«His Majesty's Government Ministry of Population and Environment Kathmandu, Nepal June 2000 Ministry of Population and Environment 1 State of the ...»
Forest depletion and/or deforestation is more pronounced in localised areas. The Terai areas suffer from firewood scarcity, and firewood consumption is replaced by cattle dung, indicating possible decline in soil fertility. Tree felling has been banned since the early 1980s, however, the forest stock in the Terai has not improved in terms of production. Firewood and fodder demands are met from forests in the uplands and forest depletion has thus continued. Removal of ground cover and/or the felling of trees for infrastructure development, as part of site clearance, is inevitable in the mountains. All these causes have accelerated soil loss and 1.63 mm of soil removal is estimated from the entire surface area. It has also adverse impact on wildlife habitat. Mature forests have also been converted to open grazing lands. Change in quality and quantity has multifold adverse impacts on the environment. In particular, the soil erosion related downstream effects are significant in terms of the production of farmland and water bodies.
Continued extraction of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), particularly medicinal plants has reduced its stock. Out of over 100 plant species in trade, five species are traded from all five physiographic zones. They are bojho (Acorus calamus), kutki (Picrorhiza kurroa), padamchal (Rheum
Figure 4. Annual Revenue from Forests Source: Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation 2.
5.2 Community Forests The Community Forestry Programme, executed by the Department of Forests of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, aims to protect, manage and use the forest by local forest users' groups (FUGs).
Community forestry is a major component of the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector. Under this programme all accessible hill forests will be handed over to local communities. People within local communities that use the forest are legally recognised and authorised as the primary agents of forest management. The coverage of the community forestry programme has been extended in almost all parts of the country with the assistance of bilateral and multi-lateral donors.
Ministry of Population and Environment 40 State of the Environment Report, 2000 It is estimated that there is a potential of 1,876,300 ha forested and of 1,585,800 ha non-forested land which can be developed as community forests. Similarly, 2,313,100 ha of Nepal's current national forest can also be considered potential community forest. As of March 2000, HMG has handed over a total of about 0.650 million ha of State-managed forest to over 9,000 community forestry user groups for the development, conservation, management and sustainable use of the forests. Through this process, about 1 million people are directly benefited from being a member of the user groups.
2.5.3 Biological Diversity
Nepal contains biological species of both Indo-Malayan and Palaeoarctic realms, including endemic Himalayan flora and fauna. Different types of forest ecosystems, including a large number of deep valleys and considerable vertical extensions have contributed to the formation of many isolated localities. This may have contributed to the varied species over the years. Phytogeographically, Nepal is also known to contain plant and animal species as found in various floristic sub-regions, including, SinoJapanese, Irano-Turanian, Central Asiatic and Indo-Malayan floristic regions. Central Nepal is rich in diverse species and comprises both eastern and western species.
Traditional belief and use of certain parts of species for various purposes has been deeply rooted in Nepalese culture. For example, peepal tree (Ficus religiosa), Bar tree (Ficus bengalensis), parijat (Nyctanthes arbortristis), and tulasi (Ocimum sanctum) are considered sacred plants.
Biological species are also major food stuffs and a source of protein. An estimation points that over 190 species of wild plants are commonly used by local people as food and fruits (MFSC, 1997). Domesticated species have further importance to Nepalese society as a majority of people depend on agriculture and livestock raising.
Nepal falls in the 25th and 11th position in terms of species richness at the global and continental level respectively. Though it constitutes only about
0.03 per cent of the total land mass of the world and 0.3 per cent of Asia, yet it harbours about 2 per cent of flowering plants, 3 per cent of pteridophytes, and 6 per cent of bryophytes of the world's flora (Tables 2.5.2).
Nepal is home to about 246 species of flowering plants and 248 species of non-flowering plants. More endemic species may be recorded after completing the country-wide plant exploration activity. Distribution of these endemic species is limited to the Himalayas, out of which Annapurna Conservation Area (55 species) is considered rich in endemic plant species followed by Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (36 species) and Shey Phoksundo NP (30 species) (Shrestha and Joshi, 1996).
