mountains, nations, parks, and conservation

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  • GeoJournal 2Z1 105-112 1992 (May) by Kluwer Academic Publishers


    Mountains, Nations, Parks, and Conservation A Case Study of the Mt. Everest Area

    Taylor-Ide, Danie# Byers III, Alton C.; Campbell, J. Gabriel, Woodlands Mountain Institute, Franklin, WV26807, USA

    ABSTRACT: Between 1985 and 1991, two new mountain protected areas (MTNPA) covering more than 35,000 km 2 and based on participatory management models - the Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area, Nepal, and Qomolangma Nature Preserve, Tibet Autonomous Region - were successfully established through the collaborative efforts of Woodlands Mountain Institute and conservationists in China and Nepal. Characteristics common to both projects include the importance of establishing (1) effective rationales, (2) local support constituencies, (3) a senior advisory group, (4) a task force, (5) linkages between conservation and development, and (6) fund raising mechanisms. The lessons derived from the experiences of Woodlands Mountain Institute are of significant value to others in preserving MTNPA. Increased collaboration and communication between all interested in conservation, however, will remain a critical component for expanding mountain protected area coverage to throughout the world.


    Recognition of the aesthetic, biophysical, and cultural importance of mountain habitat and society has gained considerable momentum during the past decade (Allan 1988; Ives 1985). As a result, impressive conservation programs have been initiated in many mountainous regions of the world. Recent surveys of mountain protected areas (MTNPA), however, indicate that significant additional initiatives are needed, particularly in the Atlas range, Antarctica, the Alps, Papua New Guinea, the Hindukush, and the mountains of Burma. Concurrent with increased biophysical representation is the urgent need to develop improved management systems for existing mountain parks (Thorsell and Harrison supra).

    Unfortunately, even the best intentions to expand mountain protected area coverage in the 1990's will be confronted with major constraints that deter actual establishment. The lack of adequate funding has consistently represented a major barrier, often exacerbated by the concerned agency's inexperience in appropriate research, coordination, program strategies, planning, and publicity.

    We document here how Woodlands Mountain Institute, a now-profit educational and scientific

    organization, collaborated with indigenous organizations and people to establish new MTNPA in the vicinity of Mt. Everest. Following a review of each project's history, characteristics common to both are examined in an effort to provide insights of potential value to practitioners and conservation agencies elsewhere in the mountain world. We do not document the management systems of these two MTNPA, but rather focus on describing the methods by which the MTNPA were created.

    The Mount Everest Ecosystem Conservation Program

    Five inter-related programs, Mountain Learning, Leadership, Community Schools, Mount Everest Ecosystem Conservation Program, and Research and Development, constitute the core services of Woodlands Mountain Institute. The program dealt with in this article is the Mount Everest Ecosystem Conservation Program, which coordinates an international partnership that assists the governments of Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China in developing adjoining MTNPA in the Mount Everest region, each combining conservation with a focus on community development (Campbell 1990c). The total area of the two MTNPA - the

  • 106 GeoJournal 27.111992

    Fig 1 Cross-boundary protected areas in the Himalayas

    Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area, and Qomolangma Nature Preserve - exceeds 35,000 km 2, and includes five peaks in excess of 8000 m (Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, and Shisha Pangma). These two projects share similar ecological features, wildlife, and cultures. Separate twelve-year agreements between Woodlands and both governments were signed in 1988, in which Woodlands provides coordination, funding, and technical support. The five management themes common to each project include:

    (a) the integration of conservation and development objectives in environmentally sustainable, culturallyviable, economically feasible ways; (b) the conservation of the biological and cultural diversity unique to each region; (c) the development of partnerships between local people, governments, NGOs, and the international conservation community; (d) the use of both scientific and indigenous knowledge for management decision-making; and (e) the designation of protected areas based on total ecosystem dynamics.

    Nepal: The Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area

    Physical and Cultural Setting

    The Makalu-Barun area covers 2,330 km 2 and is located in the Sankhuwasabha and Solukhumbu districts of NE Nepal (Fig 1, 2). Within a N-S distance of less than 40 km, elevations range from 435 m at the Arun-Sankhuwa

    confluence to the 8,463 m summit of Makalu (Cronin 1979). A large precipitation variation follows this same altitudinal transect: lower elevations may receive more than 4,000 mm/yr, diminishing to less than 1000 mm/yr in the sub-alpine and alpine regions of the higher mountain summits (Khanal 1991a, 1991b; Shresta 1989, 1990 a).

