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Trees and Eco Tourism in Nepal

Nepal Partnership of People and Nature

Chitwan National Park and the local people jointly initiate community development activities and manage natural resources in the buffer zone. The government of Nepal has made a provision of ploughing back 30-50 percent of the park revenue for community development in the region.

According to UNESCO Chitwan is

“An outstanding example of Government-Community partnership in biodiversity conservation.”

The extensive tree planting is a vital part of the investment into local ecology helping to rewild a big area surrounding the park yet also providing sustenance for local people as well their fellow communities of animals, birds and plants.

The Trees

Following on from the last article about #Chitwan the Inner Terai is Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests with predominantly Sal trees that cover approximately 70% of the national park area. Purest stands of sal occur on well drained lowland ground in the centre. Along the southern face of the Churia Hills sal is interspersed with chir pine (Pinus roxburghii).

On northern slopes Sal grow with smaller flowering tree and shrub species such as Beleric (Terminalia bellirica), Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo), Axlewood (Anogeissus latifolia), Elephant Apple (Dillenia indica), Grey Downy Balsam (Garuga pinnata) and creepers such as Bauhinia vahlii and Spatholobus parviflorus.

Seasonal bushfires, flooding and erosion evoke an ever-changing mosaic of riverine forest and grasslands along the river banks. On recently deposited alluvium and in lowland areas groups of Catechu (Acacia catechu) with Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) predominate, followed by groups of Kapok (Bombax ceiba) with Rhino Apple trees (Trewia nudiflora). The rhinos are particularly fond of the fruit.

Understorey shrubs of Velvety beautyberry (Callicarpa macrophylla), Hill Glory Bower (Clerodendrum sp.) and gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) offer shelter and lair to a wide variety of species.

Sacred Connection To The Land

There is a deep sacred connection to place here with two famous religious areas: Bikram Baba at Kasara and Balmiki Ashram in Tribeni, pilgrimage places for Hindus from nearby areas and India.

This is also the land of the indigenous Tharu community who have inhabited the area for centuries and are well known for their unique cultural practices. They have minimal human impact on the land and describe themselves as “people of the forest”. Here you can see Tharu women in their traditional attire carry ‘Deluwa’, a special variety of basket woven from local natural materials known as Dhakiya mostly used in weddings. Their way of life is under threat and is integral to the land on which they live.

Tharu wedding, Nepal
Image ©Tharu Community Facebook Page

Eco Tourism at Chitwan

Tourism to the park brings in valuable income for managing and protecting the communities of trees, plants and animals that live there. It provides information on wildlife and conservation programs.

Rhino conservation sign
Rhino Conservation and protection by Yolanda Coervers

Visitors have an opportunity to see the endangered animals in their rightful natural habitats. The Elephant Breeding Center at Khorsor, Sauraha gives you information on domesticated elephant and the baby elephants born there. The Gharial Breeding Center, is home to the Marsh mugger and a number of turtles. They also have the opportunity to see the forests with a wide variety of trees that provide homes to so many creatures as well as protecting water courses and the land from erosion.

Culturally the museum at Kasara, the park headquarters, has informative displays. While near to the museum is Bikram Baba, an ancient Hindu religious site.

Tharu Sustainable Crafts

The Tharus are skilled in arts and crafts and they produce distinctive weaved baskets and woodwork. The Women's User Group souvenir shop offers a variety of handicrafts and other local products for gifts and souvenirs with many created from sustainable local trees and grasses. Baskets are made out of two types of grass, in Tharu language they are called “muj” and “kasunna”. The women collect them during monsoon time. When they are dry, they can be used for basket weaving.

This is a perfect example of humans living and working sustainably in a way that is very beneficial to the local ecosystem.

Creating income through tourism empowers local people by giving them financial independence and nature is seen as a co-partner to work with rather than a resource to be exploited.

Empowering Women

A recent survey conducted in Nepal reported that only 2% of working-age women are employed compared to men.

Women are typically very poorly paid compared to men and there are far fewer employment opportunities so this provides an opportunity for them to gain some financial security.

“In the sectors like hotels and dance restaurants and domestic works, women are not paid even the minimum wage.”*

The ability to make and sell their craft work means women have the ability to become self sufficient and gain a measure of financial security.

Chitwan Jungle and river
Chitwan Jungle and River by Mick Lissone

The Benefits of Eco Tourism

Tourism is important not just for the income it brings in, but for the education opportunities for visitors to get to see species other than themselves and to develop understanding of these communities. They also have the chance to understand local culture and how this sits in the landscape working with nature by seeing local handicrafts.

Opportunities for personal sacred connection can be encouraged through visiting the sacred sites and also by finding out more about the aboriginal Tharu community. This impacts positively not just on the park, visitors then carry this knowledge back with them to their own lands, hopefully to be inspired to connect with their local ecology on a deeper level also.

Below is a video I found giving a glimpse of the park.

The trees are a central part of eco tourism here. In areas where they have all been felled land is drying out, air quality is very poor and the native communities of animals are dying out. When the trees go so does the entire ecosystem meaning loss of income for local people as well as having disastrous impacts on other species.

Chitwan and its buffer zone are a great example of how working with trees and nature can provide long term sustainability for all.


If you would like to support AST sustainable tree planting and rewilding please visit our shop for ecards, teeshirts, tree planting certificates and more. You can purchase a tree planting certificate for just £5 that will plant 10 trees in the Tropics.


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