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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
02KATHMANDU2217
2002-11-22 08:51:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Kathmandu
Cable title:  

NEPAL'S MAOIST INSURGENCY UNDERMINES

Tags:  SENV PGOV ECON EAGR PTER EAID TBIO XD NP 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KATHMANDU 002217 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES, OES/PCI STEWART, OES/ETC CONDO and STAS
STATE ALSO FOR SA A/S ROCCA, DAS CAMP, SA/INS AND SA/RA
STATE PASS TO AID - ANE/WILSON
EPA FOR OIA - T MACDONALD
DOI FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
DOJ FOR JOHN WEBB
LONDON FOR POL - RIEDEL
BANGKOK FOR REO OSIUS
TASHKENT FOR REO WATTS

E.O. 12598: N/A
TAGS: SENV PGOV ECON EAGR PTER EAID TBIO XD NP
SUBJECT: NEPAL'S MAOIST INSURGENCY UNDERMINES
CONSERVATION EFFORTS

REF: KATHMANDU 2152 (AND PREVIOUS)



1. SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION: While the people of Nepal
have borne the brunt of the brutal seven-year Maoist
insurgency, which has claimed more than 7000 lives, the
impact on Nepal's environment, natural resources and
conservation efforts also has been severe. Maoist
attacks on forest and park personnel, as well as on
army posts in protected areas, illegal logging, and
poaching of endangered wildlife are all on the rise.
Security forces are abandoning remote locations,
leaving many of Nepal's protected areas to the mercy of
the insurgents and environmental criminals. More
rhinos are being killed in national parks for their
horns. Nepal's Royal Bengal Tiger population is being
hunted for its skin and bones. Illegal traffic in
endangered species' products has reached alarming
proportions: wildlife watchers report that banned items
are being sold freely in Kathmandu. The severe decline
in tourism has all but eliminated the livelihoods of
many of Nepal's most marginal groups and dried up
financial resources used for conservation.
Deforestation is accelerating, and globally significant
biodiversity resources are facing extinction. Economic
pressures stemming from the insurgency are increasing
as the conflict drags on, threatening serious
ecological damage and Nepal's future food security.
This cable examines the impact on Nepal's protected
areas, wildlife, and tourism industry. Septel reports
how the insurgency affects forests, biodiversity
resources, and rural livelihoods. End summary.

NATIONAL PARKS/PROTECTED AREAS


--------------------------





2. Seventeen percent of Nepal's landmass has been
designated as national parks or protected areas. When
conservation areas are included, more than twenty
percent of Nepal is under some form of protection, one
of the highest ratios in the world. These areas
constitute Nepal's natural crown jewels and its chief
assets for the critical tourism industry. However,
vulnerability to Maoist attack has left most of these
areas virtually abandoned by both security forces and
park rangers. Official reports state that out of 112
guard posts in protected areas only 34 remain -- a 70
percent reduction.



3. Nepal's conservation areas, which constitute a
truly exemplary effort by Nepal to protect resources of
global significance, have now become security problems.
As the army exits these large, rugged areas, the
Maoists have turned them into launching pads for
attacks. Conservation scientists lament that because of
security risks, they have been unable to conduct
inventories, health surveys and other studies within
the protected areas. Lack of information on the status
of flora and fauna is greatly hampering efforts for
their conservation.



4. The insurgents also have attacked community-based
conservation committee members in the Annapurna
Conservation Area (close to the Maoist heartland).
Even Langtang National Park, due north of the Kathmandu
valley, which had be
en relatively untouched by the
insurgency, has lately become volatile. Within the
past few weeks, about a dozen soldiers sent to protect
this park have been killed or seriously wounded in
ambushes. Other national parks closer to the epicenter
of the Maoist insurgency are largely unpatrolled.
Numerous hotels and lodges within parks and in buffer
zones have closed, eliminating the livelihoods of
people living adjacent to the parks.

ECO-TOURISM AND TREKKING IN A TAILSPIN


--------------------------





5. Nepal is a premier world destination for eco-
tourism. This industry had been under pressure since
the royal palace murders in June 2001, and especially
since the events of September 11. Maoist tactics have
been responsible for an even greater falloff. Numbers
of trekkers have plummeted as cases of Maoist muggings
of tourists have surfaced. Those who do come face
previously unknown hardships. For example, Maoists
have turned pressure cookers into a deadly weapon,
packing them with explosives and timers for use as land
mines and time bombs. The army banned transport of
pressure cookers into outlying districts and remote
areas. Since at altitudes over 10,000 feet it is
difficult to cook without pressure cookers, some
tourists and trekking staff report having to eat half-
cooked food.

FINANCIAL RESOURCES FOR CONSERVATION DRYING UP


--------------------------

-



6. As a result, tourist entries and the revenues
collected from tourists have plummeted, drying up the
most important source of funds for conservation work.
Records at some of the park entry points show a 40-60
percent decline. Fees charged to trekkers to enter
restricted areas are no longer going towards
conservation measures, but are being diverted to
Nepal's cash-strapped general treasury to support anti-
insurgency operations. Conservation organizations such
as WWF have not been able to take up the slack, as
declines in global stock markets have forced private
foundations and other donors to reduce contributions.

WILDLIFE UNDER SIEGE


--------------------------





7. As security forces have vacated the forests,
poachers have started to take maximum advantage. In
Dolpo, a mid-western district bordering Tibet, Maoists
staged a daring attack last year, killing more than 20
policemen. Poaching of rare and endangered animals
such as musk deer and snow leopard is now reportedly
rampant. Park officials say the number of snares and
traps set by poachers has skyrocketed.



8. Royal Chitwan National Park, a heavily visited
World Heritage Site and one of the most closely
protected areas, is under growing threat. Only time
will tell the fate of the Royal Bengal Tiger and the
great one-horned rhinoceros that find refuge in this
park. Chitwan Park officials report that, within the
past year, 38 great one-horned rhinoceros have been
killed by poachers for their horns, which are valued
chiefly as an ingredient in traditional Chinese
aphrodisiacs. On the other hand, no one knows exactly
what is happening to the tiger population, since it is
relatively easy to dispose of an entire tiger carcass,
and enforcement personnel rarely venture deep into the
woods anymore.

FLUORISHING MARKETS IN ENDANGERED SPECIES


--------------------------





9. Even before the insurgency, Nepal had the dubious
reputation of being a conduit for illegal trafficking
in wildlife products, such as shatoosh (a fine wool
made from the throat hairs of the endangered Tibetan
antelope, or chiru) brought from Tibet to Nepal and
then to India. Similarly, tiger bone and skins from
India transit Nepal on the way to Tibet, China, and
Southeast Asia. Wildlife watchers believe that the
level of trafficking has now reached alarming
proportions and that banned items are freely sold in
the markets of Kathmandu.



10. COMMENT: It is difficult even to assess how much
damage has been done to Nepal's con
servation efforts
directly and indirectly as the result of the armed
conflict. However, the longer the insecurity
continues, the greater the economic pressures on
Nepal's rural poor -- and the greater the eventual
environmental toll will be.

MALINOWSKI