Declaration of World Peace Biodiversity Park as an institutional to initiate SEPLS approach on Panchase Protected Forest Landscape Region

10.10.2021

SUBMITTED ORGANISATION

Back To Nature Private Limited

DATE OF SUBMISSION

10/10/2021

REGION

South Asia

COUNTRY

Nepal

LOCATION

Kaski district

KEYWORDS

  • World Peace Biodiversity Park (WPBP) is an example of SEPLS in the region of Pokhara where the main vision lies in prospect to promote ecotourism through conservation, sustainable use; and fair and equitable share of benefit from biodiversity.
  • Local communities, organization like Back to nature have been working in the Panchase area to create further awareness, and create realization of economic and cultural significance of conservation and proper utilization of the resources.
  • Construction of eco-trails, ponds and chautari has been some of the observed results in the area through the influence of local people and other organizations. Information Boards, toilets have been added to further enhance the comparability of the tourist and visitors. This has also been an integral part of local people as an alternate source of livelihood.

AUTHOR(S)

Mr. Dambar Pun, Director, Back To Nature Private Limited

Summary Sheet

The summary sheet for this case study is available here.

Abstract

Protected forests are the part of national forest with utmost natural and historic significance. Panchase forest, as a protected forest is one of the block of forest with rich biodiversity and unique landscape. Panchase protected forest has it’s multi-functionalism as purification of air and water, nutrient recycling, pollination & seed dispersal, soil stabilization, drought and flood control. Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS) results in balanced interactions of nature and society with careful management of ecosystem services and the limited use of land within the carrying capacity and resilience of the environment. World Peace Biodiversity Park (WPBP) is an example of SEPLS in the region of Pokhara where the main vision lies in prospect to promote ecotourism through conservation, sustainable use; and fair and equitable share of benefit from biodiversity. Construction of infrastructures, plantation, building of ticket house, guard house, fences, etc. has been in the plan of WPBP project till 2024. Moreover, focus has been given for sanitation, management of source of drinking water, construction of bio-engineering structures for land conservation to promote ecotourism services in the area while minimizing the overall impact. Local communities, organization like Back to nature have been working in the Panchase area to create further awareness, and create realization of economic and cultural significance of conservation and proper utilization of the resources. Construction of eco-trails, ponds and chautari has been some of the observed results in the area through the influence of local people and other organizations. Information Boards, toilets have been added to further enhance the comparability of the tourist and visitors. This has also been an integral part of local people as an alternate source of livelihood. Issues such as over-exploitation, lack of proper maintenance and uncoordinated supervision should be properly addressed to have the benefit of ecotourism in the long run.

1. Background

As per the forest act 2019, Government of Nepal defined protected forest as a part of the National Forest with special environmental, scientific or cultural importance or of any other special importance. Panchase Forest Ecosystem (PFE) represents an important block of forest in the Middle Mountains, an ecological zone not well represented, amongst the country’s protected area system. Panchase Forest covers an area of approximately 10-12 square kilometer and is situated at the nexus of three districts namely Kaski, Parbat and Syangja of Gandaki Province, Nepal. The local people in the region consider the Panchase Forest and it’s peak (2509m) as a sacred landscape which has special religious significance for both Hindus and Buddhists. PFE is major source of fresh water for agricultural and domestic use in the surrounding communities, and as well the primary source for a number of local watersheds including Phewa lake Watershed. Furthermore PFE is rich in biodiversity, houses rare, threatened and endemic plant species including six endemic and three threatened orchid species (Bajracharya et  al., 2003; Subedi et  al., 2007,  2011;  Maren et  al.,  2013;  Raskoti,  2015;  Raskoti  &  Kurzweil,  2015). Furthermore, Panchase is home to number of endangered wildlife species including the Himalayan black bear (Ursus thibetanus), the common leopard (Panthera pardus), and eight species of bats (Aryal & Dhungel, 2009; Malla et. al., 2013). Panchase is an important mid-mountain ecological zone of Nepal (Bhattarai et al., 2012) and is considered as a biological corridor between Chitwan National Park and Annapurna Conservation Area. Despite that, the situation in the recent years has become increasingly degraded in terms of its geographic extent, threatening biodiversity richness, ecological processes and hydrological functioning. Panchase protected forest provides ecosystem services such as air and water purification, pollination, seed dispersal, climate modification, soil stabilization, drought and flood control, recycling of nutrients and maintenance of healthy habitats. Other important functions include spiritual and aesthetic values, supporting indigenous knowledge systems and education.

