Manaslu Conservation Area Project
- To conserve and sustainably manage the natural resources and rich cultural heritage; and
- To promote ecotourism to improve livelihood of the local people in the MCA region.
With the successful experience of Integrated Conservation and Development Program (ICDP) in ACAP, the Trust started its program in the Manaslu region from the beginning of 1997 as the Manaslu Ecotourism Development Project with funding support of the Government of Nepal and the Asian Development Bank under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation’s Second Tourism Infrastructure Development Project. The project was able to develop basic eco-tourism infrastructure in the area. MCAP completed the Ecotourism Project in 2001.
The program activities undertaken under this project assisted and increased the capacity of the locals to take a leading role in managing their natural resources.
Manaslu Conservation Area (MCA), declared on December 28, 1998 is the second conservation area under NTNC management. Manaslu, a mountainous region in northern part of Gorkha District, has a fragile but diverse natural resource base and a rich cultural environment. MCA encompasses a 1,663 sq. km. area with 7 VDCs. There are about 9,000 inhabitants living in MCA and 2,000 species of plants, 33 mammals, 110 birds, 3 reptiles and 11 butterflies in 11 types of forest have been reported from the area. With the declaration of MCA in 1998, Government of Nepal handed over the management responsibility of MCA to NTNC for 10 years. The objective was to improve the capacity of the local communities in the Manaslu area to benefit from tourism in an environmentally benign manner for sustainable development. With the expiry of the management mandate, on the request of the local communities, the District Development Committee of Gorkha and the major political parties in the district, the Government of Nepal has extended the management mandate for another 10 years till 2018.
The area was neglected in terms of infrastructure development as well as all basic services, which directly affected the livelihood of the people. The local people were deprived of the benefits of access, safe drinking water supply and electricity. Education and health services were almost non-existent. Since no other economic opportunities were available, they had to depend on marginal agriculture, animal husbandry and exploitation of natural resources for survival. As Manaslu is a food deficit region, high dependency on natural resources was constantly straining the capacity of the ecosystem. Tourism, due to the semi-restricted area status of the six VDCs adjoining the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, is limited to 1,000 trekkers per annum, and only about 60% of the quota is subscribed. The local people do not enjoy the benefits from even these low numbers, as the groups have to visit the region in organized groups that are self-sufficient in all their requirements before they start the journey.
Manaslu has a lot to offer to the trekkers, from the beautiful scenery of the majestic Himalayan ranges and high altitude glacier lakes to rich biological and cultural diversity. The culture is equally attractive and most follow Buddhism. The rich cultural heritage is evident in the several large Buddhist monasteries like Shringi Gompa in Bihi, as well as Mu and Rachen Gompas in Chhekampar. Local examples of the harmony between religion and environmental conservation can be seen throughout the region, as Lamas (religious leaders) from monasteries have prohibited the locals to hunt wildlife. This has helped the wildlife to prosper and increase in MCA and is a prime habitat for the elusive snow leopard, grey wolf, musk deer, blue sheep and the Himalayan Thar.
The Trust has been implementing various field programs in the region to motivate and mobilize the local people to take the lead in managing their own resources. As in ACAP, the main backbone of all these programs is Conservation Education. Extensive extension programs are underway to create awareness among the local people so that they understand and become an integral part of the undertaking. Without their active participation and support, no program, however novel or well designed, is going to achieve success. The capacity of the local Conservation Area Management Committees (CAMCs) is regularly enhanced through regular training and they are entrusted with the responsibility of managing the natural resources of their region in a sustainable manner.
Research is conducted regularly to develop database on biodiversity and socio-economic conditions in the region on through the collection of data to record physical and social changes.