New National Park Protects Kathmandu Water Supply

By Deepak Gajurel

KATHMANDU, Nepal, February 19, 2002 (ENS) - The drinking water supply for Kathmandu Valley's one million inhabitants has been secured by the designation of a new national park near Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu. The Shivapuri National Park, 13 kilometers (eight miles) north of Kathmandu, protects the Shivapuri watershed from which more than a quarter of the valley's water demand is supplied.

"The Council of Ministers has taken a decision to establish Shivapuri area as national park," Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Gopal Man Shrestha announced in January.

"The government has decided to develop the area as a national park for the conservation of nature, preserving the flora and the fauna and ensuring watershed management for sustainable use," he said.


Langur monkey in Shivapuri National Park (Photo courtesy Himalayan Experience)
Located at an elevation of 2,700 meters (8,775 feet) above sea level, the new Shivapuri National Park, Nepal's ninth, covers an area of about 144 square kilometers (56 square miles).

The area is inhabited by 177 different species of birds, langur monkeys, Himalayan black bears, boar, deer and leopards. Shivapuri area was established as Watershed and Wildlife Reserve in 1983 and its animals and plants, such as orchids and rhododendrons, have been well protected.

With the establishment of Shivapuri National Park to the north, the government has signaled its intention to surround the Kathmandu Valley with a chain of linked conservation areas.

Two protected natural forests, Fulchoki Forest, 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) to the southeast of Kathmandu, and Chandragiri, about 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) to the west, will soon be declared as conservation areas, government officials say.

Fulchoki Forest is home to more than 571 flowering plants, 300 species of butterflies, and 254 species of birds - nearly a third of all the 820 bird species found in Nepal. Spotted leopards and deer roam this area, located on the highest hill along the Kathmandu Valley rim.

Once established as conservation areas, Fulchoki and Chandragiri will be linked with each other to cover a total area of 640 square kilometers (247 square miles).

Marking the United Nations International Year of Mountains 2002, the government of Nepal has announced the protection of a buffer zone around Sagarmatha National Park which contains the world's highest peak, Mount Everest. The park is listed as a UNESCO's World Heritage Site.


Mount Everest, known as Sagarmatha in Nepalese (Photo courtesy Jeroen Neele Photo Gallery)
As part of its recognition of the International Year of Mountains, the government of Nepal also established a botanical garden. Situated at an elevation of 2,400 meters (7,800 feet) above sea level, the new botanical garden is 75 kilometers (46 miles) south of Kathmandu.

The 40 hectare (99 acre) garden still retains 60 percent of its natural forest cover and features 175 sub-species of orchids. The garden will be used as a botanical research station and for the promotion of medicinal herbs, according to the Nepal Department of Botany.

Nepal's existing National Parks include: Royal Chitwan National Park, established in 1973; Royal Bardiya National Park, Langtang National Park, Rara National Park, and Sagarmatha National Park, all established in 1976; She Foksundo National Park and Khaptad National Park both established in 1984; and Makalu-Barun National Park, established in 1991.

In addition, the country has three wildlife reserves, and four conservation areas, all established since 1976.

Close to 18 percent of Nepal's total land area is protected in national parks, wildlife reserves and conservation areas.