TAL project recognised for exemplary conservation

Kathmandu, Feb. 14: The Tarai Arc Landscape (TAL)  has been recognised and honored as one of the seven UN World Restoration Flagships as part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

This exceptional conservation outcome has been possible under the leadership of the government, stewardship of the communities and engagement of civil society. This collaborative effort has helped protect and restore forests, increase species population, and enhance ecosystem services and transborder corridor functionality. 

This has garnered international recognition, positioning the Terai Arc Landscape as a pioneer in implementing landscape-level conservation practices worldwide, experts said.

The transboundary Tarai Arc Landscape serves not only as a biodiversity hotspot but also as a true testament to the effectiveness of the landscape approach of conservation, said Dr. Birendra Prasad Mahato, Minister for Forests and Environment, at a function organised to inform about the achievement on Tuesday. 

“We are incredibly grateful for this recognition from the UN and are encouraged to continue tackling existing and new challenges faced by our forests, wildlife, and communities,” Minister Mahato said.

Extending over 900 km from the Bagmati River, Nepal, in the east to the Yamuna River, India, in the west, TAL covers an expansive area of 51,002 square kilometres.

The area extends from the Bagmati River in the east to the Mahakali River in the west covering six protected areas, four forest conservation areas, three Ramsar sites and several critical corridors and spreads in over 24,710.13 square kilometres.

TAL envisions a globally unique landscape where biodiversity is conserved, ecological integrity is safeguarded, and the socio-economic well-being of the people is secured. In line with the 50-year vision, TAL aims to conserve ecosystems of the Tarai and Churia hills while ensuring the safeguarding of the rights of indigenous people and the local community. 

“The Tarai Arc Landscape initiative does not protect nature by pulling people out of it, but by bringing people and nature closer together,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “After decades of uncontrolled exploitation and degradation, resources are now urgently needed to rebuild that connection and restore vital ecosystems. This is key to tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and rampant pollution,” Andersen said.

“WWF’s continued support is highly appreciated for this huge success,” said Dipak Gyawali, Deputy Director General of the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation. 

“Two decades of collective efforts have made this achievement possible,” said Bed Kumar Dhakal, Officiating Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

“WWF NEPAL is grateful and thanks the various agencies of the Government of Nepal, local communities, conservation partners, donors, and supporters for having us a partner in this incredible journey towards combined restoration efforts. Congratulations to all the concerned stakeholders for this historic achievement,” Dr. Ghana Shyam Gurung, Country Representative, WWF Nepal.

The first 10-year TAL Strategy and Implementation Plan (2004-2014) provided a touchstone to guide and address conservation management issues and to tackle priority threats to make TAL an ecologically functional landscape. The second Strategy and Action Plan (2015–2025) has continued to guide and build on the conservation successes in TAL to ensure the socio-ecological integrity of the TAL over the next decade and beyond.

The initiative which started with the launch of the Terai Arc Landscape Programme in 2001 has already brought back to life 66,800 hectares of forest, increased the population of rhinos from 409 in 2005 to 752 in 2021, and nearly tripled its tiger population from 121 in 2010 to 355 in 2022. 

The restoration success helped Nepal claim the result-based payment of USD 45 million through REDD+. The programme has also benefitted the local community through nature-based tourism, homestays, green enterprises, and many other initiatives through the engagement of local community members, community forest users, buffer zone communities, community-based anti-poaching units, citizen scientists and forest watchers.

Meanwhile, a press statement issued by the United Nations office in Nepal, said that the initiative, which started with the Government of Nepal’s launch of the Terai Arc Landscape Programme in 2001 – has already brought back to life a forest area 13 times the size of Kathmandu, and nearly tripled its tiger population to 355 from 121. In the entire Terai Arc landscape, shared by India and Nepal, the population more than doubled to 1,174. 

The World Restoration Flagship awards are part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) – which aims to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. The awards track notable initiatives following global commitments to restore one billion hectares – an area larger than China. The award for the Terai Arc Landscape initiative was announced by UN Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador, actress and environmentalist, Dia Mirza.

As a World Restoration Flagship, the Terai Arc Landscape is recognised as one of the best examples of large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration in any country or region, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The announcement of seven new World Restoration Flagships was made ahead of the 6th UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) slated for February 26 to March 1. 

The Assembly convenes the world’s Environment Ministers in  Nairobi, Kenya, to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity and nature loss, and pollution and waste.

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