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Ramsar Sites of Nepal

Module by: Gandhiv Kafle. E-mail the author

Summary: This article provides an overview of Ramsar Sites of Nepal

The Convention on Wetlands came into force for Nepal on 17 April 1988. Nepal presently has eight sites designated as Wetland of International Importance. The Koshi Tappu wetland is considered of international significance and was added to the Ramsar list of wetlands of global importance on December 17, 1987. The Ramsar Bureau has designated and listed the Beeshazar Tal (Lake) of Chitwan District, Ghodaghodi Tal of kailali District and the Jagadishpur Reservoir of Kapilvastu District of Nepal as Ramsar Sites in August 13, 2003. Moreover, in September 23, four new wetland sites namely Rara Lake, Phoksundo Lake, Gokyo and Associated Lakes, and Gosainkunda and Associated Lakes have been added in the Ramsar List.

Gokyo and Associated Lakes

23/09/07; Sagarmatha; 7,770 ha; 27°52'N 080°42'E. Within Sagarmatha National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site. A system of glacial lakes at 4,710m-4,950m altitude in the high Himalayan region at the base of Cho Oyo (the world's 6th highest mountain), not far from Mt Everest, at the headwaters of the Dudh Koshi River which is part of the Ganges river system. The alpine pasture meadow and sloping mountain terrain support a number of IUCN Redlisted rare and vulnerable species, such as the kutki plant (Neopicrorhiza scrophulariifolia), the Himalayan tahr or goat (Hemitragus jemlahicus), the Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia), Wood snipe (Gallinago nemoricola), endemic species like the flowering plant Kobresia fissiglumis, and many important birds like Aythya nyroca and Grus vigor. The system is a vital source of water for downstream communities. There is a small amount of seasonal grazing, by traditional right, and eight hotels with campgrounds serve ecotourists and religious visitors. Garbage and sewage left by visitors is difficult to dispose of and such pollution pressures represent a potential threat, as does overgrazing and deforestation caused by mountaineering expeditions seeking firewood. The site is two days' walk from Namche, the nearest town. Ramsar site no. 1692. Most recent RIS information: 2007.

Gosaikunda and Associated Lakes

23/09/07; Bagamti; 1,030 ha; 28°05'N 085°25'E. Within Langtang National Park. A treeless region with shrub land interspersed by rocky slopes and alpine pasture, with a complex of at least 15 lakes and ponds at 4,054m-4,620m altitude that provide water for the Trishuli tributary of the Narayani River system. A considerable number of IUCN Redlisted endangered and vulnerable species of fauna and flora are present. The site has religious associations for Hindus and Buddhists and is the locus of the important Gangadashahara and Janaipurnima festivals. Human uses include grazing during summers, and there are four hotels with campgrounds for trekking groups and pilgrims. Threats to the site include pollution from the huge gathering during the festivals. There is a religious ban on the killing of animals within much of the site. Ramsar site no. 1693. Most recent RIS information: 2007.

Phoksundo Lake

23/09/07; Karnali; 494 ha; 29°12'N 082°57'E. Within Shey-Phoksundo National Park. A glacial lake near Ringmo in the Dolpo region, the deepest lake in the country, that is the centre of endemism in the eastern Himalayan region and a vital source of freshwater for downstream, with the highest waterfall (167m) in Nepal 500m from the lake. The lake, alpine meadows, and bogs provide habitat for a number of rare and vulnerable plants and animals, including the Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia), Musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster) and Grey or Tibetan Wolf (Canis lupus). The site has great cultural and religious importance, with traditional Tibetan culture of the upper Dolpo and both Buddhism and the ancient Tibetan Bon-Po religion of the lower Dolpo both observed in Ringmo village. There is some grazing and cultivation, but tourism, dependent upon the wetland, is the base of the economy. Overgrazing and pollution from the 42 households of Ringmo village are seen as potential threats to the site. Ramsar site no. 1694. Most recent RIS information: 2007.

Rara Lake

23/09/07; Karnali; 1,583 ha; 29°30'N 082°05'E. National Park. The largest lake in Nepal, lying at about 2,900m altitude and providing water to the important Kamali River. The area has developed unique floral and faunal assemblages with a number of rare and vulnerable fauna and flora species, and the wet alpine pasture, moraines, and damp stream banks along the lake area are the natural habitats for endemic species of plants. The endemic frog Rara paha (Paa rarica) is found at only one other location in the Central region, and three endemic species of snow trout, Asala macha (Schizothorax macropthalus, S. nepalensis, and S. raraensis), are found only here. Two temples in the area are the venue for a number of religious festivals. The people of the area speak a dialect that is considered the former or original form of the Nepali language. Principal threats come from pollution caused by army personnel and tourists and unregulated fuelwood collection, especially during festivals. Ramsar site no. 1695. Most recent RIS information: 2007.

