Local community to manage Kangchenjunga Conservation Area

Posted on 22 September 2006

Power to the People! Kangchenjunga Conservation Area handover by the Government of Nepal to a local council at a ceremony in Taplejung on Friday, 22 September. This is the first time that the government has endorsed the management of a protected area by local communities-marking an important step in the devolution of power. This watershed event will allow for many other such conservation opportunities in Nepal. It also highlights how WWF promoted local communities to take responsibility for their natural resources. The State Minister for the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation Honorable Gopal Rai flew to Taplejung with other dignitaries including Dr Chandra Gurung, Country Representative of WWF Nepal, Mr Mingma Sherpa of WWF US, and Dr Jill Bowling, Conservation Director-WWF UK.

The State Minister for the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation Honorable Gopal Rai handed over the management of Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) to the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Management Council at a ceremony in Taplejung on Friday, 22 September.

This historic step is an important landmark in the history of biodiversity conservation in the country. It shows the commitment of the Government of Nepal towards the devolution of power to local communities, especially with regard to natural resources and equitable sharing of benefits.

“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 local communities will show even greater commitment to saving the unique natural and cultural heritage of Kangchenjunga.”

The people of Kangchenjunga have long expressed their eagerness to take on the responsibility of this conservation area. The KCA Management Council was formed in 2000 and represents all stakeholders culled from seven Conservation Area User Committees, 44 User Groups, and 32 Mother Groups. These community-based institutions were involved in all Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project activities, implemented by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation with the technical and financial support of WWF Nepal.

The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Management Plan was submitted by the council to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, in July 2004 and was approved by the cabinet of the Government of Nepal on 31 August 2006. The goal of the management plan is that biodiversity of Kangchenjunga Conservation Area is managed by local communities to ensure ecological integrity and bring socio-economic benefits.

“This is a great day for the people of Kangchenjunga,” said Dawa Tshering Sherpa, chairman of KCA management council. “We are ready to take on this responsibility thanks to capacity building and local development supported by organizations like WWF.”

WWF Nepal’s work through the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project succeeded in integrating biodiversity conservation with local development, also empowering local people through capacity enhancement activities. The global conservation organization will support the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Management Council for the next five years as part of the larger Sacred Himalayan Landscape.
“We are very proud to be part of this effort,” said Dr Chandra P Gurung, Country Representative of WWF Nepal. “The handover will be held up around the world as a positive example of people managing their natural resources and enable learning on how to make conservation more equitable and sustainable.” He also thanked the Government of Nepal, particularly the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, for taking such a bold step that proves conservation is being achieved in Nepal through partnerships between all stakeholders.

Since 1998, WWF has invested US$ 1.5 million in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project. While the successful hand over of the conservation area to the local community is the biggest gain, there is less pressure on local forests and positive attitude towards wildlife conservation among the people. Wildlife poaching and illegal harvesting of valuable medicinal plants has decreased. Committees have been formed to monitor wildlife movement and illegal activities.

“WWF is greatly encouraged by successes like what has happened in Kangchenjunga,” said Mingma Norbu Sherpa of WWF US. “I would like to congratulate the Government of Nepal and the people for working through a decade of conflict to reach this pinnacle of achievement.”

Dr Jill Bowling, Conservation Director - WWF UK, added, “WWF is privileged to be part of such an important occasion. This is indeed a big win that illustrates that governments, partners, and local communities can work together to achieve important conservation results that benefits the grassroots and ensures a living planet for us all.”

1. The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area is known for its rich biodiversity, its spectacular scenery with Mount Kangchenjunga (8,586m), 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, it was declared A Gift to the Earth in April 1997.

2. The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project was launched on 22 March 1998 to conserve globally threatened wildlife species such as the snow leopard combined with local development activities like the promotion of health services, informal education, and income generating activities.

3. The Sacred Himalayan Landscape is a landscape approach to biodiversity conservation and improving local livelihoods in the Eastern Himalaya. The concept and vision has been endorsed by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. A Sacred Himalayan Landscape Strategic Plan has been prepared under the leadership of the ministry and key partners. The vision of the SHL is “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.”

For further information:
Trishna Gurung, Communications and Marketing Manager, WWF Nepal.
E: mailto:trishna.gurung@wwfnepal.org T: +977 1 443.4820
Basant Subba, Communications Officer, WWF Nepal.
E: mailto:basant.subba@wwfnepal.org T: +977 1 443.4820

For photographs of Kangchenjunga:
www.wwfnepal.org or www.panda.org/nepal
Please credit © WWF Nepal

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