particularly for Hindus. It is located 5 km east of central Kathmandu. Its construction dates back to antiquity and it has been described in different religious documents, holy books, myths and scriptures. It is a major pilgrimage center for Hindus where many festivals take place. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and attracts a huge number of Hindu pilgrims annually from all over South Asia. Although there is lack of precise data, the large number of annual celebrations suggests that it must be one of the most visited temples within Kathmandu valley. The temple is important not only from a religious perspective but also from historical and archeological viewpoint.

The Pashupati area is spread over an area of 264 hectares (MoIC, 2000). His Majesty's Government of Nepal has declared the Pashupatinath area as a conservation area. Some of the important religious temples and sites within Pashupati area are Guheshwori, Vastsaleshwari, Bashuki, Jaya Bageshowari, Kirantashwor, Dhando Stupa, Vishworupa, Chandra Binayak, Shreeram Temple, Lolashwor, Bhandarashwor, Gorakhanath, Jamrashwor, Bhuwanishwari, Bankali and Rajarajeshori. Several festivals like Mahashivaratri, Sitalastami, Harisayani and Haribodhini Ekadasi, Gurupurnima, Haritalika Navaratra and Balachaturdashi are celebrated.  There are more than 492 big and small temples within the area (MoIC, 2000) and all of them contain artful statues, bells, carvings and different objects of historical, religious and archeological value.

The Pashupatinath area was declared as a world Heritage Site by UNSECO in 1979 (MoIC, 2000). The pollution of the Bagmati River and poor sanitation are some of the problems of the temple and its surroundings. Despite several efforts, the Bagmati remains highly polluted. The proper management of funeral sites near the Pashupati Temple is also deemed a necessity. 

Official records indicate that there were less than 100,000 visitors to the temple, with 71,190 in 2001/02, 56,028 in 2002/03 and 89,382 in 2003/04 respectively (Pashupati Area Development Trust, 2004). But this data reveals only non-SAARC visitors. With the inclusion of the SAARC visitors, the numbers would be much greater. This is because during special religious occasions like Shivaratri alone the temple receives more than 100,000 pilgrims.

6.3.3.4 Lumbini

Buddhism is practiced by over 400 million people in the world (World Heritage, 2003), who follow the teachings (dharma) of Buddha. This holy and archeologically/ historically rich place is complemented by a civilization created over 2,500 years ago. Lumbini received World Heritage status in 1997.

Lumbini can be reached by a 30 minute flight or a day-long drive from Kathmandu. It is situated 306 km southwest of Kathmandu. The Lumbini area is situated in a rural landscape at the foothills of the Himalayas where the kingdom of the Sakyas once flourished some 2,500 years ago. The royal garden where Prince Siddhartha was born in 623 BC to Queen Mayadevi and King Suddhodana is in Lumbini. Emperor Ashoka of India visited Lumbini in the 3rd Century BC when the place had already become a Buddhist center of repute (World Heritage, 2003). It was then that Ashoka had erected a polished granite pillar which stands to the day and is famous as Ashoka Stamva (Ashoka Pillar). The inscription on the pillar reads: "King Piyadasi (Asoka), beloved of devas (gods) in the 20th year of his coronation, himself made a royal visit. Buddha Sakyamuni having been born here, stone railing was built and a stone pillar erected. The Bhagawan (Buddha) having been born here, Lumbini village was tax-reduced and entitled to the eighth part only" (World Heritage, 2003). The Pillar has remained in its actual condition and presents evidence of the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

The Lumbini area harbors various sites of historical importance, villages, stupas and monasteries equally attractive that keep tourists and devotees there for long time. The Lumbini village, Monastic Zone and other sites in the area are some of the examples. The recent construction of temples by various countries has added to the attraction of the area. Besides its cultural and archeological importance, Lumbini also has an attractive landscape. These features attract a large number of tourists to the area each year. Because of the large number of visitors to the area the most important conservation challenge is to maintain the environment so that pilgrims will continue to be attracted to Lumbini. This presents a major challenge.

