Conservation in Thakurdwara bufferzone, Bardia National Park
October 2008; An electric fencing scheme funded by the Western Terai Landscape Complex Project (WTLCP) in the Bardia National Park (BNP) buffer zone seeks to balance conservation of wildlife and biodiversity while providing livelihood support for poor communities living in the periphery of forests.
This ten kilometers long electric fencing has been constructed to keep out rampaging wild elephants from invading villages and farmland of locals living in the BNP buffer zone. The fence construction began in June 2007 and was completed in three months at a total cost Rs.107,500. The project was undertaken by the BNP office, and the local communities participate in the upkeep of the electric fencing through a buffer zone management committee consisting of 15 sub-committees.
Ram Antar Tharu, chairperson of the Surya Patuwa management sub-committee says, 'earlier elephants caused massive damages each year to crops and houses in the village. But now it has been controlled with the help of WTLCP.' The challenge still lies due to irregular supply of electricity that makes the electric fence useless at night when it is needed the most to chase-off hungry elephants.'
'The population of wild elephants has dramatically increased in the last few years,' said Shyam Kumar Sah, assistant Warden of the BNP. In 1992, about ten wild elephants were present in and around the BNP. In the last count in 2006, there were about 80 wild elephants.
During the time when there was no electricity supply and the fencing didn't work, the villagers chased off animals by using firecrackers, drums and screaming, often putting their lives at risk. However with the support of WTLCP, a machan (watch tower) was constructed and the villagers take turns to guard the village. Additionally, WTLCP has facilitated the creation of a wildlife relief fund that aims to provide some compensation for those whose property or persons are affected by wild animal attacks.
Besides the fencing scheme designed to protect human farmland and settlements from wild animals, WTLCP also runs other activities to enhance livelihood opportunities for the locals. This includes the plantation of mentha and lemon grass (plants not consumed by the elephants) which are used to produce essential oils . The Project assists locals involved in such production with efforts to market their products.
The WTLCP project is a multi donor programme funded by the UNDP Global Environment Facility/ Small Grants Programme, SNV, Li-Bird, World Wildlife Fund, Biodiversity International and the Nepal Agricultural Research Council.