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Protected Areas Tourism For Nepal's Development

Description: 

Protected Areas (Pas) of Nepal provide habitat for a range of species including tiger, rhino, snow leopard, red panda, musk deer, and many others. A gradual shift in the management strategy from strict protection and species focus into ecosystem and landscape approach has mainstreamed economic development. As of 2014, there are 10 national parks, three wildlife reserves, one hunting reserve, six conservation areas, and 12 twelve buffer zones which are a part of the PA system in Nepal. In all these PAs, tourism has become an important driver of sustainable economic development and decent job creation for people living in and around the parks while conserving ecosystems and biodiversity. Tourism in PAs has provided new economic opportunities for the rural communities. Mainstreaming tourism without damaging core values of biodiversity conservation is one of the successful approaches in the PA management of Nepal, which has enabled the more effective use of economic incentives to induce positive changes.

Problem, challenge or context: 

Managing about one quarter of country's land as PAs is indeed a great challenge where a large number of people reside and/or depend on these resources. The dependency on forest products, human-wildlife conflicts, illegal trade and poaching, development and infrastructure needs, habitat loss and fragmentation are threatening PAs management. In addition, limited park infrastructure, ownership and benefits to local community are also being recognised as major challenges. These situations have lead to a gradual change in the PAs management policies in order to mainstream sustainable development. This policy shift has helped in creating much-needed local benefits, employment and micro-enterprise development opportunities to the local communities.

Specific elements of components: 
Policy shift
Establishment of PAs started with the approval of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act in 1973. Amendments to the act helped shifting strict control management approach to participatory conservation approach. The amendments allowed increased access to park resources by the local communities, introduced integrated conservation and development approach, and ecotourism. The key feature of the shift was introduction of buffer zone and conservation area concepts. The policy to provide 30-50% of park income to local community through buffer zone concept has helped to create local ownerships, promote integrated local development, employment, capacity development and conservation education. The local people are organised through a concept of user committee, user group and buffer zone council. It has also helped increasing park income and revenues.
 
Community involvement in conservation and management
Conservation Area, a new approach to PAs management, emphasizes on the community-based conservation. Annapurna Conservation Area, the biggest PA of Nepal, is first successful conservation area introduced with the concept of community management. Similarly, the community institution known as conservation area management council manages Kanchanjangunga conservation area. 
 
Sustainable tourism development
PAs are major destination to both domestic and foreign tourists. The PAs are managed with the promotion of nature, culture and adventure tourism. The private sector is engaged in developing infrastructure, products diversification and marketing of products. 
 
Management Planning
The inclusion of social and economical aspects of sustainable development was initiated through revision and amendments of the periodic management plan. Park management plans therefore focus both conservation of biodiversity and sustainable livelihood of local communities. This is a major shift in the park management planning.
Key lessons learned: 

Sharing benefits with the local community has multiple positive effects contributing to sustainable development. The incomes generated from these PA network are being used by the local communities particularly focusing on alternative energy, health, capacity development, infrastructure development and education. PAs, which generate more revenue, have had a better impact providing local benefits through integrated conservation and development approach. It has also reduced park people conflicts. The management of PAs where local communities’ dependence on park resources is very high must include co-operation and support of local communities.

Impacts and outcomes: 
Support of local communities 
The new approach of conservation has dramatically reduced the park-people conflict in the PAs. The park revenues have increased three folds in past three years, 50 % of which will be used for community development. The local communities have also received direct economic benefit from tourism in the PAs. Home stay management by local communities in 35 houses in a village in Annapurna Conservation Area earned more than US $ 20,000 per annum. Interestingly, 21 houses managed in the home stay concept earned 50,000 USD in  .5 years in Chitawan National Park buffer zone. 
 
Sustainable financing 
Least developed country like Nepal may have other priority sector for public fund investment compared to biodiversity conservation. Therefore, annual investment from the government for the PAs management is relatively very low. Development of ecotourism in PAs has created new financial resources for the park management and has been slowly emerged as one of the ways to make the PAs financially sustainable. PA such as Annapurna Conservation Area is managed through tourism revenues alone and also supports managing other conservation areas. Many other PAs including Chitawan National Park, Sagarmatha National Park and Langtang National Park generate significant revenues.
 
PAs as a tourist destination
The PAs in Nepal have played a very significant role in driving Nepal’s tourism industry. More than 60% of total visitors to Nepal visit PAs. It is creating much-needed employment and micro-enterprise development opportunities to the local communities living within and outside the PAs. The tourism revenue is significantly contributing in GDP of Nepal- 9.4% in 2012. The avenues of making more investment by private sector in partnership with local community will further contribute to sustainable development through the promotion of nature, culture and adventure tourism both at community and individual household level. 
 
Biodiversity and nature conservation
The PAs cover 23.23 % of land areas with major ecosystem types of Nepal. As a result of positive outcomes, the regular wildlife research and monitoring revealed that the population of mega carnivores such as tiger and mega herbivores such as greater one horned rhino have increased. Nepal observed zero poaching of Rhinos in 2011 and 2013 indicating that sharing benefits with local communities has multiple positive effects.
Contact details: 
Krishna Acharya, Chief, Planning and Human Resource Development Division, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Government of Nepal
Region: 
Country: 
Language: 
English
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