International Wetland Symposium, Nepal

International Wetland Symposium, Nepal

20 November 2012

The ‘International Wetland Symposium 2012’ was held in Pokhara, Nepal from 7 to 10 November 2012, organised by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation and the UNDP/GEF project ‘Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wetlands in Nepal’. Some 80 participants from 13 countries attended the event, including representatives from governments, UN agencies, international, regional and national wetland projects, organisations and educational institutions.

Mr. Kirshna Chandra Paudel (Secretary, Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation), opening the symposium

The symposium was opened by the Honourable Minister Mr. Yadu Bansha Jha (Ministry for Forests and Soil Conservation); and the opening session was chaired and welcomed by Dr. Krishna Chandra Paudel, (Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation). Participants heard presentations and exchanged information on a range of topics, including the use of wetland biodiversity as environmental indicators, to grass-root projects on improving the livelihood of communities living at wetland sites, particularly Ramsar Sites, and case studies of how governments are developing policies, legal instruments and other mechanisms for wetland conservation.

The symposium in progress

A number of the presentations naturally focused on the unique wetlands in Nepal, especially on the country’s nine Ramsar Sites which cover high altitude lakes to low level rivers and marshes. The country’s wetlands have been estimated to be important for directly supporting the livelihood of some 10% of the population, around 2.6 million people, as well as many having religious values (‘sacred lakes’) and are also popular destinations for tourists, so generating income for local communities. Due to the value of wetlands for local people, a national network of indigenous wetland communities has been established to support the National Wetland Committee. Similarly, a national network of wetland scientists has also been established. The 2003 National Wetland Policy has been updated and is now with the cabinet awaiting final endorsement.

Fewa Lake, a potential Ramsar Site by Pokhara City

Pokhara, the venue for the symposium, is one of the popular tourist destinations in Nepal with the nine lakes around the city being a particular attraction. Presently, there are on-going discussions to designate this lake cluster as the country’s next Ramsar Site, once the issues of future management and funding for the site has been clarified.

Many of the lakes in Nepal have important spiritual values

The International Wetland Symposium concluded by issuing a 9-point 'Pokhara Declaration' [PDF] that will be valuable for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources in future.

Report and photos by Lew Young, Senior Regional Advisor for Asia-Oceania