Journal of Geography and Regional Planning Vol. 2(4), pp. 080-085, April, 2009
Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/JGRP ISSN 2070-1845
© 2009 Academic Journals
Full Length Research Paper
Towards an innovative approach to integrated wetland
management in Rupa Lake Area of Nepal
Bimal Raj Regmi*, Gandhiv Kafle, Achyut Adhikari, Abishkar Subedi, Rojee Suwal and Indra
Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development, P. O. Box 324, Pokhara, Nepal.
The common property resource management would be tragedy of common or would lead to better
management dependent on the existence of institutions governing access, utilization, managements,
exclusion, ownership and transfer of ownership. However, recently the concept of integrated
management and environment payment system has emerged as a new paradigm in common property
management. The civil society is now working towards bridging gaps between have and have not. With
this realization LI-BIRD in financial support of EGP Netherlands applied the integrated wetland
management model in managing the Rupa wetland and its watershed. Significant progress has been
made in ensuring communities leadership in management of natural resources. The conflicts in
resource management has been challenged with innovative ideas of distributing the benefits arising
from the use to the communities who are not only recipients but also the communities playing role in
conservation and management of ecosystems.
Key words: Common property resource management, integrated wetland management, conflicts and
environment payment system.
Paying for the provision of environmental services is a
recent policy innovation attracting much attention in both
developed and developing countries. The emergence of
Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) has to be seen
partly as a response to a need to identify additional sour-
ces for financing conservation, partly as a response to
the widespread disappointment with more conventional
approaches to conservation. These approaches have
been based e.g. on command and control or unconditio-
nal economic incentives, such as those provided as part
of the so-called integrated conservation and development
projects promoted during the 1980s and 1990s (Zilber-
man 2007; McShane and Wells, 2004; Ravnborg et al.,
2007). The PES concept emerged from growing concern
about the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services,
combined with inspiration from the early success of the
global carbon market and a desire to scale-up experience
with PES at local, regional and national levels (UNEP/
*Corresponding author. E-mail: email@example.com. Tel:
PES can be defined as a “voluntary, conditional tran-
saction with at least one seller, one buyer, and a well-de-
fined environmental service” (Wunder, 2005). PES pro-
grams can be divided into three categories according to
their function: a) Some PES programs pay mostly for
pollution control. b) PES may also be payments for the
conservation of natural resources and ecosystems,
including forest resources and wetlands, wild flora and
fauna species, and agricultural crop and livestock spe-
cies. c) Finally, some PES are used to generate environ-
mental amenities that are public goods (Zilberman,
2007). One of the most widespread and easily under-
stood forms of PES is a transaction between downstream
water users and upstream landowners to secure the
water-related benefits of a sustainably managed water-
shed (e.g. flow regulation, filtration, and erosion control)
The primary objective of PES is to correct market fai-
lures that have negative effects on ecosystems. Biodiver-
sity conservation can be considered an implicit objective
of this approach. It intends to support sustainable deve-
lopment through biodiversity conservation at local, regio-
nal, national and global scale. It is important to consider
the use of PES not just as an incentive for conservation,
but more generally as an incentive for more sustainable
land-use in inhabited landscapes. By offering economic
incentives for maintaining ecosystem services, PES ope-
rates on the basis that market forces can offer an efficient
and effective means of supporting sustainable develop-
ment objectives. One of the key advantages of PES is its
potential to tap additional sources of funding by creating
new demand for ‘environmental’ goods and services
Across much of Asia, rapid transitions to market-based
economies alongside demographic changes are creating
an increasingly high demand for watershed services. In
urban Asia alone, an estimated 700 million people lack
adequate water supplies emanating from upland areas
(Dudley and Stolton, 2003). Traditional approaches to
watershed management have largely failed to reverse
widespread watershed degradation and protect the
hydrological services they provide. Consequently, effi-
cient and effective watershed management approaches
are being actively sought and/or introduced (Huang and
Upadhyaya, 2007). The conservation and protection
approach in the past have, for the most part, not pro-
duced the desired conservation outcomes because they
shed negative impacts on the livelihoods of communities
in upstream areas with ignorance to livelihood require-
ments of communities; while the communities in the
downstream areas, who are users and beneficiaries of
the ecosystem services, are enjoying the benefits but not
ready to pay for the service they are getting from the
ecosystem (Wunder, 2005).