    Unusually diverse and distinct bioclimatic zones, ranging from tropical to nival, are found within very short distances. Reflective of this precipitation/temperature gradient are many vegetation zones ranging from tropical sal forests at elevations below 1000 m; temperate zone oak/maple/magnolia forests between 2000-3000 m; fir/ birch/rhododendron forests in the sub-alpine (3000-4000 m); and the herbs, grasses, and rhododendron/juniper shrub of the alpine pastures (4000-5000 m) (Dunsmore 1988; Shrestha 1989; Stainton 1972).

    The corresponding wealth of bio-physical diversity in the region is of global significance. For example, scientific investigations recorded the presence of more than 3,000 species of flowering plants, including 25 of Nepal's 30 varieties of rhododendron; 48 species of primrose; 47 species of orchid; 19 species of bamboo; 15 species of oak; 86 species of fodder trees; and 67 species of economically valuable medicinal and aromatic plants (Numata 1966, 1983; Shrestha et al. 1990a; 1990b). An oak species previously unrecorded in Nepal, two bird species never before seen in Nepal (the spotted wren babbler and olive ground warbler), and fourteen other extremely rare bird species were also recorded. Wildlife include the endangered red panda, musk deer, clouded leopard, wild dog and snow leopard, in addition to more substantial populations of Himalayan black bear, wild boar, barking deer, and serow (Taylor-Ide 1984; Jackson 1990 a; Jackson and Ahlborn 1987; Jackson et al. 1990).

  • GeoJournal 271/1992 107

    Fig 2 National Parks and Conservation Area in Nepal Chksiam J ~ ~ ? OMO-~US a ~"'k[O 5;~ln g4~ Y~

    7316 TIBET AUTON EGI C A (,/ ---[" ..... E ,:a,," \ (Qomolangma Nature Preserve)

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    Gaurt Manlungtss |.~ 6663 Shankar 7181 r::'::~!~'b3!~'g B ass C~p "lli~'~"-.IJ)~L

    Sagarmatha National Park

    Numbur & Bazar 6957 3450

    Lukla 2800 .

    \ \ Wallunchun

    ~ La ~" Kang J ) l 5721 .~w Tibta La

    4- Phaphlu .'~

    Okhaldhunga 1800



    SCALE 1:16o 00o i 0 1 lO 20Krn i l l~ = ~ ' ' ' 'lbM~les



    f. Tumflngtar


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    South and west of the Barun river are other remote, high altitude valleys, including the Isuwa, Apsuwa, and Sankhuwa. In addition to containing one of the famous "Hidden Valleys" of Shambala mythology (Reinhard 1978), they are used for seasonal grazing, hunting and the collecting of various forest products.

    Surrounding this seasonally used area is a population of 32,000 people from a number of ethnic/caste groups. The majority are Rai, followed by Sherpa and Tibetan-speaking groups and more than seven different languages are spoken in the area (Nepali et al. 1990). The population is dependent primarily upon low-productivity subsistence agriculture and pastoralism, supplemented by the use of forest products, small-scale seasonal trade, and seasonal migration for labor (Chaffey 1989; Forbes 1989; Nepali and Sangam 1990). Swidden agriculture is extensively practiced. The availability of health and education facilities is extremely limited, and health conditions are poor (Nepali et al. 1990).

    Contiguous to the Makalu-Barun area is the 1,148 km 2 Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park, created in 1976 as Nepal's third national park (Jeffries 1985). The 35,000 km 2 Quomolangma (Everest) Nature Reserve, established in 1989 by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, also borders the Makalu-Barun area in addition to the Sagarmatha and the Langtang National Parks. Together, these four contiguous MTNPA protect a vast 40,000 km 2

    area surrounding the Everest massif, an area of the same approximate size as Switzerland.

    Most of the valleys of the Makalu-Barun area drain into the upper reaches of the Arun river, which originates as the Pungchu river in the adjoining Qomolangma Nature Reserve in China. This river is now the site of Nepal's largest proposed development project to date - the 403 MW Arun II I hydroelectric facility with an accompanying 193 km access road, financed by the World Bank and a consortium of international donors (NEA 1990). While targeted to assist Nepal's economic and energy needs, this project will rapidly alter the biological, social, and economic life of the area (MBCP Task


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