How Wetlands Sustainably function and Government Involved -- A Case Study

As a part of our course content of Wildlife and Protected Area Management subject, our team of IOF M.Sc. Forestry's first-year first semester went field tour to Chitwan National Park to learn how wildlife is monitored, habitat management of wildlife and wetland ecosystem conservation and management. All the students in the team visited Beeshazaar and its associated lakes to get knowledge about the concept, threats, management, key gaps and issues in wetland biodiversity conservation. Students are grouped into different groups assigning different assignments. A group of four among all team members are assigned to study along with status, condition and various activities performed in association with wetland specifically focusing on how wetlands sustainably function in the long run and how the government can more involved in its sustainability with reference to those lakes.

Introduction to Beeshazaar Lake

Beeshazaar and associated lakes are also known as Bishazari Tal. These lakes lie in the buffer zone of Chitwan National Park, one of World Heritage Site, thus it has international importance. This wetland also a part of the Bharandabhar biological corridor that serves as a linkage between Chitwan National Park in the South and Mahabharat hills in the North. The five other associated lakes of Beeshazaar lake are Tikauli 1 lake, Tikauli 2 lake, Chepang lake, Ashok lake, and Aamshodi lake. 
How Wetlands Sustainably function and Government Involved -- A Case Study: Beeshazaar lake in Chitwan.
Beeshazaar lake, Chitwan. A freshwater wetland.
The forested wetland area is rich in biological diversity and recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) due to highly rich in avifauna which consists of 273 species of birds. Along with that, the area consists of 26 species of mammals, 25 species of fishes, 18 species of herpetofauna, 37 species of insects and 131 species of plants. The dominated terrestrial vegetation on the adjacent forest is Sal (Shorea robusta) in association with Saaj (Terminalia tomentosa), Bot Dhainyaro (Lagerstroemia parviflora), Simal (Bombax ceiba), Satisal (Dalbergia latifolia), etc.  Beeshazaar and its associated lakes are listed as a Ramsar site in 2003 and are one out of 10 in Nepal. The community-based conservation approach is used for the conservation and management of this wetland. Lake receives water from direct precipitation during the monsoon and through inflow from the Khageri irrigation canal. Lake water is supplied through the canal and the stream during the dry season (SMP, 2014). 

What is Wetland?


Wetland is also known as “Simsar” in Nepal. Wetlands are those areas that lie between the land and deepwater and remain waterlogged or submerged underwater, seasonally or throughout the year (Jha, 2008). Wetland is a dynamic, diverse and ecologically productive system. Based on biological, social, ecological and economic perspectives, the wetland is a valuable part of the natural system. Wetlands are sometimes described as “the kidneys of the landscapes” because of the functions they performed in hydrologic and chemical cycles and as downstream receivers of wastes from both natural and human sources (Poudel, 2009).

The national wetland policy of Nepal defines a wetland as: “Perennial water bodies that originate from underground sources of water or rains. It means swampy areas with flowing or stagnant fresh or saltwater that are natural or man-made, or permanent or temporary. Wetlands also mean marshy lands, riverine floodplains, lakes, ponds, water storage areas, and agricultural lands.” (MoFSC 2013).

Wetland provides suitable habitats to most of the rare species and various other kinds of flora and fauna. Along with the conservation of water resources, it also helps to regulate its flow and maintain its quality. Wetland contributes to irrigation, fish-farming, eco-tourism, agricultural productivity enrichment along with sustaining biodiversity resulting in a contribution to local and national economic growth.

How Wetlands Sustainably function and Government Involved -- A Case Study: Beeshazaar lake a touristic destination
Students taking a picture in Beeshazaar lake, a touristic destination.

Increasing recognition of Wetland in Nepal


Nepal has only freshwater wetlands and that cover an area of about seven hundred fifty thousand hectares i.e. 6 % of the national area. Wetland serves as an ecological protection shield from climate change and soil erosion as it heavily reduced its impacts. Thus, it's urgent for proper protection, management and sustainable use of such areas. To date there are 10 wetlands areas listed as Ramsar sites in Nepal and enlisting of other wetlands is being continued. In 1996, during wetlands inventory by IUCN-Nepal 163 sites wetlands from Terai and 79 sites wetlands were identified (IUCN-Nepal, 1996).


