Nepal has many natural landscapes, from the tall Himalayan mountains to the lush Terai forests. Since the earth cooled enough to support life, forests have played an important role in the country’s environment. They provide important ecological services like carbon sequestration, oxygen production, soil conservation, and wildlife habitat (ICIMOD, 1999).
Unfortunately, Nepal’s forests are facing severe depletion due to population pressures on natural resources such as shifting cultivation, excessive grazing, commercial tree cutting, and encroachment on agricultural land.
Current Situation of Forest in Nepal
The total forest area of Nepal is approximately 44%, including shrubs and bushes. The Terai region of Nepal, which covers approximately 5.96 million hectares of land, is a major source of income through timber export to India. However, little attention was paid to forest management until the 1930s, resulting in widespread deforestation. Only in 1957, when the government nationalized all of Nepal’s forests, declaring them state property, were steps taken toward preserving and managing national forests (WWF Nepal).
The Forest Act of 1962 governed the preservation of national forests but limited local community ownership over the surrounding forests. The government has implemented several measures to protect forests and promote community-based forest management. The establishment of Panchayat Forest and Panchayat Protected Forest in 1978, as well as the approval of the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector in 1988, aided in strengthening the role of local communities in forest resource protection and management.
National parks, wildlife reserves, conservation areas, hunting reserves, and buffer zones now cover approximately 23.3% of the total area. Despite these efforts, deforestation remains a significant issue in Nepal. Population growth has strained the forests in recent years, resulting in widespread deforestation and serious environmental issues (Source: Hamrolibrary).
Forest destruction destroys soil ecosystems, plant communities, and animal communities, resulting in severe environmental consequences such as soil erosion, landslides, and flood hazards. Steps must be taken to protect Nepal’s forests and promote sustainable forest management practices. These steps could include eco-tourism initiatives, community-based forest management, and alternative livelihoods for local communities (Dhakal, 2020).
Furthermore, stricter enforcement of laws prohibiting illegal logging and commercial tree cutting is required, as are increased efforts to raise awareness about the importance of forest conservation and sustainable resource management. Finally, Nepal’s forests are critical to the country’s environmental health and well-being. While the government has taken steps to protect and manage forests, much work still needs to be done to promote sustainable forest management practices and protect forests from deforestation. Individuals can help by supporting initiatives that promote forest conservation and sustainable resource management. Working together, we can ensure that Nepal’s forests thrive for future generations.