1.1 Ecotourism in Panchase Protected Forest

Ecotourism focuses on the concept of ‘responsible travel’ focusing on natural landscapes by conserving environment, improving well-being of local people, traveling to natural areas, minimizing impact, building environmental awareness, and providing direct financial benefits, empowerment for local people and respects to their local culture (Honey, 2008). In sustainable ecotourism, local government officials, local communities, NGOs, private sector and management committee play a great role for tourism development and maintenance of healthy environment (K.C., 2017). Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS) are the result of the interactions of nature and society in a given geographical and temporal context whose sustainability through time has depended on the careful management of ecosystem services and the multifunctional use of land within the carrying capacity and resilience of the environment. As a result, they constitute examples of areas with high capacity for biodiversity conservation, socioeconomic development and preservation of cultural assets such as traditional knowledge and local traditions (eds. Bélair et al. 2010). SEPLS prominently embeds in the principles that ecotourism has more beneficial impacts compared to adverse impacts on the environment, society and culture.

1.2 Private Sector in Eco-Tourism

The private sector should support the collection of fees from tourists for maintaining and improving the quality of parks and protected areas; developing facilities which are environmentally and culturally appropriate in scale, construction and context; introduce sound environmental practices including waste reduction and recycling; and explore joint ventures and partnerships with local communities, NGOs and other organizations for ecotourism development. Private sector has an important role to play in local socio-economic development in terms of employment creation, skills training and development, the payment of lease fees as well as through philanthropic development projects. Recommendations are put forward as to how the private sector can further effect positive change in the areas where it is operating and ensure long-term sustainability (Snyman, 2017). “Back to Nature”  takes the role of promotion of ecotourism on biodiversity garden adjoining Panchase landscape area within upstream of phewa lake while converging the activities like trekking, bird watching, homestay etc. and supplement the nature based activities like canyoning, paragliding, rafting etc. which convey the nature utilization in sustainable manner.

2. Study Area

The study covered the surrounding landscape of 500 ha around newly declared World Peace Biodiversity Park covering an area of 18.85 hectare area (core area 3.5 hectare and buffer area 15.35 hectare) located on Pokhara-23 in Kaski district, Nepal. The main vision behind the Biodiversity Park lies in prospect to promote ecotourism with applying principle of convention on biological diversity through conservation, sustainable use; and fair and equitable share of benefit from biodiversity compliance with IPSI thematic area. The landscape fall under the forest management regime of panchase protected forest comprising high diverse biodiversity like Schima wallichi, Castanopsis species, Orchid, Common leopard, Deer etc. The mosaic of landuse was characterized by agricultural, forestry, fishery, animal husbandry, hotel and tourism were the main economic sector which sustained the about 500 households with population comprises with brahmin, gurung, chhetri, magar, kami etc. World Peace Biodiversity Park covers the area under Jauchare dadhakarkha Bhirim Community Forest surrounded by adjoining Bhedikharka Community Forest and Jhapulokhe Kharka Community Forest. These landscapes are integrated with Phewa lake basin area connecting and interacting with the livelihood of the both the upstream and downstream lake basin with flow of cultural and regulating services between them.

Figure I:  Map of the country and case study region, South East Region of Panchase Region

Figure II: Map of World Biodiversity Park and Planned Feature

2.1 Resource Management Practices

Landscape comprises the wide range of traditional forest dwellers, fisherman and farmers communities embedded with local knowledge behind the traditional lifestyle and livelihood. Although the elder generation has developed attitude behind the biology, ecology and use of the biological diversity around their landmass, youths are more directed towards the income generation occupation like hotel, restaurant, tourism etc. These kind of generational economic shift has evolved the issues of degradation of local and traditional knowledge on biological and cultural diversity which been the limiting factor behind the success of biodiversity park. The water bodies important for flow of ecosystem service between lake basin structures are indicated healthy with the presence of important species occupying the ecological niche. Fireflies, recognized as keystone species, have disappeared due to environmental change and pollution led by human activities. Environmental degradation such as land conversion and loss of natural vegetation along the intertidal zone of the river, erosion of riverbank and increased salt water intrusion as a result of the dam built may give negative impact on the abundance of fireflies. The population which previously occupied all of the lake basin area fragmented to the upstream swampy area due to change in land-use like agricultural and irrigational advancement, industrialization, urbanization, pollution etc.

From the effort of SEPL, crucial traditional and customary practices existing in the communities aiding livelihood and sustainability of the natural environment are able to persist. Lowlands on the basin provides agriculture on the indigenous paddy field and fishery whereas upland farming practices involved wheat, millet, maize, potato etc. which were essential for the livelihood of the communities.

