Admittedly, much still needs to be done in many sectors in Nepal, but there are also fronts that seem to be on the right track today. For instance, a recent report has shown that there has been an increase in forest coverage in the last decade or so. Contrast that to news reports of the those years that regularly highlighted rampant encroachment, felling of large tracts of trees by timber smuggling gangs, and the dwindling number of endangered animal species.
According to a five-year survey done by the Department of Forest Research and Survey and National Forest Products Survey Project between 2010 and 2014, the forest area of Nepal covers 44.74% (40.36% forest, and 4.38% scrubland) of the total 147,181 sq km area of Nepal. A similar survey done between 1987 and 1998 had showed the forest coverage in Nepal to be 39.6 percent. Great going! However, there are still some areas, especially in the Terai, bordering India, where timber smuggling continues quite unabated, and vigilance needs to be increased. One can understand that it can be a dangerous task, keeping determined and well-organized timber smugglers at bay, but what needs to be done has to be done. The gains cannot be allowed to diminish again.
Now, coming to the protected areas, 17.32% of the total forest area lies inside them. Nepal npow has 20 protected areas, covering about 23% of the country’s landmass, after the designation of Gaurishanker Conservation Area and Api-Nampa Conservation Area, in central and far-western region, respectively, by the historic cabinet meeting held at Everest Base Camp on December 4, 2009. The protected areas include 10 national parks, three wildlife reserves, one hunting reserve, six conservation areas, and 12 buffer zones.
Obviously, all this increase in forest and protected areas means more safe areas for various animal species, included many that have been listed as endangered, chief among them, the one-horned rhino, royal Bengal tiger, wild arna, gharial, etc. (in the Terai forests), red panda, snow leopard, cloud leopard, etc. (in the Himalayan region), and a variety of bird wildlife throughout the country.
Chitwan National Park, habitat to a large number of animals, including the above-mentioned endangered Terai species, has seen a rise in the number of the rare one-horned rhinoceros. The number had drastically reduced from 800 (when the park was set up in 1950) to just 100 in 1966. Conservation efforts resulted in gradual increases through the years: 310 in 1978, 358 in 1988, 446 in 1998, and 544 in 2000, before again drastically reducing to 372 in 2005. In 2015, 605 was the recorded number.
There’s also good news regarding the highly endangered, royal Bengal tigers. A census carried out in 2013 recorded 120 of these magnificent beasts in Chitwan, 50 in Bardiya, 17 in Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, seven in Parsa Wildlife Reserve, and four in Banke National Park. In 2009, there were just 21 royal Bengal tigers in the country. In particular, their number in Bardiya National Park rose from just 18 in 2009 to 50 in 2013.
Well, looks like Nepal is doing well on the conservation front.