Nepal has several wetland ecosystems of global signi-
fIcance. These wetlands are important for Nepal’s sus-
tainable development as they contribute significantly to
livelihoods of a large number of communities depending
on these resources. While all communities benefit from
wetlands, about 17% of the Nepali populations represent-
ing 21 ethnic communities have traditionally based their
livelihoods on wetlands (fishing, river transport etc.).
These communities are some of the most marginalized
and poorest people in Nepal.
The common property resources are undergoing a lot
of threats and challenges in recent years. Wetlands are
Nepal’s most threatened habitats supporting a great
diversity of floral and faunal diversity. Increased human
pressures have led to alteration and degradation of these
ecosystems, causing reduction or loss of biodiversity,
ecological functions, and economic, cultural and spiritual
values of these wetland resources. Ownership and bene-
fit sharing issues related to wetland management exist in
wetland areas of Nepal. There is a challenge to secure
the rights of wetland dependent communities over the re-
sources. Benefit sharing mechanism is not well address-
ed in any of the policy and government action plans. The
conflict of interest in resource management is a reality in
Nepal. The communities who manage and use catchments
and watershed areas are not willing to invest on conser-
Regmi et al. 081
vation due to high opportunity costs incurred in conser-
vation. People in the upstream for example, have no
incentives to preserve them, as the benefits are enjoyed
by many people, while the costs of maintaining them are
incurred only by them.
In recent years, the compensation to landholders for
the services generated by their land has been advocated
as an instrument to ensure that these services are main-
tained. PES seeks to capture at least part of the benefits
derived from environmental services (such as clean
water) and channel them to the landholders who gene-
rate them: PES provide landholders the right incentives to
maintain a healthy ecosystem, they are a new source of
income for landholders who can improve their livelihoods
(World Bank, 2005), and have the additional advantage
of generating funds that can be used to finance conser-
Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Deve-
lopment (LI-BIRD) with financial support of Ecosystems
Grants Programme (EGP) piloted an integrated ecosys-
tem based approach to manage wetlands in Nepal. This
pilot project was implemented in Rupa Lake Area of
Kaski District in Nepal. This article is based on the
approach and findings of the project.
Tradeoff between conservation and livelihoods
There are always gains and losses in common property resource
management. These gains and losses are in terms of ecology and
livelihoods of communities. The policies and strategies promoted
previously by the many governments were more oriented towards
hardcore conservation with more focused on ecological gains.
These policies implemented measures to control the use of
resources of the communities living around. It helped in conser-
vation but did not pay attention to the livelihood of communities.
Rather it led to conflicts and negative impact on the ecosystem.
Thus, many of this programme and projects were failures. Similarly,
focusing on livelihood gains for the community leading to overuse of
resources without maintaining the ecosystem also contributed in
major environmental problems like land degradation, deforestation
and climate change. Thus, the project realized that in order to
manage the wetland areas more efficiently and effectively, there
must be the balance between ecological conservation and lively-
hoods of communities. The project adopted the participatory tools
to address the community development and conservation aspect.
Formation and empowerment of local conservation groups, re-
volving fund mobilization, trainings, organic farming, hedgerow and
bioengineering technology, green foot trail construction around the
lake, cooperative based fishery management and forest conser-
vation were the major activities used for community development.
Figure 1 shows Trade off between livelihood and ecological gains.
An integrated wetland management model was deve-
loped and implemented to achieve the project goal. This
model includes the management of water body, adjacent
marshy lands and watershed in a consolidated, integra-
ted and participatory ways putting emphasis on the role
082 J. Geogr. Reg. Plann.
Figure 1. Trade off between livelihood and ecological gains.
Source: Umashaankar et al., 2003.