Source: Lumbini Development Trust, 2004.

The trend of visits to Lumbini is shown in Fig 6.5. It suggests that there were more than 20,000 visitors in 1998, which however decreased during the following years. With some fluctuations, it again increased during 2003.

6.4 Impacts on World Heritage Sites

Since its establishment UNESCO has made efforts to safeguard already identified heritage sites and continued to search for others. Due to the success achieved in the past, individual nations and people have realized that heritage sites are the property of humanity and this collective ownership has inspired them to work together for furthering the efforts. Such efforts have been instrumental in promoting an environment that believes in fraternity, integrity and human rights, which are affirmed for the people of the world, without any distinction in terms of race, gender, language or religion. Therefore, with UNESCO involvement, several sites have been able to receive global attention.

UNESCO aims to catalogue, name, and preserve sites of outstanding importance, either cultural or natural, to the common heritage of humankind. Once such sites get into the UNESCO heritage list, they can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund provided the stipulated conditions are met. As of 2003, altogether 754 such sites have been included in the list.

Since heritage sites serve as one of the major tourist attractions, depending upon the location, a significant number of tourists visit them every year. The tourist flows in these sites are presented in the respective sections. The data presented in these figures also indicates that heritage sites have long been an important source of income, which proves that world heritage sites are important from an economic perspective too. From a cultural viewpoint, the world heritage sites represent the ancient memory. They are witness to the development of human civilizations over time.

From an environmental perspective most natural World Heritage Sites are important. Natural heritage sites help the complex ecological process on earth and reveal different environmental facts of the past, which bear high significance for the present environment. These sites have received more attention after designation as World Heritage Sites leading to better management. The Sagarmatha Cleaning Campaign is one such example.

World Heritage Sites have a key role in conservation of biodiversity. Naming any site as World Heritage Site fulfills the need of its wide reorganization as an important area and that draws attention for conservation efforts. In this sense, Heritage sites are helpful in drawing international interest in protected area conservation. The branding provided by the World Heritage Convention to outstanding natural sites most definitely helps to draw the attention of governmental and private donors and attracts new opportunities for partnership with the private sector and other stakeholders. Thus, World Heritage status is an effective tool to help generate new ways to promote conservation of protected areas and thereby biodiversity.

The present necessity is to realize the importance of heritage sites and initiate collective efforts. All diversity, be it natural or cultural, are important to all people and each nation must reinforce the need to conserve the living natural heritage—both for their own intrinsic values and for the critical role they play in long-term sustainable development.

6.5 Conservation Efforts

Ever since its establishment UNESCO has been successful in identifying, safeguarding and presenting cultural and natural heritages of the world. As a result, UNESCO is recognized and credited for its work on cultural and natural heritage conservation. Its endeavors have resulted in the designation of a large number of heritage sites throughout the world and led to conservation of areas of cultural and ecological importance. This has helped draw the attention of the international community and influenced member states to undertake conservation of the heritage sites. For instance, owing to the religious and historical value of Pashupatinath temple, several efforts were made in the past to properly manage and conserve the Pashupatinath area. The establishment of a separate body, the Pashupati Area Development Trust in 2043 BS, was one step toward this process. Despite its many efforts and sound financial strength there are still many challenges before the Trust.

Similarly, His Majesty's Government of Nepal with the assistance of the United Nations has developed a major plan for the development of Lumbini. The well-known Japanese architect Kenzo Tange had prepared the plan for the development of the site with infrastructure and visitor facilities, while ensuring the safety of the archeological remains in an exclusive core zone identified as the sacred area. His Majesty's Government of Nepal has established the Lumbini Development Trust for implementation of the plan prepared by Kenzo Tange.

His Majesty's Government of Nepal declared the Sagarmatha region as a conservation area after assessing the importance of the area and the pressure on natural resources. Its inclusion in the World Heritage Sites list reveals the importance of the Park. The challenge now is to preserve and use its richness in a most sustainable way while providing all possible opportunities for visitors to enjoy its beauty.

