Mahesh Shrestha/LI-BIRD

Celebrating World Wetlands Day 2016: An Attempt to Conserve Wetlands

Posted on: 2/4/2016

By: Bibudh Dhewaju and Lakpa Sherpa, LI-BIRD

Walk Through Rupa Lake

Sita Adhikari is an active member of Unnatisheel (literally 'progressive' in English) Women's Group in Lekhnath Municipality, ward 14, Sisteni. Before, she and her group members did not have any idea of community group. Then, after interaction with LI-BIRD, she got a clear picture of what a women's or farmer’s group is. The women of Sisteni formed a group and became committed in wetland area conservation since 1998. The group has been involved in conserving Navo (Oryza rufipogon), Narkat (Arundo spp.) and Kamal (Nelumbo nucifera) found in their wetland area. Ms. Adhikari said, "We not only realized the importance of these herbs but also our dependence on wetland resources." Then they managed to designate and prepare a habitat for bird which was heavily used for collecting grasses for their livestock. The habitat is now home to many local and migratory birds. Unnatisheel is one such group that are exemplarily involved in conserving birds in the area.

The habitat, which is located in Sisteni, is home to many local and migratory birds.
Photo: Mahesh Shrestha/LI-BIRD

The interaction with the Unnatisheel Women's Group was a part of one of the site visits organized on the occasion of 'Walk Through Rupa Lake: Celebrating World Wetland Day 2016'. LI-BIRD, in collaboration with Lekhnath Municipality and Social Educational and Environmental Development (SEED) foundation, organized the event bringing 63 participants to walk through the buffer zone of Rupa Lake on 30 January 2016. The event was organized to discuss the importance of wetland services of Rupa Watershed area while walking through the sites. Rupa, the third largest lake in the Pokhara Valley, is rich in biodiversity and has huge potential of attracting national and international tourists.

The walk through event on Rupa covered areas of Rupa: Pachvaiya Deurali, Raatmata, Bhusanpur, Sisteni, Sita Cave and Gorakhnath Temple. The walk started at 11 a.m. from Pachvaiya Duerali. Bhusanpur is a densely forested hill dominated by Castanopsis indica along the Rupa lake, that is proposed to be constructed as International Zoo area. The area is an important habitat to animals such as leopards, jackals, deer and monkeys.

Next, it was Sisteni, where the visitors got to see the superbly constructed habitat for birds. Then, the visitors reached Sita Cave. Important from mythical and religious point of view, the cave was located about 30-40 metres above the ground. Finally, the visitors reached the Gorakhnath temple which is a pagoda style temple built around 1950s. Dinanath Dhakal, the chairman of the temple committee, shared that the temple is important for religious tourist and there is a need for it to be endorsed all over Nepal.

Participants discussing on the backdrop of the Gorakhnath temple. 
Photo: Mahesh Shrestha/LI-BIRD

During the walk, the participants expressed concerns over the depleting conditions of lakes of Pokhara valley and emphasized on the need for the conservation of the wetlands. The walk (over 10 k.m.) was successfully concluded in Gorakhnath Temple at 3 p.m. with closing remarks from Lok Bahadur Bhandari, Chief Executive Officer of Lekhnath Municipality. He sees a lot of potential in these sites, especially the planned International Zoo area. He said, "We need to foster more coverages of these sites at national level."

Nine Lakes of Pokhara Valley Officially Designated in Ramsar List

Nines lakes of Pokhara valley – Phewa, Kamalpokhari, Begnas, Rupa, Khaste, Gunde, Niureni, Dipang and Maidi – are officially designated in the Ramsar list (Wetlands of International Importance). The Convention on Wetlands, the Ramsar held in Iran has 169 countries as contracting parties and over 2225 sites enlisted in the Ramsar list. There are nine sites of Nepal already enlisted in the list.

Lew Young, Ramsar Senior Regional Advisor for Asia and Oceania, has officially handed over the certificate of designating nine lakes of Pokhara valley in Ramsar list in an event in Basundhara Park, Pokhara. Dr. Young said, “This is a promise made by the Government of Nepal to ensure the conservation and wise use of the sites. The first step after the designation of the sites is to work with local communities and government stakeholders and develop integrated management of the site as to benefit the local people and conserve the environment.” He said that the government was obligated to report about the sites every three years to the Secretariat. He said that the Ramsar Secretariat was really enthusiastic about supporting local NGOs and communities working on conservation of these sites.

Lew Young, Ramsar Senior Regional Advisor for Asia and Oceania, handing over the designation certificate to Agni Sapkota, Minister of Forest and Soil Conservation, Nepal. Photo: Mahesh Shrestha/LI-BIRD

The event, which was organized by District Development Committee (DDC), Kaski, was celebrated on 2 February 2016, marking the occasion of ‘International Wetlands Day’. Dr. Young handed over the certificate to Ram Chandra Tiwari, Local Development Officer of Kaski also the Chair of Pokhara Valley Lake Conservation Committee, through Agni Sapkota, Minister of Forest and Soil Conservation, Nepal. Mr. Sapkota, who was the chief guest of the event, inaugurated the event by flying the balloons.The event started off with a rally involving several local stakeholders, NGOs including LI-BIRD, INGOs and government delegates and representatives from political parties.

During his speech, Ram Chandra Tiwari emphasised, “Being listed in Ramsar list does not mean we (locals) should be afraid of accessing the lakes for our livelihood. Instead, it is an opportunity to make wise use of wetland for our sustainable future and better livelihood.”

LI-BIRD actively participated in the event. The LI-BIRD team displayed exhibition board with posters to inform and aware the audiences on the watershed. The posters contained information on the watersheds, their importance in livelihoods, how the watersheds are being exploited and how we can conserve them. The information of the birds, agro, floral and faunal diversity present in the Rupa and Begnas wetland were displayed in the event. The audiences showed enthusiasm and curiosity about the information displayed on the exhibition board.

The audiences viewing the exhibition board. Photo: Mahesh Shrestha/LI-BIRD

The designation is an optimistic and important news for the Pokhara valley. It  will definitely grab more national and international attention, adding more values and initiatives to conserve the lakes of the valley. However, this is not an ending, but rather a beginning of managing the nine lakes as one unit through integrated conservation and development approaches. The local government has to play the lead role for preparing and implementing integrated management plan of the Ramsar sites.

You can click here for more glimpses of the event

The Begnas and Rupa Watershed Area based project titled 'Mobilizing Local Institutions For Sustainable Management Of Watershed Services In Nepal' is the winner of the Swiss Re Foundation’s 2014 International Resource Award for Sustainable Watershed Management.