Kangchenjunga Landscape conservation and development strategy and regional cooperation framework

Kangchenjunga Landscape conservation and development strategy and regional cooperation framework

The Kangchenjunga Landscape (KL) encompasses a part of eastern Nepal, Sikkim and part of West Bengal in India, and the western and south western parts of Bhutan. It has a total area of 25,086 km2 and elevation range from 40 to 8,586 masl.

The KL is particularly rich in biodiversity as it includes both the Indo-Malayan and Palaearctic Realms as well as species of Sino-Japanese origin, with a floral diversity including trees, shrubs, herbs, orchids, lichen, and moss. It has nine highly diverse ecoregions of high ecological and conservation significance ranging from the Lower Gangetic Plains moist deciduous forests in the south, to the Yarlung Tsangpo arid steppe in the north. The fauna include flagship, keystone, focal, umbrella, migratory, and vulnerable species ranging from the tiger of the Indo-Malayan Realm to the snow leopard of the Palearctic Realm. The agro-ecosystem also has a very rich agrobiodiversity with valuable genetic resources. The KL has 19 protected areas covering 30% of the total area (7,176 km2) to protect this diversity.

The KL is home to more than 7 million people, the great majority in KL-India. The majority of the population are Hindus and – especially in Bhutan – Buddhists, with many other faiths also represented including Muslims, Kiratis, and Christians. Ethnic groups include Brahmin, Chhetri, and Dalit (Indo-Aryan origin), and Limbu, Rai, Magar, Sherpa, Gurung, Tamang, Tharu, Lepcha, Bhote, Newar, and Drukpa (Tibeto-Burman origin). Literacy rates range from 57% in KL-Bhutan to 78% in KL-India; women’s literacy is generally lower than for men. The landscape’s ecosystems provide a wide range of provisioning services (food, water, medicines, wood energy, timber, non-timber, grazing, hydropower) as well as regulating, supporting, and cultural services to the people living in the landscape and beyond. Mount Kangchenjunga is held sacred by the Buddhist and Kirant religions.

A wide range of conservation and development challenges were identified at both national and regional levels. The principal problems are deforestation, habitat fragmentation, isolation of protected areas, human-wildlife conflict, overharvested and unregulated natural resource use, knowledge gaps, poor economic and social infrastructure, underdeveloped agricultural production systems, untapped tourism potential, poaching and illegal transboundary trade in flora and fauna, cross-border transmission of livestock disease, and climate change.

The three regional member countries and ICIMOD have prepared a RCDS (2016–2036) and a RCF for the KL to institutionalize fair, equitable, and sustainable use of the biological and other natural resources. The strategy and framework were developed on the basis of country level feasibility assessment reports (FARs) 2014, which were synthesized to provide a regional feasibility assessment reports (KLFAR) 2017, as well as country level conservation and development strategies. This paper summarizes the main elements of the regional strategy and framework, including the mission, vision, goal, outcomes, strategies and key actions, implementation strategy, and monitoring and evaluation. The goal is to ensure better conservation and management of the KL in order to sustain ecosystem goods and services to improve livelihoods and enhance ecological integrity, economic development, and socio-cultural resilience to environmental changes.

The report was co-funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nepal.