Similarly, Chitwan was declared a National Park because of its ecological and socio-economic importance following approval by the late King Mahendra in December 1970 (UNEP/WCMC, 2004). Eleven years later the Royal Chitwan National Park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. Today the park is popular not only within Nepal but is also listed among the other famous National Parks in the world.

In fact Kathmandu valley itself was listed as an endangered World Heritage Site on account of various threats to its heritage sites. After several efforts made by government, fortunately it recently has been removed from the list.


7. BIODIVERSITY AND ECOTOURISM

 


7.1 Introduction

The need for integrating biodiversity conservation with ecotourism has been felt for long. Ecotourism has received increased attention in recent times due to its demonstrated potential to generate employment opportunities and sustained incomes and contribution to conservation. Ecotourism is now an important cross-sectoral strategy in the National Biodiversity Strategy (NBS) 2002 and continues to demonstrate that it is capable of contributing to reducing rural poverty through community based biodiversity conservation and buffer zone management (HMGN/MFSC, 2002).

7.2 Pressure on Biodiversity

Nepal's biodiversity is under great pressure due to natural and anthropogenic causes. Deforestation, ever increasing demand for forest products, grazing, poaching, conversion of forests, wetlands and rangelands for agriculture, infrastructure development and other use, solid waste and sewerage disposal in the rivers, introduction of exotic species, illegal trade of flora and fauna, and concentration of tourists in a few protected areas are some of the pressures on biodiversity. Habitat loss is most severe. The pressure on habitat is closely associated with species loss and studies have amply demonstrated that tree density and biomass loss has a direct bearing on species loss. Conversion of forests for agriculture is held mainly responsible for habitat loss of wild flora and fauna. In addition, the increase in shrub land due to decrease in forest cover has led to reduced species diversity (HMGN/MFSC 2002).

Pressure on biodiversity in the protected area system is mostly due to collection of firewood, grazing, rhino and tiger poaching, environmental pressure from tourism, construction of hydropower plants, high tension transmission lines, irrigation canals, flooding, siltation, deforestation, collection of medicinal plants, fires in the chir pine forest, excessive human encroachment and slash-and burn agriculture (HMGN/MOFSC 2002).

Wetland, rangelands, mountain and agriculture biodiversity also face similar pressure. Wetland biodiversity suffers from reclamation, over fishing, use of water for irrigation purpose, disposal of solid waste and industrial affluent, dam construction, ground water extraction and conversion of wetlands for other uses. Rangelands have faced enormous pressure from over grazing.

Mountain biodiversity is under heavy pressure due to over harvesting of high value medicinal and aromatic plants that are mainly available in the hills and mountains, and the poaching of wild animals namely black dear, brown bear (Ursus arctos) and musk dear for illegal trade of their parts (HMGN/MFSC 2002).

7.3 Present State of Biodiversity Conservation

7.3.1 Ecosystem Diversity

 

Nepal's location at the interface of the Palaearctic and Indo-Malayan biogeographic realms makes it exceptionally rich in biological diversity. The country possesses a wide range of natural environments due to sharp altitudinal variation ranging from the tropics of the Terai in the south to high Himalayas in the north. Different climatic zones across a short north-south span have resulted in great diversity at ecosystem, species and genetic levels. This chapter however does not cover rangeland and agro-ecosystem and genetic diversity.

 

Systematic efforts to conserve biodiversity in Nepal began with the establishment of Royal Chitwan National Park in 1973. Nepal has made remarkable progress since then and today some 18.32 percent of the total area of the country has been set aside as protected area (Refer Table 5.1 for list of protected areas). Sagarmatha National Park and Royal Chitwan National Park were declared World Heritage Sites. Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve was declared a Ramsar site in 1987 and Shey Phoksundo National Park is in the process of being included in the World Heritage Site list.

