World's third highest mountain turned over to local communities in Nepal
WWF, the global conservation organization, was instrumental in the decision and will work with local communities to implement a conservation programme for the area over the next five years.
Nepal's State Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation, Gopal Rai, handed over the management of Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) today to the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Management Council at a ceremony in Taplejung, Nepal, in the mountainous eastern part of the country.
"I am very happy to be part of this significant day when the people of Kangchenjunga take on the responsibility of managing this conservation area," said Minister Rai while addressing the community members gathered on the occasion.
"I am convinced that the local communities will show even greater commitment to saving the unique natural and cultural heritage of Kangchenjunga."
The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area is known for its rich biodiversity, spectacular scenery and vibrant cultural heritage. Launched in 1998, the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area project is designed to conserve globally threatened wildlife species such as the snow leopard and red panda while supporting the local communities through health services, informal education and income generating activities.
"This is a historic day for one of the world's most spectacular natural treasures," said Mingma Norbu Sherpa, Director of WWF's Eastern Himalayas Programme. "The decision shows the government's commitment to give power to local communities, especially with regard to natural resources and equitable sharing of benefits."
Since 1998, WWF has invested US$1.5 million in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project. In that time, pressure on local forests has decreased while the positive attitude of locals toward wildlife conservation has increased. In addition, wildlife poaching and illegal harvesting of valuable medicinal plants have decreased and committees have been formed to monitor wildlife movement and illegal activities. WWF will support the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Management Council for the next five years as part of its Sacred Himalayan Landscape.
"This is a great day for the people of Kangchenjunga," added Dawa Tshering Sherpa, chairman of the KCA Management Council, which was formed in 2000 to represent all stakeholders in the Kanchenjunga region. "We are ready to take on this responsibility thanks to capacity building and local development supported by organizations like WWF."
Dr Chandra P. Gurung, WWF's Country Representative in Nepal, said he, on behalf of WWF, was very proud to be part of this effort.
"The handover will be held up around the world as a positive example of people managing their natural resources and enable others to learn how to make conservation more equitable and sustainable," he said.
• The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area is known for its rich biodiversity, its spectacular scenery, including Mount Kangchenjunga (8586m), and rich cultural heritage represented by the 5,254 inhabitants living within the four Village Development Committees (VDCs) of Lelep, Olangchung Gola, Tapethok and Yamphudin. In support of WWF’s Living Planet Campaign, the area was declared A Gift to the Earth in April 1997.
• The Sacred Himalayan Landscape (SHL) Programme is designed to conserve the landscapes surrounding the mountains of the eastern Himalayas while improving local livelihoods, in particular, a Himalayan landscape where the biological and cultural treasures of the world's highest sacred mountains and deepest valleys are safeguarded while traditional rights over resource use are ensured, and livelihoods of mountain people are enhanced and sustained. The programme has been endorsed by Nepal's Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. A Sacred Himalayan Landscape Strategic Plan has been prepared under the leadership of the ministry and key partners.
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Trishna Gurung, Communications and Marketing Manager