2.2 Conservation Value and Issue

In 1992, Convention on biological diversity manifested that biological resources should be used wisely and equitably in the sustainability manner. Nepal has brought paradigm shift in conservation from eco-centric to anthropogenic centric through formation, development and implementation of community based management of natural environment through community forestry, conservation area, buffer zone management, community based forest management, protection forest etc. 

The customary rights and practices, along with the majority of natural habitats are owned and managed by individuals and autonomous common ownership as community forestry under Panchase protected forest. The management plan is overseen by traditional institutions i.e. community forest user groups coordinated for technical support from legislative governance i.e. Divisional Forest Office. But, in the absence of alternative livelihood options, most of the economic activities are based upon utilization of natural resources leading to over exploitation of forest resources, arable land, water resources etc. Wildlife disturbance from mass tourism and tourism development activities like hotel, restaurant and lodges, local people exploit the resource base for livelihood consumption like hunting, overgrazing, encroachment, trophies etc. ultimately led to degradation of the resources. The mosaic matrix of land, water and natural resources creates livelihood opportunities through integrated approach on agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry.  Through this, stakeholders’ prompts need for synergy and tradeoff for sustainability of natural resources.

The initiation and development of ecotourism from World Peace Biodiversity Garden will create opportunities for connecting adjusting ecosystem and landscapes for exploring ecotourism related innovative works. “Back to Nature” with coordination from conservation committee and community forests are planning to create eco-trail connecting religious Shiva temple and biodiversity garden which circulates around the landscape. Public-private partnership initiates the enabling environment to foster eco-tourism from Fireflies tourism, Orchid tourism, Bird and butterfly tourism etc. in the WPBP and adjoining landscape. Thriving from the indigenous and traditional support from agriculture, forestry and fishery might create alternative livelihood for the protection and conservation of land, water and natural resources.

3. Activities and/or practices employed

The government of Nepal under Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment, Gandaki Province has developed working procedure for the ecotourism development on World Peace Biodiversity Park, Nepal and has formulated following activities until year 2024. The activities are implemented by conservation committee formulated under the communities coordinate and manage to obtain optimal benefits in a sustainable manner.

3.1 Role of Back To Nature

Back To Nature was established in 2011 with prime aim to initiate ecotourism in the inhibited area through adjoining landscape with proper involvement of the local communities’ resource, value, custom and folklore for the community well-being and fostering conservation of nature resources in sustainable manner.  Back To Nature has been providing conservation education and awareness program on the school, women groups and community forest user groups also been practicing ecotourism through traditional and cultural values of communities. Back To Nature creates enabling environment for the community participation on declaration of World Peace Biodiversity Park ensuring involvement from community forest, street development committee, women groups and local communities around the landscape.

3.2 Role of Communities

Community based organization like Community forest user groups, Women groups, Farmers groups, Street development committee and local communities have their niche for the ecotourism development and conservation priorities activities on the World Peace Biodiversity Garden. Local communities with diversity on their costumes, values, cultures and traditions with knowledge transfer from one generation to another were regarding uses of natural resources from communities on agriculture, forestry, fishery, farming etc. Essence for this includes management and utilization of the land, water and natural resources till to perpetuity for sustainable livelihood through conservation point of view. Thus, role of local communities of developing nation who rely on integration of land, water and nature resources for their livelihood play crucial role on conservation of the biodiversity on that particular area.

4. Results

4.1 Conservation Education and Ecotourism

Back To Nature, from it’s initiation, aimed for ecotourism development and biodiversity conservation on the adjacent Panchase protected forest landscape. The tourist destined for Back To Nature were mesmerized, educated and medicated from the adventures jungle walk, stream and waterfall scenic view, dew walk, natural fireflies and orchid sight and biodiversity around landscape primary focus on indigenous culture and tradition during stay. Local communities, school, clubs has been enlightened and they have become aware about the significance of biodiversity conservation and it’s role play on biodiversity as well as natural resources conservation from programs i.e. renovation, meeting etc. during the Declaration of World Peace Biodiversity Garden. From the integrated efforts from Back To Nature, local communities and Government of Nepal successful program and activities regarding ecotourism development and biodiversity conservation have been achieved ultimately progressive improvement on knowledge regarding ecotourism and biodiversity.