7.3.1.1 Forest Ecosystem

Stainton (1972) has identified 35 forest types, 118 ecosystem types and 75 vegetation types under tropical and subtropical, temperate and alpine broadleaved, temperate and alpine conifer and minor temperate and alpine associations. The mid hills physiographic zone is rich in terms of ecosystem diversity with 52 ecosystems (within its 32 percent of total forest area of the country), while highlands, Siwalik hills, Terai and other zones have 38, 13, 10 and 5 ecosystems, respectively.

The Terai and Siwalik Hills forest ecosystems are rich in species diversity. The tropical deciduous riverine forest, tropical monsoon forest and tropical evergreen forest found in Terai and Siwaliks are of international significance. Similarly, the wetlands in the Terai are home to many birds and seasonal nesting and staging ground for migratory birds, and serve as water regulators during the dry season. The vegetation types of the high mountain and Himalaya are known for orchids, high value non-timber forest products and aromatic plants (Maskey, 2001; HMGN/MFSC, 2002).

The ecosystem diversity in protected areas is presented in Table 7.1.

Table 7.1: Ecosystem Diversity in Protected Areas of Nepal

S.N.

Physiographic zone

Total number of ecosystems

Number in protected areas

1.

Terai

10

10

2.

Siwalik Hills

13

5

3.

Mid-hills

52

33

4.

Highlands

38

30

5.

Other

5

2

 

Total

118

80

Source: HMGN/MFSC, 2002.

 

7.3.1.2 Mountain Ecosystem

Mountain ecosystems are a unique physiographic feature of Nepal. Mountains present both problems and prospects for economic development of the country. The biological richness of mountain ecosystems is seen in the number of ferns, bryophytes and lichens that occur in this zone. Similarly, the mid hills and highlands together account for more than two-third of the ecosystems in the country. The mountain areas have high biodiversity, a high degree of endemism and rich cultural heritage. The mountainous region has over 1,300 peaks above 6,000 masl including the world famous Mt Everest (HMGN/MFSC, 2002).

7.3.1.3 Wetlands

Wetland covers more than 743,500 ha area of the country. Rivers, lakes, reservoirs, village ponds, paddy fields and marshlands are covered under the definition of wetlands (Table 7.2). The Terai region of Nepal has largest number of wetlands (163) followed by hills and mountains (79). Wetlands have significant value for fishing, irrigation, and religious and recreational (boating, rafting) use. Wetlands are probably the last refuges of some wild relatives of cultivated plants. There are many indigenous communities dependent on wetland resources for their survival.

Table 7.2: Wetland Types in Nepal

S. No.

Wetland type

Estimated area (ha)

Percent

1.

Rivers

395,000

53.0

2.

Lakes

5,000

0.7

3.

Reservoirs

1,380

0.2

4.

Village ponds

5,183

0.7

5.

Paddy fields

325,000

43.6

6.

Marshland

12,000

1.6

 

Total

743,563

100.00

Source: HMGN/MFSC, 2002.

Out of 841 bird species recorded in Nepal, 193 are dependent on wetland of which 187 are found in Terai wetlands and 180 in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve alone. It is in recognition of this that Koshi Tappu was declared a Ramsar site in 1987. Besides Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR), there are a number of other wetlands in the Terai which are important habitat and nesting ground for birds and therefore require protection. They are Koshi barrage, Ghodaghodi Tal, Bishajari Tal, Jagadispur barrage, Tamar Tal, and Rani Tal (Bhandari, 1998). Ghodaghodi, Bishajari Tal and Jagdishpur Reservoir were recently declared Ramsar sites.

In addition to birds, wetlands of Nepal are home to a number of fish species, reptiles and amphibians. Other wild animals such as rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), wild buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), swamp deer (Cervus duvaucelli), Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica) and otter (Lutra lutra) are also dependent on wetlands. Further, wetlands have been important source of livelihood for some communities (Box 7.1).

