Sunday, May 17, 2015

Shey-phoksundo National Park Nepal


Shey-phoksundo National Park is situated in the Trans-Himalayan region of northwest Nepal. It is Nepal’s largest National Park covering an area of 3,555 km2. It was established in 1984 to preserve a unique Trans-Himalayan ecosystem with a diversity of flora and fauna. The Park’s climatic differences, altitude variations, and different zoo-geographical regions support a diverse range of biotic systems. In 1988, an area of 1349 km2 surrounding the park was declared as buffer zone, which consists of forests and private lands. The buffer zone is jointly managed by the park and local communities. Together they initiate community development activities and manage the natural and cultural resources.


Shey- Phoksundo National Park provides a diversity of spectacular landscapes. Elevations in the park range from 2,130m in Ankhe to 6,883m at the summit of Kanjiroba Himal. Much of the park lies north of the Himalayan crest. Nepal’s deepest and second largest lake, Phoksundo Lake, lies in upper regions of Suligad. Near the lake’s outlet is the country’s highest waterfall. The major rivers in the park are the Khung, Nmajung and Panjang, the Suligad and Jugdual Rivers, which are the major tributaries of the Thuli Bheri River; and the Langu River, which drains the high dolpo plateau to the east and flows westward. Phoksundo Lake is famous for its magnificent turquoise color and the spectacular scenery clearly rank it with the most scenic mountain parks in the world. Ringmo village, a typical Tibetan village, is scenically nestled in the area. Many beautiful glaciers can be found near and above the lake area. The Park contains many Gompas (Monasteries) and religious area. The most famous, Shey Gompa was established in the 11th Century. Thashung Gompa located near Phoksundo Lake was built about 900 years ago to conserve wildlife.


 As a result of its spanning both the northern and southern aspects of the Himalayan crest, the park experiences a wide climatic range. Most of the precipitation in the area occurs during the monsoon (July-September), although the Dhaulagari and Kanjiroba Ranges from a massive barrier preventing most of the rain from reaching the Trans-Himalayan area. The park contains the transition form a monsoon dominated climate with 1500 mm of annual precipitation in the south (Suligad) to an arid climate with less than 500 mm a year in the northern slopes. Winters are quite severe, with frequent snowfalls above 2,500m and temperature’s remaining below freezing above 3,000m through much of the winter.

Flora & Fauna:

The flora found within the park is extremely diverse. The northern regions contain barren areas of the upper Himalayas and the Trans-Himalayan slope lands consisting of some rhododendron, caragana shrubs, and Salix, Juniper, white Himalayan birch, and the occasional silver fir dominate the high meadows of the Himalayas. Less than five percent of the park is forested, with much of it lying in the southern portion. The Suligad Valley’s flora consists of blue pine, spruce, hemlock, cedar, silver fir, poplar, rhododendron, and bamboo. The park also contains 286 species of ethno botanical importance. The park provides important habitat for endangered species including the snow leopard, grey wolf, musk deer, and blue sheep, goral, great Tibetan sheep, Himalayan tahr, leopard, jackal, and Himalayan black bear are also found in the park. The park is home to 6 species of reptiles and 29 species of butterfly, including the highest flying butterfly in the world, Paralasa nepalaica. The park provides habitat for over 200 species of birds, among which include yellow-throated marten, Tibetan partridge, wood snip, white-throated tit, wood accentor, and crimson-eared rose finch.


 The park is home to more than 9,000 people and their villages’ area among the highest settlements on Earth. Most of the inhabitants of the park practice Bon Buddhism, an ancient religion with roots in Animism and Buddhism. The Bon-po religion, which forms the entire cultural base for Tibetan Buddhism, was founded 18,000 years ago, during the Zhang Zung Empire of today's western Tibet. The landscape is dotted with sacred monasteries, thangka paintings, and chortens. The local community is heavily dependent on trade with Tibet and agriculture. This area is also famous for its salt trade caravans.


  Like other conservation areas in Nepal there are also several  problems in shey phoksundo national park just like park people conflicts, poor governance and lack of implementation of rules, inadequate data for monitoring endangered wildlife species and the ever changing need for trans-boundary bi-lateral relationship, unfair trade practices and unsustainable collection of the natural resources, increasing livelihoods of people depending on park’s resources, grazing by the cattle on the pastures . Studies have shown that it is still lacking in proper recognition of priority areas, there is a huge gap in the availability of sufficient data about the area and its diversity and people, the acting legislations & regulations are continued to work in paper in some places where the hands of law cannot touch. There are increased incidents of valued products like the ‘yarchagumba’ (Cordyceps sinensis) being smuggled into our neighboring countries. Certain lapses on the side of government and park officials have so far hindered the process of conservation and communities who sometimes oppose the control measures and access to the conserved flora and fauna. Like any place else on earth, SPNP is also affected by the perils of climate change. Its residents are witnessing a change which is rapid and are less prepared to face the consequences. Poverty, illiteracy, lack of awareness of the local people are other additional problems to be included.
Conservation measures:
      Despite the problems in SPNP there are also several conservation measures conducted. Various rules and regulation are implemented for the visitors visiting the park. Entering the park without permit is made illegal. Various relevant legislation is working for the conservation of the park. Several activities regarding the conservation are conducted by the local people. Women’s participation in the development programme through non-formal education (NFE) classes that increase literacy and teach health, sanitation, marketing, and tourism management is conducted. Maintenances of existing forest cover and restoration of degraded forests through reforestation, agro forestry, user group forestry, alternative energy projects and village nurseries is done. Reduction of the impacts of grazing through improved livestock and pasture management i.e. improved fodder quality, increased livestock productivity, rotational grazing schemes and strengthened local rangeland management organizations is carried out. Park management plan based on scientific principles, with people's participation is developed. Strengthening of the capacity of local communities and government institutions which manage and regulate the use of natural resources was thought to be must for the conservation and more emphasis is given on it.


     In my opinion there is still a need for development of a vast knowledge base, especially related to SPNP, its resources and how we can help develop the place and its people. There should be better understanding of Conservation strategies and approaches. There are needs for several amendments in the country’s policies and strategies. Awareness of the importance of biodiversity among local people through environmental education should be done. If we could improve and maintain local living standards while safeguarding the region's unique environmental and cultural heritage the conservation process will be more effective. The Department of Forests should take a leading role in the regeneration of medicinal plants and illegal extraction of medicinal herbs and plants should be totally stopped. Plantations should be developed in the appropriate ecological zones by doing proper research. If we would be able to overcome the shortcomings and challenges we can conserve the flora and fauna in SPNP to our full extent without disturbing the diversity of that area.

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