4.2 Declaration of World Peace Biodiversity Park, Pokhara

Back to Nature, with coordination from the communities under the WPBP, which was previously under community forest regime and technical assistance from Regional Forest Directorate, Gandaki province under Ministry Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment, Gandaki Province has developed the concept regarding World Peace Biodiversity Park, Pokhara for the biodiversity conservation and ecotourism development, employment and community development. World Peace Biodiversity Park was managed by Conservation committee developed from consensus of the community forest user groups, community based organization, local level government, schools, women groups and street development committee advisory under Ministry Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment, Gandaki Province. Conservation committee thus developed to take role of the leadership and management on the financial and technical support from national and international donor for the ecotourism and conservation activities for World Peace Biodiversity Garden, Pokhara and the adjoining landscapes.

Figure III: Renovation program of World Peace Biodiversity Park from Tourism and Forest Minister of Gandaki Province

Figure IV: Coordination meeting during innovation program

4.3 Alternate Livelihood Initiation from Ecotourism

The work related to the ecotourism, initiated with the declaration of World Peace Biodiversity Park within the Panchase Landscape with emphasizes the protection of natural resources, biodiversity and sustainability of resources. The impact from the society on the environment will be minimized with initiation of SEPL around the Panchase Landscape and development of ecotourism basis for alternative livelihood. “Back To Nature”, as a private sector can play crucial role on the promotion and development of ecotourism activities demonstrated by natural and ecosystem activities like jungle walk, dew walk, bird watching etc. with coordination from community based organization and local government. The food and accommodation services provided by the Back to Nature are the produce prepared through applying the traditional practices, customs and folklore compliance with organic and natural characteristic and taste. Eco tourists also engage with the local communities to understand their traditions, culture, food and conservation activities. This has further motivated the communities, including those from neighboring villages, to take up conservation and protect their natural resources.

During the periodic year 2020; eco-trail, water source improvement, welcome gate construction and other activities were implemented from conservation committee of World Peace Biodiversity Park which contributed to development of ecotourism in the area and the adjoining landscapes.

4.4 Welcome Gate and Eco-trail Construction

World Peace Biodiversity Park is supported by a welcome gate leading to entrance path and ecotrail of 300 meter long and 2 meter wide covering the beautiful forest and water stream area advancing to the upper land for landscape and traditional views. The goal of these activities is to initiate ecotourism and conservation measure for optimal exploitation of natural environment for employment and economic empowerment without degradation of natural flora and fauna.

Figure V: Welcome gate construction as entry point for World Peace Biodiversity Park.

Figure VI: Eco-trail to World Peace Biodiversity Park

4.5 Construction of Pond and Chautari (Shed place of plant)

Three rectangular chautari and one circular pokhari were constructed in the vicinity. Customs, folklore and tradition were preliminary factor for the ideas and design of these structures which also mirrors the traditional religious beliefs and values in the community.

Figure VII: Construction of Pond

Figure VIII: Construction of Chautari for Shed for eco-tourists

4.6 Information Board and Sanitation

An information board was built near the welcome gate about the plan regarding the objective behind the declaration of World Peace Biodiversity Park that as well portrays the visitor information regarding the area. Three garbage buckets and an accessible toilet were installed on the path of the ecotrail for the creation of pollution free environment which doesn’t impact with resilience to provide clean and fresh health from the nature. 

Figure IX: Construction of sanitation places for visitors

5. Lesson learned and Key Messages

Ecotourism has become integral part in the development of nature based areas in Nepal as they help uplift local people’s livelihood economically and create an opportunity for them to develop themselves. SEPL is an innovated system of interaction between nature and human which creates a circle of conservation and utilization between them. So, WPBP is one of the umpteenth example through which we can cast away the doubt of impacts of ecotourism on the nature. However, it is inevitable that some issues and obstacle arises during the implementation period such as over exploitation of resources, lack of timely maintenance of infrastructure, decline of local people’s enthusiasm due to less benefit cost ratio. Thus, problems should be addressed instantaneously and there needs to be a web of communication and governance between local government, NGO’s, local communities to maintain and enhance the prospectus of the area. Finally, carrying capacity and impromptu decisions should be taken in consideration to maintain the natural ecosystem.

6. Conclusion

The case study of the World Peace Biodiversity Park, Pokhara has yielded positive results in terms of sustainable use of biological resources by adopting long-term sustainability, enhanced governance and effective conservation of SEPLs. Enhancement and promotion on ecotourism related activities by the communities and Back To Nature preceded with declaration of World Peace Biodiversity Park, Pokhara in conjunction with Gandaki Province Government and Forest Department. Further maintenance requires technique, finance and institutional support to encourage and sustain the practice of WPBG formation and sustainable management.

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