 

Box 7.1: Indigenous Communities and Wetland Resources

 

The major ethnic groups dependent on wetland resources for their livelihoods in Nepal are the Sunaha of the Karnali River in far-western Nepal, the Khanwas (the Raji group of Sunaha are found in the mid-hills whereas the Sunaha and the Khanwaa are found in the Terai), the Mallahs near the Gandak barrage in the southern part of Nawalparasi and from the districts around Janakpur in the east-central Terai, the Bote from Nawalparasi and Chitwan, the Mushahars from Nawalparasi and other eastern Terai districts, the Bantar (also called Sardad) from Sunsari and Saptari, the Gongi (also called Mallahs) from the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, the Mukhia (also called Bihin) from Rautahat, the Dushad from Parsa and other Terai districts, the Sahani from Rautahat, Sarlahi, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Parsa, and Bara, the Kewat from Nawalparasi, the Danuwars from Chitwan, Siraha, Dhanusha and Sindhuli, the Darai and the Kumal from Chitwan, Gorkha and Nawalparasi, the Barhamus from Gorkha, the Dhangar from Morang, Sunsari, Dhanusha, and Sarlahi, the Pode from the Phewa Tal area of Pokhara and from Panauti. Others include the Kushars and the Majhi from a number of Terai districts who depend primarily on fishing and aquatic resources for their livelihoods.

Source: HMGN/MFSC, 2002.

The government of Nepal formulated a new wetland policy in 2003 (HMGN/MFSC, 2003) which calls for effective conservation and management (HMGN/MFSC, 2002; Bhandari, 1998).

7.3.2 Species Diversity

7.3.2.1 Floral and Faunal Diversity

 

The available literature gives different figures on the floral and faunal diversity in the country. Maskey (2001) citing Nepal Biodiversity Profile Project 1996 has listed floral and faunal diversity and the Nepal Biodiversity Strategy (HMGN/MOFSC, 2002) has presented the species (floral and faunal) richness of Nepal in comparison to global richness. Diversity of flora and fauna found in Nepal, which is a  very small portion of total landmass of the world is impressive in itself. It has about 5 percent of the total flora as endemic, having 2 percent of flowering plants, 3 percent of pteridophytes and 6 percent of bryophytes of the world's flora (Uprety, 1998) (Table 7.3).

 

Table 7.3: Floral and Faunal Diversity of Nepal

S.N.

Flora

Number of species

Fauna

Number of species

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

Angiosperms

Gymnosperms

Algae

Fern and fern allies

Mosses

Lichens

5160

28

687

380

463

465

Birds

Mammals

Reptiles

Amphibians

Fish

Butterflies

Moths

 844

181

100

43

185

635

6000

 Source: Maskey, 2001.

Forest encroachment, land degradation, habitat loss, illegal trade of flora and fauna, faulty management practices, use of forest area for other purpose are leading to biodiversity loss (Maskey, 2001) within and outside of the protected area system. Altogether 28 mammals, 22 birds, 9 reptiles and 2 insects of Nepal are already listed under the IUCN list of threatened animals. Forest Regulation (1995) accords legal protection to a number of plant species. The National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act (1973) has protected 27 mammals, 9 birds and 3 reptiles (HMGN/MFSC, 2002).

 

The number of species of flora and fauna occurring in each physiographic zone are presented in Table 7.4.

Table 7.4: Number of Species of Flora and Fauna by Physiographic Zone

S.No.

Group

Terai and Siwalik

<1,000 m

Hills, Mid-hills

1,000-3,000 m

Highlands

>3,000 m

Plantae

1.

Bryophytes

61

493

347

2.

Pteridophytes

81

272

78

3.

Gymnosperms

-

16

10

4.

Angiosperms

1,885

3,364

> 2,000 *

Animalia

1.

Butterflies

325

557

82

2.

Fishes

154

76

6

3.

Amphibians

22

29

9

4.

Reptiles

68

56

13

5.

Birds

648

691

413

6.

Mammals

91

110

80

Source: HMGN/MFSC, 2002.

* Approximate figure.

 

Efforts are being made to protect the diversity of flora and fauna in the protected areas of Nepal in different physiographic zones. Terai ecosystems are fully represented in protected area system, and so are the highlands and mid hills, but the Siwalik ecosystems are poorly represented. This is one of the weaknesses of the protected area management of Nepal.