Figure 2. Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES)
Source: Adhikari et al. 2007.
the role of each ecosystem, and inters linkages and inter-
dependence in terms of functioning. The project was en-
tirely community-based and inclusive, involving every
section of the community – farmers, fishermen, indige-
nous groups, traders, students and teachers. Emphasis
was given to the conservation of locally available floral
and faunal species in the lake and watershed areas by
establishing the conservation blocks for White lotus,
water birds, wild rice, narkat and local Sahar fish. Bio-
engineering and conservation measures were used to
rehabilitate the degraded catchment and forests. Organic
farming is promoted in the farmlands of watershed areas.
Value chain approach
This project initiative adapted an innovative system
approach to explore how the existing knowledge and
experiences can be used more effectively to address the
issue of poverty. It supported and strengthened scaling
up of good practices which can help poor people, espe-
cially women and indigenous groups, to create and adopt
innovative income generation opportunities. This initiative
explored and focused on the value chain, from sustaina-
ble production to systematic value addition and market-
ing of a diverse range of high value wetland and agricul-
tural products in local, regional and national markets. It
explored low cost value addition techniques for wetland
and agriculture based species that focuses on production
of dry meat of fish through drying and packaging, utili-
zation of local wetland species for food (e.g. Water chest-
nut), handicraft making, decoration and aesthetic pur-
Payment for ecosystem services (PES)
Preliminary study on the PES was carried out to explore
the ecosystem services in the area and ways for the
delivery of the ecosystem and economic benefits to up
and down stream communities. Figure 2 shows Payment
for Ecosystem Services (PES).The cooperative based
fishery management is an innovative mechanism for
benefit sharing to upstream as well as downstream users
from the sale of the fish. The cooperative pays to the
upstream users for their role in conserving upland forest
and catchment for healthy lake. This money is used for
conservation and community development activities in
the upstream areas. Wetland based ecotourism was pro-
posed and preliminary activities have already been initia-
ted to promote this approach. A green foot trail was con-
structed around the lake for easy access to most of the
natural places by the visitors. A wetland information cen-
tre has been established in the vicinity of the lake where
aquarium with local variety of fishes, wetland products,
architects and biodiversity information is systematically
arranged. The visitors will have a holistic knowledge and
overview of the lake and associated resources by a sin-
gle visit to this information centre. The centre is preparing
an electronic database on wetland resources, aquarium
of indigenous fish diversity, living garden of floral diver-
sity, specimen of wetland resources, photographs, paint-
ings, posters, video documentary and traditional museum
of fishing technology by indigenous fisher communities
around the lake. The centre is laying a venue for public
awareness on the importance of wetland biodiversity and
also for promoting wetland eco-tourism.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Towards conservation of biodiversity
The conservation blocks have provided wilderness areas
as well as community-managed gene banks for the water
birds, white lotus, narkat, wild rice and local sahar fish
species which has also helped to protect marsh/swamp
ecosystem. These blocks have been protected by local
community. Inventories and community biodiversity re-
gistration have documented 69 species of wetland de-
pendant plants, 22 species of indigenous fishes, 11 spe-
cies of improved variety of fishes, 36 species of water-
birds (Kafle et al., 2008), and 24 species of wetland de-
pendant reptiles in Rupa lake area. The lake and adja-
cent marshes are good habitats for migratory bird spe-
cies. The main water body of the lake area is now free
from invasive Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) due
to periodic removal by the local conservation groups.
Plantation in the bare and degraded lands has helped to
promote succession, maintaining the floral diversity. Fire
and hunting is controlled in community forests around the
lake. There are several reports of increased sightings of
common leopard in the area by the local people. The
habitat of the otters has been conserved within the com-
munity forest. Otters are confined to only in Rupa Lake in
Pokhara valley. In the 1990s, otters were killed consi-
dering them as predators of the fish. But with increased
awareness, local people have understood the importance
of otters in wetland ecosystem and their killings have
completely stopped now. Species diversity is maintained
in the home gardens around the lake.