Beeshazar and Associated Lakes

13/08/03; Chitawan; 3,200 ha; 27°37'N, 084°26'E. Beeshazar and Associated Lakes lie in Bharatpur and Ratnagar Municipalities, 15 km south of Narayangadh town, Chitawan District, in the zone of Narayani, central Nepal. It falls inside the buffer zone of Royal Chitwan National Park, a world heritage site. It is an extensive, typical oxbow lake system situated between the Mahabharat mountain range to the north and the Siwalik range to the south. It is a forested wetland. It provides excellent habitat as a water hole and corridor for endangered wildlife species, including the critically endangered White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), endangered tiger (Panthera tigris), one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), vulnerable Smooth-coated Otter (Lutra perpiscillata), Sloth Bear (Melaurus ursinus), Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), Lesser Adjutant Stork (Leptoptilos javanicus), Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) and Band-tailed Fish Eagle (Haileetus leucoryphus).

Ghodaghodi Lake Area

13/08/03; Kailali District; 2,563 ha; 28°41'N, 080°57'E.The site falls in the Village Development Committees of Darakh, Ramshikharjhala and Sandepani within Kailali District, in the Zone of Seti, western Nepal. It is a large and shallow oxbow lake with associated marshes and meadows. It is surrounded by tropical deciduous forest on the lower slopes of Siwalik. There are around 13 associated lakes and ponds in the area. Some streams are separated by hillocks situated on the site’s periphery. The forest and wetlands serve as the wildlife corridor between the lowland and the Siwalik. They support critically endangered Red-crowned Roofed Turtle (Kachuga kachuga), the endangered Tiger (Panthera tigris), Leopard (Panthera pardus), and Three-striped Roof Turtle (Kachuga dhongka), and the vulnerable Smooth-coated Otter (Lutra perpiscillata), Common Otter (Lutra lutra), Swamp deer (Cervus duvaucelli), Lesser Adjutant Stork (Leptotilos javanicus) and Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris). Threatened plant species include the endangered Orchid (Aerides odorata), religiously important and threatened Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), and rare wild rice (Hygrohiza aristata). They support six threatened bird species. They include Critical: White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) and Slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris); Vulnerable: Lesser adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus) and Indian-spotted eagle (Aquila hastate); and Near-threatened: Oriental darter (Anhigna melanogaster) and Ferruginous pochard (Aythya nyroca). The resident population of Nettapus coromandelianus makes up nearly one percent of the total Asian population.

Jagadishpur Reservoir

17/11/1987; Kapilvastu; 225 ha; 27°35'N 083°05'E. The site lies 10 km north of the city Taulihawa, in Kapilvastu District and Lumbini Zone, central Nepal. It is a reservoir constructed in the early 1970s over the Jakhira lake and agricultural lands for irrigation purposes. The water is fed from the Banganga lake in the Churia hills catchment. The reservoir is surrounded by cultivated land and a few smaller lakes. These serve as a buffer zone for bird movements. The site provides shelter for an assemblage of some rare, endangered species of conservation importance. These include plants such as endangered Serpentine (Rauvolfia serpentine), rare Pondweed (Potamogeton lucens), threatened and religiously important Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), rare Wild Rice (Hygrorhiza aristata), as well as the IUCN red-listed and tallest flying bird species Indian Sarus Crane (Grus antigone antigone).

Koshi Tappu Wetland

13/08/03; Koshi; 17500 ha; 26°39'N 086°59'E. The site is located about 8 km northeast of the town of Hanumannagar, on the border with the Indian state of Bihar, southeast Nepal. It is the first Ramsar site of Nepal. It lies within the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. It is a section of the Sapta Koshi River and its floodplain. It offers an important habitat for a large variety of wildlife. The threatened crocodile Gavialis gangeticus, birds Eupodotis bengalensis and Pelecanus philippensis, and leopard Panthera pardus occur in the site. Koshi Tappu forms an ideal habitat for resident as well as migratory waterbirds and substantial numbers of waders.

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