Manaslu Conservation Area Project
Declared on 28 December 1998, Manaslu Conservation Area (MCA) is the third and the newest conservation area in Nepal. The management was handed over to the National Trust for Nature Conservation for another 10 years by the Government of Nepal. Besides the Annapurna Conservation Area, this is the second of its kind the trust is managing.
Nepal had adopted a new and innovative approach in the protected area management since 1986, which focused on making the local people responsible for all natural resources in the region as custodian rather than dislocating them from the region for the sake of biodiversity protection. This made the people both, the principle actors and beneficiaries to see that the resources are utilized in a sustainable manner to benefit generations. This concept was first initiated in the Annapurna Conservation Area.
The program was started by National Trust for Nature Conservation in Manaslu region through Manaslu Eco-tourism Development Project under loan assistance of Asian Development Bank to the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation – Second Tourism Infrastructure Development Project since January 1997. To improve the capacity of Manaslu area to support tourism in an environmentally friendly manner is its one of the major objectives. As the natural and cultural environment of the Manaslu area was fragile, it was declared as a ‘conservation area’ in order to protect its unique and extremely rich biodiversity.
The negligence in terms of development of infrastructure has affected the livelihood of the people and the people have been deprived of the benefits of proper bridges and trails. Also, most of the 56 villages did not have safe drinking water supply or electricity and the education as well as health system is equal to non-existence. Due to lack of other economic opportunities, they had to depend on marginal agriculture, animal husbandry and exploitation of natural resources for survival.
From the beautiful scenery of the splendid Himalayan ranges and high altitude glacier lakes to rich biological and cultural resources, the area has a lot to offer to the trekkers. Most of the people here follow Buddhist religion and as a result, there are many cultural heritages like, largely the Buddhist monasteries like Shringi Gompa in Bihi, Mu and Rachen Gompas in Chhekampur, etc. Also, the lamas from the monasteries have prohibited the locals to hunt the mild animals here which have helped to save and prosper the wildlife, including those that are near to extinct.
Moreover, the trust is planning to implement various field programs in the region to motivate and mobilize the local people to take a lead in managing their own resources and the local Conservation Area Management Committees have also done their works efficiently and utilized the resources sustainably.
It also conducts research that aims to keep the record of the biodiversity and the socio-economic conditions in the region. Moreover, Conservation Education Extension Program (CEEP) is also conducted to motivate the local people and make them understand that they are an integral part of the undertaking and without their active participation and support, no program could be successful. The Manaslu Conservation Area Project has become successful so far and more is expected from it in the near future for sustainability and conservation of nature and culture in the region.