A pocket guide to water birds of Rupa Lake has been
published in Nepali which serves as a useful reference
for local community and visitors towards water bird con-
Communities participation in conservation and
In Rupa Lake area, the Rupa Lake Rehabilitation and
Fisheries Cooperative (RLRFC) was established with the
initiation of wetland dependent communities with an
agreement with local District Development Committee to
manage the lake. There are some positive outcomes
resulted from the effective functioning of the RLRFC.
Women groups of the cooperative are actively involved
in conserving biodiversity at Rupa Lake. Unnatisil Women
Group and other vicinity women groups are involved in
conservation of water bird habitat and breeding place in
Sathiko Jalo by restricting cutting of grass and aquatic
plants in breeding season of migratory and residential
species. Similarly, they have developed regulations for
harvesting and utilization of wetland resources and are
charging NRs 10-20 for grasses per bhari. Similarly, the
green belt zone of different fodder trees, grasses, fruit
and ornamental plants around the lake is a buffer area
managed by local youth club and women group to check
direct siltation in the lake and other human interference
e.g. encroachment. Therefore, physical and biological
threats to the lake have been minimized at the local level
with community participation.
The forest resources are being managed by local com-
munity within local institutional framework. These active-
ties have helped to reduce the soil erosion and sediment-
tation in the lake. Organic farming in the upstream farm
lands has reduced the use of chemical fertilizers and pes-
Value addition and marketing of wetland species
LI-BIRD has piloted value addition and marketing activi-
Regmi et al. 083
ties in Rupa Lake area. The project has already identified
different products from wetland based plant resources
such as Kamlagotti (seeds) and Kokre (stolen part) of
White lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) as alternative income
generating sources to local communities which retain
medicinal values. Local conservation groups have col-
lected and utilized more than 25 kg of lotus seed in 2007.
The project has been exploring local, regional as well as
national market for marketing of this product. LI-BIRD
through the project is looking for ways to carry out com-
mercial marketing of lotus. Similarly, Simalkande (Trapa
sp.) was identified for marketing. When CBR information
was shared with communities, they came to know that
fruits of Simalkande were eaten by some community
members and children with simple debarking process. To
promote marketing of this product, a pilot market survey
was done in Pokhara City. The survey showed that con-
sumers are willing to pay NRs 20 per kg for the
Simalkande fruits. After this, already 30 kg of fruits have
been sold only in two days of interval from a single mar-
ket point. Previously, communities considered this plant
as unwanted weeds and the cooperative was investing
their resources for removing the plant from lake. But, now
the unwanted weeds of Rupa Lake have become a
profitable income generating source for local community.
The cooperative is now preparing community based sus-
tainable harvesting plan for Simalkande with the good
experience of White lotus management plan. Recently
the Rupa cooperative has used the solar drying techni-
ques to dry the local fish, package it and sell to the local
market. They have earned around $ 1500 in 2007.
Local level benefit sharing mechanism (managing
In Rupa Lake area, environment payment system was
initiated in 2002. The RLRFC pays 10% of its income
from fishery management to the upstream communities.
Including cash, the other payment mechanisms were in
the form of community contribution, capacity building and
collaborative activities. The realization among the users
of the Rupa Lake about the potential role of upstream
and downstream communities in management of the lake
has led to expansion of members within the cooperative.
The 360 membership in the cooperative in 2006 is now
more than 600 members. Most of the new members are
represented from the watershed areas. This has opened
avenues for greater cohesion, sense of ownership and
sharing of benefits.
From this payment from RLRFC, the following major
activities have been carried out under the PES scheme:
• 19 schools around the wetland and watershed areas of
Rupa Lake are receiving conservation grants from the co-
operative to conduct awareness raising and environment-
tal education activities for the students.
• 52 students from the displaced communities particularly
the fisherman “Jalaharis” who used to depend on traditio-
084 J. Geogr. Reg. Plann.
nal fishing living around the lake, wetland and watershed
areas are getting Rs 250 scholarship for their education.
• 17 Community forestry user groups in the watershed
areas are receiving Rs 4000 support from the year 2006
for conservation and sustainable use of forest resources.
This support is given based on agreement between
CFUGs and Cooperative.
• Rupa watershed conservation fund is established by
the cooperatives with support from LI-BIRD and EGP.
