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The National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), established in 1982 by a Legislative Act, is an autonomous and not-for-profit organization mandated to work in the field of nature conservation in Nepal. Over the past three decades, NTNC has successfully undertaken more than three hundred small and large projects on nature and biodiversity conservation, clean energy and climate change, as well as cultural heritage protection, ecotourism, and sustainable development through active engagement of local communities. NTNC works closely with the Government of Nepal in the management of protected areas by directly managing three mountain protected areas and assisting the government in all the low land parks. Our research outcomes have been especially instrumental in evidence-based decision making at the policy level. The Trust’s experience over the years has shown that conservation efforts in low income economies, such as Nepal, cannot be successful, much less sustainable, unless the needs and welfare of the local people are addressed. Holistic and integrated conservation and development program with active people’s participation aimed at promoting local guardianship have been the focus of our activities.

The Trust's activities extend from the sub-tropical plains of Chitwan, Bardia and Kanchanpur in the lowlands to the Annapurna, Manaslu and Gaurishankar regions of the high Himalayas, including the trans-Himalayan region of Upper Mustang and Manang. NTNC's projects are spread across all three geographical areas - the lowland, the mid-hills (Kathmandu Valley) and the high mountains. The Trust’s activities in the lowlands are based in and around the Chitwan National Park, Parsa National Park, Banke National Park, Bardia National Park, Shuklaphanta National Park and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve through the Biodiversity Conservation Center (BCC) in Chitwan, the Bardia Conservation Program (BCP) in Bardia and the Suklaphanta Conservation Program (SCP) in Kanchanpur. The Central Zoo is the only project of the Trust in Kathmandu Valley. Protected areas managed by the Trust in the mountain region include the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), Manaslu Conservation Area (MCA) and Gaurishankar Conservation Area (GCA).

Emerging challenges caused by global environmental issues have called for increased focus in areas related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. NTNC is in the process of accreditation in the Global Climate Fund as a 'direct access entity'. The Trust also works in urban environment particularly, Bagmati River Conservation Project and urban greening in partnership with the local municipalities. In making a lasting difference in the conservation impact of the country, besides government, community and other local bodies, we work closely with multilateral agencies and international donors through specialized projects.

Location

Nepal, a country of amazing extremes is the home of the world’s highest mountains, historic cities and the forested plains where the regal tigers and the armor plated greater one horned rhinoceros trundle at ease.

Situated in South Asia and surrounded by the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China in the north and by India in the south, east and west, the Kingdom of Nepal covers an area of 147,181 sq. km (between 80° 4’ and 88° 12’ East and 26° 22’ and 30° 27’ North). The length of the country is 885 kilometers east to west, and varies between 145 to 241 kilometers north to south.

It represents a transitional zone of two bio-geographical realms: the Paleartic and the Indo-Himalayan. It is also at the crossroads of the Southeast Asian, Northeast Asian (Chinese) and Mediterranean tracts. Nepal can be divided broadly into three ecological zones: the lowland (Terai), the mid-hills and the high mountains.

The altitude of the Himalayan region ranges between 4,877 m. to 8,848 m. It includes eight of the highest 14 summits in the world, which exceed an altitude of 8,000 meters including the world highest mountain Sagarmatha (Mount Everest).

The mountain region accounts for about 64% of total land area, which is formed by the Mahabharat range that soars up from 4,877 m. and the lower Churia range. The lowland Terai occupies about 17% of the total land area of the country.

Similarly, the climatic condition ranges from the sweltering heat of the Terai in the lowland to the freezing cold in the Himalayan highland. As a result of extreme variations in altitude and climate, the flora and fauna of Nepal demonstrates a wide range of diversity.