In Nepal, wetland degradation or loss, loss in species diversity and its abundance, excessive use of wetland resource or services, ownership perplexity, conflicting policy, and law, not proper coordination among stakeholders were major challenges, solving those problems in coordination with stakeholder wetland conservation and its sustainable use is made effective under Wetland Policy 2012 (Wetland Policy 2069 –  Nepali Year ‘B.S.’).

Findings of Field Visit


In the field, the information regarding wetland and various activities are done around the wetland for the management and conservation was received through informal conversation with a key person, the head of the buffer zone community forest. Open questions related to the topic are asked. Field observation was also done around the wetland to observe the activities performed around. For the secondary information either formal or informal from the published and unpublished documents were taken as references from the different institutes.

Beeshazaar lake and its associated lakes help to regulate its flow and maintain its quality and provide a suitable habitat for rare species and various kinds of flora and fauna. It contributes to irrigation, fish-farming, eco-tourism, agricultural enrichment along with sustaining biodiversity resulting in a contribution to local and national economic growth. Wetland maintenance activities are like the removal of invasive species Eichornia crassipes and applying siltation and sedimentation controlling measures. 

Functional sustainability of wetland

More than 50% world’s wetland decline, degraded or lost in the last 150 years mainly decline in the area due to anthropogenic activities as wetland resources play an important role in the livelihood of ethnic communities. Wetland is an important aspect of wildlife habitats. Wetlands' health and condition determine the quality of the wildlife habitat. Wetlands either static or flowing is an important component of wildlife habitats and also regarded as the kidney of nature. It signifies only healthy wetlands can keep the wildlife habitat function well and healthy.
Sustainable development and environmental balance are essential for healthy wetlands. Wetland conservation and management should be done with the sustainable and wise use of wetland resources. Despite tremendous efforts, the loss and deterioration of wetlands and their resources are continuing in an alarming way (Bhandari, 2009).

Previously, wetlands are least considered for its importance and neglected behind in conservation activities. But in recent decades, wetlands have received due consideration in the case of wildlife habitat management and sustaining the ecosystem. Wetland is considered sustainable only when they are able to cope and recover from stress and shocks so that they able to develop ability and capabilities for future events as well (Lamsal, 2015).

Activities performed for functional sustainability of wetland


People nearby Beeshazaar and associated lakes depend on resources on and around the lakes.  For the functional sustainability of wetland, the economic upliftment of wetland resources dependent locals is essential. These can be performed through various income-generating activities and training provided to them like fish farming is one of the economic activities performed in the two lakes. Recently, harvesting of fishes was done in Chepang lake. Larger fish are harvested leaving behind a smaller one. Central fish farming support NRs. 1.5 crore each year for fish farming.  The exotic/hybrid breed of fishes has been reared not the local ones to make higher production. Earn 15 million Nepalese Rupees each year from fish farming alone. In Tikauli lake, where there are fewer fishes are covered with floating vegetation all over the lake. It was kept without removing the floating vegetation so, that fishes on the lake can be preserved from numerous birds around the lakes.
Removal of Invasive Species Eichoria from Beeshazaar lake



In addition to that, the community forest user committee who are managing adjoining forest and lake receive entry fee from visitors visiting this site. The site is very famous for birds. Over 273 birds are available on this Ramsar site. Visitors for bird watching are also visited an insignificant amount. The community forest members managing the wetland were developing the garden in the encroached area, building homestay, eco-park development, etc. so that people enter forests rarely. Forest dependent livelihood slowly diversifies in other aspects.  Only a few amounts of wood or timber extracted from the forest for local use, as dry and old trees are also left for residential and migratory birds for nesting and resting purposes, basically, firewoods are distributed among farmers. However, sedimentation control in Beeshazaar lake is challenging and there no effective activities observed.