 

Nepal's protected area system not only represents ecosystem diversity, but also includes many critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable and susceptible fauna found in different physiographic zones. The threatened status of these fauna points to the need to have more natural area for their conservation as well as effective management of existing protected areas.

 

7.3.2.2 Bird Species Diversity

It is estimated that altogether 648,691 and 413 species of birds are found in Terai and Siwalik, mid hills and highlands, respectively (HMGN/MFSC, 2002). A total of 841 species have been recorded in the country (Bhandari, 1998). It is to be noted here that number of species of birds found in three physiographic regions cannot be added as the same species may be found in more than one region.

 

The Protected Area system of Nepal has provided a safe habitat to several important bird species. Sagarmatha National Park is home to about 118 species of birds. Important among them are Impeyan pheasant (Lophophorus impejanus), the National bird of Nepal, blood pheasant, red billed and yellow billed chough. The Royal Chitwan National Park has recorded more than 525 species of birds. Some of them are Bengal florican (Eupodotis bengalensis), lesser florican (Sypheotides indica) and white stork (Ciconia ciconia). Shey Phoksundo National Park is home to more than 200 bird species and Rara National Park is home to about 214 bird species (DNPWC, 2002).

 

Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve deserves special mentioning while explaining bird species diversity. An impressive 441 (the number is increasing day by day as a result of continuous study and monitoring) species of birds are found in this Reserve out of which 14 are endemic. Koshi barrage also hosts 87 winter and trans-Himalayan migratory bird species. Altogether 190 bird species are dependent on wetlands. Other bird species dependent on wetlands in the lowlands of Nepal are oriental darter (Anhinga melanogaster), spot billed pelican (Pelecanus philippensis), great bittern, painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala), red naped ibis (Pseudibis papillosa), Eurasian spoonbill, sarus crane (Grus antigone), white tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), long billed plover (Charadrius placidus) and ruddy kingfisher (Halcyoncoromanda) (Bhandari, 1998).

 

 

7.3.3 Weaknesses in Biodiversity Conservation

 

Nepal Biodiversity Strategy (HMGN/MFSC, 2002) has analyzed the major weakness of biodiversity conservation in Nepal. Important among them are high impact of tourism; lack of clear conservation objectives in forest management plans; lack of database and monitoring; low priority given to biodiversity conservation; inadequate institutional, financial and human resources for biodiversity conservation; poor integration between tourism and biodiversity conservation initiatives; inadequate legal instruments and lack of understanding on conservation and development.

7.4 Impacts of Tourism in Protected Areas

The impacts of tourism in protected areas and on ecosystem and biodiversity can be classified as environmental impacts (use of land and resources; impacts on vegetation; impacts on wildlife); impacts on sensitive ecosystems (e.g. mountain environments, marine and coastal environment); impacts on water resources; waste management; and environmental impact of travel; socio-economic and cultural impacts of tourism (social degradation; impacts on local communities and cultural values.)

 

Trends in world tourism suggest that mass tourism will continue to be the major form of visit to National Parks and protected areas in the foreseeable future and thus the Park managers and tourism authorities should work closely to live with this reality and prepare themselves accordingly for the future. Environmental impact assessment is also deemed necessary at appropriate level of Park and tourism management to minimize the negative impacts of tourism in the PAs (GEF/BPSP, 2001). Gap analysis of the National Parks and protected areas revealed that high impact of tourism, weak policies and weak institutional support for Park managers were major threat to ecosystem diversity (HMGN/MFSC, 2002).

 

The skewed distribution of tourist flows and concentration in a few protected areas is a matter of growing concern for protected area managers and tourism authorities in Nepal. Three national Parks—Chitwan, Sagarmatha, Langtang and Annapurna Conservation Area—account for about two-thirds of the total volume of tourists (DNPWC, 2000). Accessibility, infrastructure and uniqueness of these places have played great role in attracting tourists. The private sector plays a significant role to maintain these areas as popular destinations (Yonzon, 2000). The great challenge for tourism authorities is to divert this tourist influx to other parts of the country.

