The modern era of wildlife and protected area conservation in Nepal began in 1973 with the passage of comprehensive legislation, and has evolved very quickly as new priorities and problems have emerged. Here we explore the legal and managerial development of conservation areas, a recently-defined category of protected area designed to promote conservation through local-level participation and development. A review of the Conservation Area Management Regulations of 1996 shows that there are several potential problems inherent in this designation. As written, the regulations move power from the government to organizations under governmental contract. Thus, management authority largely remains top-down from the standpoint of local users. We also question how well the designation will protect some sensitive wildlife species, since organizations do not have law enforcement authority under Nepalese legislation.
Despite these concerns, there have been several successful conservation area programmes in existence in Nepal since the 1980s and most of the issues addressed are surmountable with the current regulations, providing that several criteria are met. We propose that His Majesty's Government and organizations under contract develop more definitive methods of disbursing funds for local-level projects, and institute social impact assessments. In addition, more attention must be paid to wildlife law enforcement; independent assessments of important wild populations and unique habitats are needed. Finally, we discuss some broader issues that should be better addressed in Nepal and elsewhere, including cross-sectoral coordination within the government.
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