Nepal designates three new Wetlands of International Importance


The Ramsar Bureau is very pleased to announce that the Kingdom of Nepal, which acceded to the Convention in 1987 with its famous Koshi Tappu wetlands, has now added three more sites to its network of Wetlands of International Importance. Dr T M Maskey, Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, informs the Bureau that as of 13 August 2003 two forested oxbow lake systems, Beeshazar and Associated Lakes (3,200 hectares, 27°37'N 084°26'E), a legal buffer zone of the Royal Chitawan National Park and World Heritage site, and Ghodaghodi Lake Area (2,563 ha, 28°41'N 080°57'E) in Kailali district, as well as a small irrigation reservoir, Jagadishpur Reservoir (225 ha, 27°35'N 083°05'E) in Kapilvastu, can be added to the Ramsar List, chiefly because of their support for threatened and endangered species of birds and mammals, bringing Nepal's total to four Ramsar sites covering 23,488 hectares. IUCN-Nepal has been very helpful to the government in preparing the data sheets for these significant new designations. Ramsar's Liazzat Rabbiosi has provided these brief descriptions of these new sites, which bring the present global Ramsar total to 1313 sites covering 110,971,197 hectares, or 1.1 million square kilometres.

Beeshazar and Associated Lakes. 13/08/03; Chitawan; 3,200 ha; 27°37'N, 084°26'E. National Park buffer zone. An extensive, typical oxbow lake system of the tropical Inner Terai area in Central Nepal, lying inside buffer zone of the Royal Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage site. Situated between the Mahabharat mountain range to the north and the Siwalik range to the south, this forested wetland provides excellent habitat as a water hole and corridor for endangered wildlife species, including the critically endangered White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), endangered tiger (Panthera tigris), one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), vulnerable Smooth-coated Otter (Lutra perpiscillata), Sloth Bear (Melaurus ursinus), Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), Lesser Adjutant Stork (Leptotilos javanicus), Ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca), and Band-tailed fish eagle (Haileetus leucoryphus). The surrounding forest area is populated by nearly 100,000 people who practice farming and fishing in the lake, which is managed through a fishing contract, awarded once a year. Thanks to heightened awareness of the site's importance the protection of its resources has been improved, e.g. invasive species posing threats to the wetlands are manually removed by local communities and authorities of the Royal Chitwan National Park. Due to the recent designation as the buffer zone, the Buffer Zone Management Committee has been constituted for its participatory management. There is a training centre for Armed Forest Guards/Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation which was formerly known as the Rhino Patrol, and a visitor center established at Royal Chitwan National Park. Ramsar site no. 1313.

Ghodaghodi Lake Area. 13/08/03; Kailali District; 2,563 ha; 28°41'N, 080°57'E. A large and shallow oxbow lake with associated marshes and meadows surrounded by tropical deciduous forest on the lower slopes of Siwalik, the youngest mountain range of the Himalaya in Western Nepal. There are around 13 associated lakes and ponds, and some streams separated by hillocks situated on the site's periphery. The forest and wetlands serve as the wildlife corridor between the lowland and the Siwalik. They support critically endangered Red-crowned Roofed Turtle (Kachuga kachuga), endangered Tiger (Panthera tigris), Three-striped Roof Turtle (Kachuga dhongka); vulnerable Smooth-coated Otter (Lutra perpiscillata), Common Otter (Lutra lutra), Swamp deer (Cervus duvaucelli), Lesser Adjutant Stork (Leptotilos javanicus) and Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), endangered Orchid (Aerides odorata), religiously important and threatened Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), and rare wild rice (Hygrohiza aristata). The lake is an important religious place with a shrine dedicated to Ghodaghodi deity where indigenous Tharu people celebrate a traditional festival, Agan Panchami, in December and take a holy bath in the lake. Due to dense population within the site (around 6,700 people of whom 50% are illegal immigrants from adjoining hilly areas), it is intensively used for traditional fishing and agriculture. The factors putting pressure on the site's ecology include highway traffic at the southern edge, construction of unplanned new temples, over grazing, poaching and hunting as well as illegal tree felling and smuggling of Sal (Shorea robusta) and Khair (Acacia catechu) timber, natural eutrophication accelerated by human religious and agricultural activities. Nevertheless with the help of IUCN Nepal, the users' groups of local communities and NGOs are involved in the conservation process which has helped to reduce poaching, initiate fencing towards the highway to control grazing and encroachment, and develop a participatory community-centered management plan. Ramsar site no. 1314.

Jagadishpur Reservoir. 13/08/03; Kapilvastu; 225 ha; 27°35'N 083°05'E. A reservoir constructed in the early 1970s over the Jakhira lake and agricultural lands for irrigation purposes. The water is fed from the Banganga lake in the Churia hills catchment. The reservoir is surrounded by cultivated land and a few smaller lakes serving as a buffer zone for bird movements. The site provides shelter for an assemblage of some rare, endangered species of conservation importance species, which include plants such as endangered Serpentine (Rauvolfia serpentine), rare Pondweed (Potamogeton lucens), threatened Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), and endangered and the tallest flying bird species Indian Sarus Crane (Grus antigone antigone). The current use of the reservoir by local population includes fishing, grazing, fuel wood and fodder collection, domestic use and supply of water for irrigation in 6,200 ha of surrounding cultivated land. Ramsar site no. 1315.

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