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Thursday, 26 February, 2015, 11 : 30 AM [IST]

India, Bhutan & Nepal agree on regional cooperation for conservation of Kangchenjunga Landscape

Participants at recent the 3rd Regional Strategic Consultative Meeting, held at the Headquarters of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu (Nepal), for the Kangchenjunga Landscape stressed on the need for greater collaboration to protect the region’s rich biological and cultural diversity through strengthened partnerships and increased participation of people in the landscape. High-level government officials from the three member countries of the Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KLCDI), namely Bhutan, India, and Nepal, consolidated the activities of the initiative’s preparatory phase and apprised country delegates of the outputs and content of a draft framework for regional cooperation, which takes into account the need for greater collaboration across borders, as well as opportunities for socioeconomic development at the landscape level.

The 60 representatives at the meeting included ICIMOD, and strategic development partners Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).

The agenda of the meeting was the conclusion of the one-and-a-half-year preparatory phase of KLCDI. The meeting, jointly organised by Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MOFSC) and ICIMOD.

India, Nepal, and Bhutan proposed an area of about 25,000 sq km, covering parts of eastern Nepal, Sikkim, the northern part of West Bengal, and western Bhutan, to be included in the Kangchenjunga landscape, one of the seven trans-boundary landscapes identified by ICIMOD with its regional partner countries for prioritising conservation and development programmes in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.

“Having taken these key steps, we can now move into the implementation of coordinated activities for the conservation and sustainable development of this important landscape”, said Nakul Chettri, Programme Coordinator, KLCDI.

”It is very important for us to generate on-the-ground impacts to support adaptation and resilience among the communities living in the Kangchenjunga landscape,” said David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD. He also encouraged the Initiative partners to use the knowledge and data resources ICIMOD has made available, in particular for geospatial and cryosphere analysis.

The landscape is one of the richest areas on earth in terms of plant and animal species. There are 19 protected areas in the landscape covering 30 per cent of the total area. More than 4,500 species of flowering plants have been recorded from the region, and there are more than 400 varieties of orchids and 40 varieties of rhododendrons. This region is also home to wildlife species such as the snow leopard, musk deer, red panda, Asian elephant, one-horned rhinoceros, and Bengal tiger. Many of these wildlife species are endangered and, if proper conservation mechanisms are not put into place, vulnerable to extinction, according to a release.

Sharad Chandra Paudel, Secretary at the MOFSC, said, “Nepal is privileged to be part of this trans-boundary landscape initiative, which will provide a platform for the collaborative efforts needed to address regional issues such as human-wildlife conflicts and the illegal trade of threatened species.”

Dr J R Bhatt, Advisor, Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change, Government of India, highlighted binding factors for people living within the Kangchenjunga landscape. “We need to shift to a more participatory approach and involve communities so that they have more ownership and responsibility for managing their biodiversity resources,” he said. He also emphasised the strength of the landscape approach being applied in this initiative, and the opportunities it would provide in creating important trans-boundary corridors to connect not only large and charismatic wildlife species, but also many small mammals and plant species.

Reaffirming the commitment of the Royal Government of Bhutan to KLCDI, Dasho Tenzin Dhendup, Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan, said, “Biodiversity, wildlife, and nature do not recognise political boundaries; therefore, all the countries in the Kangchenjunga landscape need to work together to ensure that we can hand over a well-conserved landscape to our future generations.” He also highlighted the need to use new and scientific knowledge in conservation and development efforts, but not without forgetting the traditional knowledge of the people in the landscape.

“The regional framework for cooperation prepared during this meeting will be the basis for implementing the subsequent phases of KLCDI. Through this collaboration, we will be able to produce positive outcomes,” said Basanta Shrestha, Director of Strategic Cooperation, ICIMOD.

Dr Eklabya Sharma, Director of Programme Operations, ICIMOD, said, “We need to be innovative in order to adapt to a changing environment. Cooperation in trans-boundary landscapes like Kangchenjunga provides us with an opportunity to work together to find new solutions to emerging challenges.”

During the workshop, the book Kangchenjunga Landscape Nepal from Conservation and Development Perspectives – published by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation in collaboration with the Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology and ICIMOD – was jointly launched by Paudel, Dhendup, and Dr Bhatt.
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