 

Though ecotourism is by its very nature environmental friendly, there are significant negative impacts associated with the growth of this industry. Since ecotourism concentrates on unexplored areas, rich biodiversity spots and untouched natural environments, the number and frequency of visitations to such places may have serious cumulative impacts. In Royal Chitwan, Sagarmatha, Langtang National Parks and Annapurna Conservation Area, high tourism influx has been a major concern and has caused ecological disruption, water pollution, congestion and solid waste accumulation. Appropriate integration of ecotourism into protected areas planning and management can address the many adverse impacts of tourism.

 

A study conducted by KMTNC in Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP) found that the Sauraha area had reached its limit. Local hotel owners and Park authorities agreed that tourist congestion was high and that there was pressing need to expand tourist facilities and identify additional areas for tourism. The effect on local Tharu culture and excessive extraction of forest resources to meet the growing demand of tourists were of major concern (KMTNC, 1996).

 

Increasing elephant safaris inside the Park has been of major concern in RCNP. The huge amount of fodder consumed by elephants, irregular travel route, damage to ground flora by trampling, all exert pressure on floral diversity. However, direct impact of tourism on faunal diversity is difficult to identify in the absence of scientific study. The study has identified unauthorized expansion of tented camps during peak tourist flow, operation of lodges and resorts inside the National Parks, grazing of elephants inside the Park, use of excessive fuel wood for campfires, cooking, and use of timber for construction as impacting on natural resources/biodiversity.

 

Park authorities often express their concern over adverse environmental impact of tourism on natural resources, flora and fauna, ecosystems and local environment, irrespective of the economic gains that it brings. They observe that the environmental impacts of tourism in high mountains and Himalayas are more serious than in other parts of the country.

Planning and managing ecotourism is an important step in integrating biodiversity concerns, mitigating negative environmental impacts and enhancing positive impacts in the protected areas. Ecotourism development plan should form an integral part of the National Park and conservation area management plans. The Park/conservation area management plan should mention among other things the tourist carrying capacity of protected areas, ecotourism activities, communication linkages and partnership of Park authorities with business community and local residents, monitoring and environmental management plans (NTB, 2003). The concept of visitor impact management (VIM) is also becoming popular. The concept was first developed by the National Parks and Conservation Area Association of USA to assess and manage the environmental impact of tourists on natural areas (GEF/BPSP, 2001). Effective and efficient management of protected area means promotion of ecotourism which in turn can be expected to be a factor for its own sustainability and contribute to the national effort of poverty reduction.

Chaudhary (2001) found that well maintained and regulated ecotourism brings substantial earnings to the destination communities which can be one of the sustainable sources of livelihood and lead to nature conservation. Entrance fee forms the major source of revenue in protected areas of Nepal. The share of tourism was 97 percent of total revenue in RCNP during 1998/99 (DNPWC, 2000). It indicates that the potential of ecotourism for nature and biodiversity conservation is huge and it can generate enormous revenue if infrastructure for tourism in other parks and protected areas are also developed.

 

Box 7.2: Tourism as a Vehicle for Conservation and Protected Areas

 

Followings are the recommendations of the 5th IUCN World Parks Congress for the conservation and support of protected areas:

 

Tourism sector, including appropriate institutions, associations, and operators, work together with protected area managers and communities to ensure that tourism associated with protected areas, in both developed and developing countries:

 

a.         Respects the primacy of the role of conservation for protected areas;

b.         Makes tangible and equitable financial contributions to conservation and to protected area management;

c.         Ensures tourism contributes to local economic development and poverty reduction through:

            i. Support to local small and medium sized enterprises;

            ii. Employment of local people;

            iii. Purchasing of local goods and services; and

            iv. Fair and equitable partnership with local communities;

d.         Uses relevant approaches that encourage appropriate behaviour by visitors (e.g., environmental education, interpretation, and marketing);

e.         Uses ecologically and culturally appropriate technologies, infrastructure, facilities and materials in and or near protected areas;

f.          Monitors, reports and mitigates negative impacts and enhances positive effects of tourism;

g.         Communicates the benefits of protected areas and the imperative for conservation;

h.         Promotes the use of guidelines, codes of practice and certification programs.