Competing for space within 1,000-km. east west and 200 km. north south, this small rectangle of topographical and hydrological extremes host over 6,500 flowering plant, 181 mammal, 862 bird and 640 butterfly species. It is also home to more than 23 million people. Although Nepal occupies only 0.09% of the total land surface of the earth, it has nearly 5% of mammalian species of the world total.alities

UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Ramsar sites, some globally threatened species assemblage, trekking tourism, trends, cultural heritage, protected area focus, topographic variation – biological, cultural and anthropological diversity

Realities and Challenges

Land, forests, minerals and water remain the key natural resources in Nepal and they provide the livelihood base for 90% of the population, representing almost 40% of GDP (UNEP). Being a largely agrarian economy and one that is highly sensitive to climate change and natural resource availability, Nepal’s aspiration to graduate from the least developed country status is further complicated by a spectrum of natural and human induced phenomena. The fast growing population has had serious repercussions on the nation’s economy and ecology that depend on agriculture and forests for fuel, fodder and timber.  The direct impact of the country’s socioeconomic realities on the natural and cultural diversity is magnified by widespread illiteracy, inaccessibility to basic services and financial constraints.

Geographically, Nepal is prone to natural disasters and is listed as the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change (Rajan). In the Nepal Himalayas, depleting natural resources and increasing desertification threaten the livelihood of scores of rural mountain communities. Downstream, climate change is expected to impact the functionality of forest ecosystems leading to changes in the quality and quantity of products and services available for millions of people. Whereas erratic monsoons characterized by lower than normal rainfall causes increased incidents of drought on one hand, extreme floods during severe monsoons inundate whole communities stripping them off their means to livelihood. The country's farmers predominantly engage in subsistence farming on marginal lands that are rain-fed.
In spite of these, adaptation and preparedness measures have not been able to keep pace with the abounding pressures. Along with the impact of climate change on the health and wellbeing of flora and fauna, increasing population, shifting cultivation, uncontrolled grazing, and encroachment of forest lands forced migration, high dependence on fossil fuel and competing priorities for food and shelter on natural resources have been creating pressure on the overall biological diversity. All this has resulted in increased soil erosion, sedimentation, floods and landslides. Similarly, the inadequate ecological consideration in development activities and the uncontrolled influx of visitors in ecologically fragile regions have further intensified environmental degradation.

Further threat to biological diversity is escalated from wildlife habitat loss and habitat degradation, caused primarily as a cause of human encroachment. These often give rise to complex human-wildlife conflict scenarios in a want for rendering a sustainable relation of coexistence between people and nature. The fast growing population and the demands that it brings with it has had serious repercussions on the nation’s economy and ecology. As a consequence of these--climatic changes and human induced pressure on the natural resources--biological diversity in Nepal faces some serious challenges.

Drive for Conservation

Nepal recognized its susceptibility to ecological risks as early as the 1960s. By the mid 1970s, the Nepal Government took its first initiative to establish national parks and reserves in areas of biological and natural significance by approving the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. The Act was a major commitment to the development of the Protected Area System in Nepal. The first protected area, the Chitwan National Park, was established in 1973. Within four decades, Nepal has set aside more than 23.39% (34,419.75 square kilometer) of the total land area as protected areas under various categories which includes 12 National Parks, 1 Wildlife Reserve, 1 Hunting Reserve, 6 Conservation Areas and 13 Buffer Zones.

However, the earlier efforts in conservation focused on strict protection of the charismatic species with armed forces to control illegal activities with the protected area where national parks and reserves were considered as islands of wilderness amidst a sea of people. Once demarcated, the people were displaced from their traditional lands, leading to social and cultural disruption. They were forfeited from their traditional rights to use the natural resources inside the parks and reserves. In other words, the concerns of people living in the park periphery were ignored. This led to intense park-people conflicts negating the achievements made in terms of conservation.

In the 1980s, these realities pointed to the need for Nepal to come up with alternative approaches for effective conservation measures while addressing the aspirations of the local people. This led to a shift in the management approach of the protected area system in Nepal from an exclusive to an inclusive approach—one that promoted a high degree of local community participation. The Annapurna Conservation Area approach paved the way for a paradigm shift in the protected area management of the country. The underlying objectives of such a plan were to be able to fulfill the basic requirements of the local people while maintaining a balance between nature conservation and sustainable development.

These changing dynamics in the overall approach of protected area management system of the country necessitated the presence of a unique and independent institution having the capacity to carry out wildlife research and bringing innovation in conservation. This unique context led to the Government of Nepal to establish National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), formerly known as King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC). The Trust was established in 1982.