Reforestation initiative that helped triple Nepal's tiger population recognized as one of seven UN World Restoration Flagships

Posted on 13 February 2024

The Terai Arc Landscape initiative has already brought back to life a forest area 13 times the size of Kathmandu.
Local communities that teamed up with government and civil society groups to protect and restore 66,800 hectares of forest in Nepal, boosting biodiversity and supporting local communities, have been honoured as one of seven UN World Restoration Flagships. 

The Terai Arc Landscape initiative aims to protect a biodiversity hotspot shared by India and Nepal that was rapidly degrading. On Nepal’s side alone, more than 7.5 million people and a plethora of wildlife – tigers, rhinos, elephants, black bucks, buffaloes, crocodiles, and birds – depend on the vast Terai Arc Landscape, stretching across 2.47 million hectares. As poaching, habitat loss, degradation, and human tiger conflict increased, the forested area receded, and wildlife decreased.  

The initiative – which started with the Government of Nepal’s launch of the Terai Arc Landscape Program in 2001 – has already brought back to life a forest area 13 times the size of Kathmandu, and nearly tripled its tiger population to 355 from 121. In the entire Terai Arc landscape, shared by India and Nepal, the population more than doubled to 1,174. According to partners in the project, some 40,000 local community members, engaged in community-based anti-poaching units, citizen science, and nature-based tourism, and as forest watchers, are already improving the livelihoods of almost 500,000 households.  

The World Restoration Flagship awards are part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and  Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) – which aims to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. The awards track notable initiatives following global commitments to restore one billion hectares – an area larger than China. The award for the Terai Arc Landscape initiative was announced by UN Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador, actress and environmentalist, Dia Mirza.  

With its recognition as a World Restoration Flagship, the Terai Arc Landscape will now be eligible for technical and financial UN support towards plans to restore an area of almost 350,000 hectares in India and Nepal, or 70 times the size of Nepal’s capital.  

"The transboundary Terai Arc Landscape serves not only as a biodiversity hotspot – it also serves as a true testament to the effectiveness of the landscape approach of conservation,” said Dr. Birendra Prasad Mahato, Minister of Forests and Environment of Nepal. “We are incredibly grateful for this recognition from the UN and are 
encouraged to continue tackling existing and new challenges faced by our forests, wildlife, and communities." 

Landscape approaches recognize the interconnections between people and nature and address environmental challenges across sectors, such as agriculture, forestry and economy.  

In the past decades, the Terai Arc Landscape’s wildlife became isolated in forest patches in protected areas due to human-led forest degradation outside them. The focus of restoration efforts in the Terai Arc Landscape was thus on corridors that connect forested patches, through planting native species and protecting natural forest regeneration. 

"The Terai Arc Landscape initiative does not protect nature by pulling people out of it, but by bringing people and nature closer together,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “After decades of uncontrolled exploitation and degradation, resources are now urgently needed to rebuild that connection and restore vital 
ecosystems. This is key to tackling climate change, biodiversity loss, and rampant pollution.” 

As a World Restoration Flagship, the Terai Arc Landscape is recognized as one of the best examples of large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration in any country or region, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. 
The Terai Arc Landscape has been recognized as a UN World Restoration flagship. The initiative has already brought back to life a forest area 13 times the size of Kathmandu, and nearly tripled its tiger population to 355 from 121.
© WWF Nepal
Communities in the Terai Arc Landscape, Nepal.
© UNEP
Conserving wetlands of the Terai Arc Landscape has become crucial work, linked directly to natural habitat for local biodiversity as well as management of water bodies for livelihoods of local communities.
Conserving wetlands of the Terai Arc Landscape has become crucial work, linked directly to natural habitat for local biodiversity as well as management of water bodies for livelihoods of local communities.
© WWF Nepal, Hariyo Ban Progam