UNDP urges Government to fulfil dryland promise World Environment Day
5 June 2006, Kathmandu—As the world celebrated Environment Day under the banner: ‘Don’t Desert Drylands’ today, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) urged the Government of Nepal to ensure that benefits of tourism in the nation’s largest dryland—Upper Mustang— revert back to the people living there.
Globally the two billion people living in drylands often fail to benefit from local resources such as tourist attractions, says the UN Environment Programme. The thousands who live in Upper Mustang are no exception. Experts believe only 3% of tourism revenue generated by the area goes to the local community; additionally local people are often overlooked when decisions are made about tourism in Upper Mustang.
“I urge the Government of Nepal to fulfil the decision made last year, namely, to reinvest 60 percent of the revenue earned from tourism to Upper Mustang into a locally managed conservation plan,” UNDP Resident Representative Matthew Kahane said during the national World Environment Day celebrations in Kathmandu earlier today.
Under the Upper Mustang Area Conservation Management Plan (2006-2010), UNDP is working with government, local people and civil society to strengthen institutions, conserve natural resources and cultural heritage, and develop sustainable tourism.
Experts believe tourism that involves and benefits the people of Upper Mustang could become an important source of income for this impoverished part of the country. Today local people’s income options are mostly limited to livestock or subsistence crops. Only 1.2% of the land can be used for farming and most families are unable to produce enough food to meet even half their yearly requirements.
Reserves of food, money, insurance or other forms of social safety nets to cope with difficult years are non-existent. Many farmers face declining productivity as the fragile land they rely on is increasingly over-cultivated or overgrazed. Experts say Nepal’s drylands are already exhibiting early signs of desertification.
“The drylands of any country represent a distinct land-use and livelihood system and therefore need special consideration in national law, policy and planning,” Mr. Kahane said.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to urge the government, civil society, and the people of Nepal’s drylands to consider how similar support (like the Upper Mustang Plan) could be extended to other places in the country where desertification is starting to take hold,” he said.
For further information please contact: Lisa Hiller (+977-1 5523200 ext: 1060, mob: +977 98510 12133), or Sangita Khadka (+977-1 5523200 ext: 1077, mob: +977 98510 81114).