 

1. Key decision-makers work with the conservation community, including the IUCN WCPA Task Force for Tourism and Protected Areas, to ensure that tourism:

 

a.         Supports the sustainable use of natural and cultural heritage;

b.         Supports local and indigenous community development and economic opportunities;

c.         Provides political and financial support for the establishment, extension, and effective management of protected areas;

d.         Supports implementation of relevant international agreements, national legislation, and guidelines on protected areas;

e.         Fosters respect and stewardship for natural and cultural heritage through visitation and education; and

f.          Promotes the use of culturally appropriate participatory processes.

 

2. Key international and national agencies, local authorities and the private sector to support research and development to:

 

a.             Understand the links between tourism, conservation and community development;

b.             Establish reliable data on protected area tourism;

c.              Determine optimum types and levels of protected area visitation;

d.             Promote appropriate monitoring and evaluation;

e.              Promote effective management;

f.              Encourage policy development on protected area tourism;

g.              Provide appropriate tourism training for protected area personnel;

h.             Provide effective interpretation and education;

i.               Understand visitor experiences, behaviour and impact; and

j.              Develop appropriate tools and techniques for sustainable finance of protected areas through tourism.

 

Source: www.iucn.org

7.5 Responses

7.5.1 Biodiversity and International Commitments

 

Nepal is at the forefront of global efforts at biodiversity conservation and has expressed its commitment by being signatory to various international conventions. However, there is some criticism on the grounds that it is comparatively slow in translating the provisions of these treaties into national laws (NBSIP Draft, 2003). Table 7.5 shows the major international conventions to which Nepal is party.

Nepal signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) in September 1975. Its main objective is to regulate and control the trade of endangered flora, fauna and their parts. Member states are obliged to conserve wild flora, fauna and natural environment, and control the illegal trade of species included in the IUCN Red List. Department of National Park and Wildlife conservation (DNPWC) of Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) is coordinating the CITES related activities and working as focal point (Uprety, 2002). The Department of Plant Resources is the scientific authority for flora and Natural History Museum is the scientific authority for fauna in implementing the CITES convention in Nepal.

Table 7.5: International Conventions related to Biodiversity

 

S.N.

Convention

Entry into force in Nepal

1.      

Plant protection agreement for the south-east Asia and Pacific region (as amended) - 25 February 1956

August 2, 1965

2.      

Conventions on wetlands of international importance especially as waterfowl habitat - 2 February 1971

April 17, 1988

3.      

Convention for the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage - 23 November 1972

September 20, 1978

4.      

Convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora - 3 March 1973

September 16, 1975

5.      

International tropical timber agreement - 18 November 1983

July 3, 1990

6.      

Agreement on the network of aquaculture centers in Asia and the Pacific - 8 January 1988

November 11, 1990

7.      

Convention on biological diversity - 22 May 1992; Biosafety protocol

July 31, 1994

8.      

United Nations framework convention on climate change - 1992; Kyoto protocol 997

July 3, 1994

9.     

United nations convention to combat desertification - June 17, 1994

January 13, 1997

Source:  NBSIP (draft document), 2003.

 

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat came into force in Nepal in 1988. Commonly known as Ramsar Convention, this convention is mainly responsible for declaring wetlands of international importance, their conservation and management, and protection of the habitat of migratory birds. Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve of Nepal was declared a Ramsar site in 1987 and three more wetlands were declared Ramsar sites recently. DNPWC works as the focal point for this Convention (Uprety, 2002).

 

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) came into force in Nepal in 1994. Its main objectives are conservation of biological diversity resources, wise use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of benefit arising out of its