Over 1,000 species of angiosperms are originally described from Nepalese flora (Shrestha and Joshi, 1996). They also recorded a total of 93 plant species with "nepalensis" epithet and of them, 32 species are endemic to Nepal. Few plants have also been described with the epithet of Nepalese scientists. Some plant species are considered threatened due to increasing pressure on their usage. Shrestha and Joshi (1996) documented 60 nonendemic plant species and 47 endemic plant species under the threatened category. Out of the plant species endemic to Nepal, 8 species are extinct, 1 endangered, and 7 vulnerable, while 31 fall under the IUCN rare species category. Of the non-endemic plants, 22 species are considered rare, 12 species are listed under endangered category and 11 species in the vulnerable category. Annex 3 depicts a general list of flora and fauna mentioned in the CITES Appendices. In view of over-exploitation and the urgent need for their conservation, HMG has given legal protection status to 13 plant species under the Forest Act, 1992 (Annex 4).
Similarly, Nepal is also comparatively rich in faunal species. Over 4.3 and
8.5 per cent of the total world’s mammals and birds are found in Nepal (Table 2.5.3). Two species of birds and a mammal is endemic to Nepal.
Due to its diverse ecosystem Nepal is also a meeting point of several faunal species. A total of 645 species of butterflies belonging to 11 families are reported from Nepal in different habitats (BPP, 1995). Of these 29 species are considered endemic, 142 species threatened and 12 species endangered. With regards to insects, about 5,052 species belonging to 22 orders with five endemic species have thus far been reported. Similarly, 185 species of fishes have been recorded (Shrestha, 1995). Out of which 8 species are considered endemic, 9 vulnerable and 24 rare. About 43 species of amphibians with 9 endemic species, and 100 species of reptiles with 2 endemic species have also been reported in Nepal. Similarly, about 144 species of spiders are reported in the areas ranging from 1,000 m to 6,500 m altitude (Thapa, 1997).
Nepal is also exceptionally rich in bird species. A total of 844 species of birds are recorded, of which 11 species are considered extinct, 2 species are endemic, 22 species are listed under the IUCN threatened species category, and 40 species in the CITES appendices. Current information indicates the presence of a total of 185 species of mammals belonging to 39 families and 12 orders. The two orders - Carnivora and Rodentia are the largest orders with 43 species each, while Primates are represented by only three species (BPP, 1995). Of these, one rodent species is endemic to Nepal while three species of mammals are considered extinct. Due to the increasing pressure on wildlife, HMG has given legal protection status to 26 species of mammals, 9 species of birds and 3 species reptiles (Annex 5). With regard to the threatened animal species, 28 species of mammals, 22 species of birds, 9 species of reptiles and 2 species of invertebrates are considered threatened (Uprety, 1998).
Ministry of Population and Environment 43 State of the Environment Report, 2000 Similarly diversity exists in domestic plants and animals. Over 400 species of agro-horticultural crops and about 200 species of vegetables have been reported in Nepal (NAA, 1995). Of these, around 50 species have been domesticated for commercial and household consumption. Seasonal fruits harvested from forests belong to about 37 genera and 45 species. In case of potatoes, about 11 local species are known. Similarly, there are more than 100 varieties of 15 major fruits, 200 varieties of 50 major vegetables and about 10 varieties of potatoes under commercial cultivation. Some of the wild genotypes have also been identified and domesticated for economic value by the local people through their own experience and wisdom. Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC) has stored the germplasm of various crops - cereals, grain legumes, oil seeds, vegetables, and spice species and which totals to about 8,400 accession. For rice crops alone, there are about 680 accessions and 713 for finger millet.
Plant exploration has increased the number of species each time. At present, more than 150,000 plant specimens have been collected and scientifically stored at the National Herbarium, Godavari (DPR, 1999).
