US embassy cable - 02KATHMANDU2217

NEPAL'S MAOIST INSURGENCY UNDERMINES CONSERVATION EFFORTS

Identifier: 02KATHMANDU2217
Wikileaks: View 02KATHMANDU2217 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kathmandu
Created: 2002-11-22 08:51:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: SENV PGOV ECON EAGR PTER EAID TBIO XD NP Maoist Insurgency
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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, Maoist Insurgency 
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 

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