The fund is given to groups functional in watershed
areas: Kahure Community Development Group-
Hansapur 9, Betyani Community Development Group-
Majhthana-8, and Jyamire Community Development
Group- Majthana 4 for the conservation and management
of natural resources in the watershed areas. From the
fund poor, marginalized and farmers can get access to
start conservation oriented income generation activities
like plantation, beek keeping, forage/fodder plantation for
livestock improvement, Broom grass cultivation, organic
farming and coffee production, zero tillage sustainable
agriculture farming like permaculture etc. Around 5000
household have directly benefited from these schemes.
• The cooperative is also providing 5000 napier seedl-
ings and Nrs 9000 to the road construction project
• In order to go for bioengineering in areas of landslides
and road degradation.
• Nrs 100,000 is allocated by the cooperatives every year
to manage the conservation blocks established in the
Rupa Lake area.
• Cooperative is providing Rs 5000 every year to cele-
brate awareness raising and sensitizing activities on the
importance of ecosystem health and services in the
watershed areas during World Environment Day.
• Support is also given to organize diversity fair, environ-
ment campaign and school level activities.
The PES is targeted to poor, resource dependent, vulne-
rable communities around the lake, wetland and water-
shed areas. Most attention is given to support the conser-
vation and income generation activities in the watershed
areas. Beneficiaries include near about 15000 house-
holds and among them 2000 have directly benefited. The
cooperative has now extended its membership from 319-
630 including communities residing around lake, wetland
and watershed areas. This is the solid examples of
inclusion of real users of the common property.
CONCLUSIONS AND WAYS FORWARD
Community property resource management has always
been challenging and debatable in recent days. The con-
flict of interest among the users is due to unequal distri-
bution of benefits arising from the ecosystem services.
This issue of equity and justice in common property ma-
nagement is growing concern in Nepal. However, recent-
ly the concept of integrated management and environ-
ment payment system has emerged as a new paradigm
in common property management. The civil society is
now working towards bridging gaps between have and
have not. It is now realized that the role of communities in
conservation of wetland ecosystem is vital for deriving the
services from it. The users are enjoying the benefits be-
cause the communities in elsewhere have invested in
conservation and better management. With this realize-
tion LI-BIRD in financial support of EGP Netherlands ap-
plied the integrated wetland management model in
managing the Rupa wetland and its watershed.
The short term project intervention not only comes up
with encouraging results but provides an innovative and
integrated wetland management model with potentiality
for wider replication. The watershed comprises all water
bodies, wetlands, forest and agro ecosystem with distinct
socio-economic, environment and political dimension.
Conservation should be integrated with the livelihood of
poor and marginalized communities who are totally re-
source dependent. The upland communities are not fully
aware about the impacts of their farming technology lead-
ing to the degradation of Rupa Lake environment. Like-
wise, the lowland communities solely take most of the
benefits from lake resources and simultaneously suffer
from the impacts of unsustainable practices at upland
watershed area. The benefit accrued from downstream
community must be shared with the upstream community
in wetland conservation initiatives. The equitable share of
benefits arising from the sustainable management of
wetland resources will thus create harmony between the
upstream and downstream communities.
There is a great potential to replicate this model in
other wetland areas not only around the Pokhara valley
but also in other parts of Nepal. This innovative approach
to integrated wetland management is expected to be an
effective model for ensuring environmental payment ser-
vice around the lakes throughout Nepal.
We would like to acknowledge Ecosystem Grants Pro-
gramme of IUCN-Netherlands for financial support to
carryout wetland project in Rupa Lake area. We are
highly grateful to the Rupa Lake Rehabilitation and
Fisheries Cooperative, Shree Ram Subedi, Lekhnath
Dhakal, Dr. PK Shrestha, Mr. Tara Lama, and other com-
munity groups for successful partnership in the project.
Similarly, the waterbird data in this article is partially
indicated from the studies by Wetland Friends of Nepal,
Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Institute of Forestry
Pokhara and Bird Conservation Nepal Pokhara Branch –
we are highly grateful for this.
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