Government involvement in Management of Beeshazaar and its associated lakes


Nepal’s wetlands have been suffered from human conversion, over-exploitation, pollution of water, invasion of invasive species, human encroachment, and deposition of sediments (Bandari, 2009). Thus, the involvement of government is urgently essential for regulating most productive but threatened ecosystems with several acts and regulation in favor of local people as well (Poudel, 2009). Community participation plays vital role in management, utilization, and conservation of resources (Shrestha, 2011). Local participation is an effective tool for establishing an ecologically balanced use of available land and water resources. The participation of the wetland users are crucial for extenuating the problems related to the wetland. GoN tries to ease on wetland protection and wise use of wetland resources, by preparing wetland related policy and laws and help to fulfill responsibilities accordance with international agreement/convention like Ramsar Convention 1971, Biodiversity Convention 1992, Climate Change Convention 1992 however, these all should be reflected in the action.

Some activities where the involvement of government is observed in this wetland is briefly shown hereafter. Site management plan preparation work of this lake was financially supported by Nepal Government with the technical support from DNPWC and in the involvement of local stakeholders which help to support the implementation of the Convention on Wetlands in the Beeshazar and associated lakes. Beeshazaar and associate lakes 3200 hectares were enlisted in Ramsar Site on 13th August 2003. The government provides support of NRs. 15 million in fish farming through Central fish farming to the community. The government is also supporting to create a grassland and for its management of this community forest. The government provides technical supports as well as monetary funds for the conservation and management of the wetland when in need.

Way government can be more involved


The government should play an important role in coordinating among various agencies (Bhandari, 2009). There is no proper coordination among the governmental organization and other organization that shares the same work space working for the same objective of conserving and management of the resources. Government alone cannot conserve and manage the resources but it can promote community-based conservation activities. It is a better alternative and an effective tool in solving conflict and engaging community participation for resource conservation, including wetlands. It helps to meet the people’s needs and objectives of conservation both at the same time when working in co-ordination. An important action the government urgently undertake is to develop a national wetland act and national inventory of wetland. This would help to give details about the wetland and plan in accordance with it. Also, forming an inter-disciplinary body to look over the issues, controlling invasive species, etc. can enhance to some extent.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Effects have been made towards the wise use of wetlands and its resources but not adequate to promote their conservation and sustainable use. More activities are mainly focused on economic activities towards food security and poverty alleviation, activities directly related to environmental protection and wetland conservation are under priority. It seems a necessary condition for conserving the resources is depends on the ability of the local’s community to detect, measure and reverse ecological changes (Lamsal, 2015).

However, socially, economically and ecologically the wetland is in the way towards sustainability. Local participation is an effective tool for establishing an ecological balance use of available land and water resources. Forest dependent livelihoods of locals slowly diversify in other aspects like eco-tourism, cottage industry, and business. Focuses should be given more on non-consumptive use of the wetland resources such as for tourism yet resources need to be managed and conserved properly.

Reference:

Bhandari, B. B. (2009). Wise use of Wetlands in Nepal. Banko Janakari, 10-17.

IUCN-Nepal (1996) An Inventory of Nepal’s Wetlands. Kathmandu: IUCN-Nepal

Jha, S. (2008). Status and conservation of lowland Terai wetlands in Nepal. Our Nature, 6(1), 67-77

Lamsal, P., Pant, K. P., Kumar, L., & Atreya, K. (2015). Sustainable livelihoods through conservation of wetland resources: a case of economic benefits from Ghodaghodi Lake, western Nepal. Ecology and Society, 20(1).

MoFSC (2013) Government of Nepal, Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation.

Poudel, B. S. (2009). Wetland conservation in Nepal: policies, practices, problems, and possibilities. Banko Janakari, 5-9.

Shrestha, U. (2011). Community participation in wetland conservation in Nepal. Journal of Agriculture and Environment, 12, 140-147.

SMP. (2014). Site Management Plan of Beeshazar and its associated lakes, CNP, DNPWC, MoFSC, Government of Nepal

How Wetlands Sustainably function and Government Involved -- A Case Study How Wetlands Sustainably function and Government Involved -- A Case Study Reviewed by Amrit Devkota on January 17, 2020 Rating: 5

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