UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme revived in Nepal

UNESCO and the Nepal National Commission for UNESCO, in close collaboration with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) organized an interactive session on UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme on 22 September, the World Rhino Day, in Lalitpur. Participated by 53 stakeholders including academic experts, policy makers, and civil society, the event focused on initiating MAB programme in Nepal and reviving the MAB Committee.

The Secretary General of the Nepal National Commission for UNESCO and Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Bishwa Prakash Pandit, in his welcome remarks, emphasized the relevance of MAB for biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation and sustainable development, but also to promote involvement of scientists in policy-making.

“While there are no biosphere reserves yet in Nepal, MAB is not a completely new concept in the country” said the UNESCO Representative to Nepal, Christian Manhart, in his opening remarks. “Already in 1983, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Research, ICIMOD, was established under the MAB programme in Kathmandu”. On the occasion of the World Rhino Day, Manhart congratulated the outstanding work of the DNPWC in rhino conservation, particularly in Chitwan National Park.

Maheshwar Dhakal from the DNPWC shared about the rhino conservation in Nepal and gave a brief introduction of protected areas.

Miguel Clüsener-Godt, Chief of the MAB Research and Policy Section at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, explained the mechanisms and advantages of MAB. Similarly, Ram Boojh from UNESCO New Delhi office, who is also the coordinator of the South and Central Asian MAB (SACAM) Network, gave a presentation on SACAM’s activities in the region. Miguel Clüsener-Godt and Boojh encouraged Nepalese scientists and experts to participate in international meetings organised under this Network.

With regard to potential biosphere reserve sites, Professor Ram Prasad Chaudhary gave an insightful presentation on the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, which could potentially be linked to a biosphere reserve in India as a trans-boundary reserve.

The discussion suggested Langtang National Park and Shivapuri Conservation area as a joint biosphere reserve.  Annapurna Conservation Area was also suggested as a biosphere reserve due to its uniqueness.

The Nepalese MAB Committee has not been active since 2006. Participants agreed in the necessity of creating a new Committee and the Committee should be chaired by a political institution, preferably the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, and the Nepal National Commission for UNESCO’s Science Committee and it should meet regularly. They also suggested that the main role of the Committee would be the creation of a networking and knowledge sharing platform. And  provide coordination and technical expertise which is required for the biosphere reserve nomination process, and to link up Nepalese experts to international events.

In his closing remarks, Miguel Clüsener-Godt highlighted the benefits of biosphere reserves as tools to raise funds for conservation, and to organise training and technology transfer. MAB branding attracts technical support and additional value to products and services and local communities’ pride in their biosphere reserves. He emphasised that more consultations about suitable biosphere reserve sites will follow.

The fourth World Congress of Biosphere Reserves will be organized in Lima, Peru on 14-17 March 2016.