I am presently sitting in our hotel room in Kathmandu, recovering from a bout of food poisoning. It was a real effort for me to get up this morning. I then had to gather my energy to make an appointment with Dr Siddhartha of the National Trust for Nature Conservation in Nepal.
I thought it would be useful to share some information about the area of Nepal that we will be in for the next three weeks. The information I have comes from a booklet given to me yesterday by Dr Siddhartha. This trust was formerly known as the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation and was established in 1982. Over the last two decades it has undertaken over 200 projects on nature conservation, biodiversity as well as cultural heritage protection, ecotourism, and sustainable development.
The Annapurna Conservation Area Project, launched in 1986, is the largest undertaking of the NTNC. The Annapurna region is the first Conservation Area and is the largest protected area in Nepal. “It covers an area of 7,629 sq km and is home to over 100,000 local residents of different ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups. ACAP is rich in biodiversity and is a treasure house for many plant and animal species.” It has one of the world’s deepest gorges, the Kali Gandaki Gorge, which is 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. “The region contains the world’s largest rhododendron forest in Ghorepani and the world’s highest lake, Tilicho, in Manang, south of the Annapurna massif.”
There are many issues in the ACAP region, not least of which is the impact of tourism. While tourism benefits the local economy it has also placed huge demands on fuel wood (consumption of fuel wood for tourism is twice that of the local people), and serious litter problems.
“The multifaceted problems of the Annapurna Conservation Area have been addressed through an integrated, community-based conservation and development approach, an experimental model which has been in the vanguard of promoting the concepts of ‘Conservation Area’ through an ‘Integrated Conservation and Development Programme’ approach in the country and abroad.