There is an increasing trend in the population of some wild animals. For example, the rhino count revealed a significant increase in its population, from 60 to 80 in the late 1960s to about 450 in 1994. Similarly, continued protection measures have increased the number of other endangered wild species such as tiger and musk deer. They are conserved in the protected areas, forests, botanical gardens, conservatories and zoo.
In general, species outside the protected areas are under great pressure due to habitat loss and/or degradation, over-extraction and illegal collection of forest products, and poaching and hunting of wild animals. Wild animals are illegally hunted or poached due to the economic value of their products.
For example, the sloth bear is hunted for its gall bladder, rhino for its horn, musk deer for its musk, and tiger and leopard for their skin and bones.
However, the loss of biodiversity has not been clearly recorded. But it can be safely summarised that if the present consumption pattern of forest products, introduction of breed varieties of cattle, and collection of forest and wildlife products continues, without knowledge of the carrying capacity, it will pose adverse impacts on biological species and cause genetic erosion.
Forest management in Nepal is evolving from tree protection to ecosystem management. Forests are under pressure for meeting the demand of forest products such as firewood, fodder, timber, and other non-timber forest products, including medicinal plants. Based on the current trend of forest
Nepal is rich in wild and domesticated plants, and animal species in terms of per unit area. The percentage share of wild plants and animals with global biodiversity calls for their conservation and sustainable use. The present policy of forest management through forestry user groups, conservation area development and management, and buffer zone management approaches will help to strengthen natural resources conservation with people's participation.
Energy demand is met from a combination of traditional and commercial sources such as fuelwood, agricultural residues, animal waste, solar power and hydropower. Hydro-resources represent a large fraction of the total theoretical energy potential (83,000MW) and economically feasible potential of 42,000 MW. However, thus far only about 253 MW of hydropower has been harnessed which accounts to about 0.3 per cent of the total power potential. Energy consumption has been increasing over the years along with population growth. The consumption rate has increased by about 50 per cent, from 4.5 million Tons of Oil Equivalent (TOE) in 19980/81 to 7.1 million TOE in 1998/99. The traditional and commercial sources of energy accounted for 88.9 per cent and 11.1 per cent in 1997/98 respectively, and there is an increasing trend of utilising commercial energy. Of the total commercial energy, the share of petroleum product, coal and electricity were 7.8, 2.3 and 1.0 per cent respectively.
Traditionally fuelwood has been the major source of energy, and about 79 per cent of the total population met their energy demand from forest products. The share of wood, agriculture and livestock residues is estimated at 79.4, 3.6 and 5.9 per cent respectively (MOF, 1999).
Agricultural residues and animal waste (dung) are now evolving as major sources of energy in the countryside, which could be used for farm production also.
Nepal also depends on imported fossil fuel. While there is continued exploration for identification of petroleum reserves, a few potential sites of natural gas have already been identified. For example, Kathmandu Valley is known to have natural gas reserves of about 300 million m3. For nonconventional energy resources the solar energy potential is estimated at
26.6 million MW (WECS, 1996). Thus far four solar power stations are in Ministry of Population and Environment 45 State of the Environment Report, 2000 operation in a limited scale. Of these four stations, the following are being operated by the government. They are at Gamgadhi in Mugu, Simikot in Humla, Kodari in Tatopani, Sindhupalchok. While the one at Risti Pulemarang in Tanahu is operated by a NGO. The potential of wind energy is yet to be determined. However, Kagbeni in Mustang District is known to have a potential of generating about 200 MW of electric power, with an annual energy production of 500 GWh. Potential geothermal energy is yet to be estimated, though about 100 geothermal springs of tectonic origin with surface temperature ranging form 25-450 C are localised in 10 major areas (Rana, 1986). Biogas has also become an important alternative energy source with an annual potential production of about 1,200 million m3, which is equivalent to 29 million Giga Jules (GJ).
Biomass is primarily used as fuel for cooking and heating as well as fodder for livestock. The total fuelwood supply is estimated to be 5.4 million metric tons, of which government forests alone contribute to about 70 per cent.