Chitwan National Park is the tourist destination chosen for this assignment. Situated in southern central Nepal, Chitwan National Park formally known as Royal Chitwan National Park is the first National Park of the country. Formally established in 1973, Chitwan National Park covers an area of 932 sq.km including 4 different districts namely, Chitwan, Makwanpur, Parsa and Nawalparasi. It is the best example of sub tropical low lands in inner terai region of Nepal. It was originally separated as a reserve centre for the rare one horned rhino and many species of deer found in that area. This national park consists of vast forest and grassland. About 70% of forest in the region is “Sal”, which is used by local people to make plates that are used in festivals and 7% is Revarine forest. Approximately 20% of the area is grassland, which includes over 70 different species of grasses including the variety that grows up to 8m tall known as “ Elephant grass”(Shrestha, 2003).
Short grasses are used by the people living in the surrounding area for roofing, making mats, rope and paper making. The park is home for about 50 different species of mammals including rare One Horned Rhino, Bengal Tiger, Wild Elephant, Four horned antelope etc. It has 55 different species of amphibians and reptiles including rare golden monitor lizard. The most interesting feature of this national park is the species of birds that it houses. There are more than 525 different bird species which include many migratory birds that come there between September to November and February to April.
These bird species include the rare species like Bengal florican. Lesser florican, Giant hornbill, Black stork, While stork etc (ministry of forest and soil conservation, no date). Due to all these unique qualities and abundance of natural resources it was designated as a World Heritage site in November 1984 (UNESCO, no date). There are seven resorts run by the national park itself inside the area and many resorts and hotels in the surrounding area. The main attraction in Chitwan national park is the untouched natural beauty it has.
Among all the national parks and conservation areas open for the tourists, Chitwan national park is the one which attracts the highest number of tourists every year thus generating the highest revenue. In the year 2011 almost 63.01% of foreign visitors going to the national parks were for Chitwan national park thus generating about 35% of the total revenue from tourism (Government of Nepal Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation, 2011). Being such a popular tourist destination the income is not only generated by selling the holiday packages and park entry tickets but also by providing many different recreational and cultural activities.
Holidays for 3 days and 2 nights inside the national park cost from $280 per person to $810 per person. (www.chitwannationalpark.net, 2009). In the holidays people get accommodation and food for their stay. The accommodation includes nights in the jungle lodge and tented camp. The tourists get to experience the wild nature by living in the wild with all the modern facilities. Tours also include jungle safari or elephant safari where the tourists are taken around the park in trained elephants. In these tours tourists get the opportunity to see the animals safely in the wild without any cages. They also get to see many cultural performances of local aboriginal Tharu community who have been a part of the area for a long time.
Tourism has always been one of the most important sources of income for the people living around the Chitwan national park and the country as a whole. But in recent years many different problems are surfacing which are thought to be caused directly or indirectly due to tourism. The direct impact is on the wild life of the area. Jungle safaris and elephant safaris mean tourists get to go into the habitat of many different animals; this is causing a negative impact on the animals of the region. They are getting constantly disturbed by these activities. Increasing numbers of visitors mean increased number of safaris, camping and lodging in the area which could be a problem for the animals living in the park. The aquatic ecosystem of the park is also adversely affected due to increasing pollution. The waste from the development activities and accommodation facilities in and around the park is making its way into the Narayani River which is increasing pollution (UNESCO, no date).
Narayani River is the main source of fresh water into the park and also the habitat for aquatic and amphibian species of the park. It also supports the animals inside the park and also the human population living in and around the park. So the increasing pollution in the region is not helpful. On the other hand the increased number of foreign visitors is also affecting the cultural aspect of the area, mainly the Tharu community. Thrau community has been living in the national park for a long time and after the declaration of national park they are living around the conserved area. They do have a unique culture which includes their own language, unique way of dressing and food habits.
But the increased interaction with foreign culture is taking its toll. Although modernisation is a good thing, losing their own culture and way of life may be could prove to be fatal in a long run. The cultural change is not only affecting the Tharu community but also the remaining population. People are increasingly leaving their old profession of agriculture and moving into tourism as a source of income. The way people dress, feeding habits, profession, language, and the whole social behaviour seems to be changing rapidly. Illegal activities like cutting the trees for timber is affecting the vegetation in the area while poaching of animals for animal body parts is also a massive threat (UNESCO, no date). Rare and endangered animals like the one horned rhino and the tigers of the park are being poached illegally for the sale of animal parts like the horn of rhino or the tiger skin.
Government has always been concerned about the effects that tourism activities can have to the area. Protection plans for the national park has been in place from as early as the 1800s. The park is legally protected under National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973. ( department of national park and wildlife conservation, no date). The conservation act is in place to protect the number of animals listed in the endangered list. Chitwan national park houses many of those animals so the whole park is under legal protection. In addition to that the Nepalese army have been deployed to the national park for its protection since 1975. (UNESCO, no date). 24 hours surveillance is in place in and around the park in an attempt to control illegal activities like poaching and trees cutting. Even more local community groups are formed and active for the same. This has been very effective but there are still places for improvement.
Corrupt locals and officials should be controlled in order to make the surveillance even more effective. A very good example of government and community partnership can be seen in the national park. An area of 750 sq km around the park was separated as the buffer zone in 1996(department of national park and wildlife conservation, no date) People living in this area get the opportunity to get involved in the tourist activities and enhance their economy. The buffer zone community gets about 30-50% of the revenue invested back for its development. They also get to go into the park and get timbers, firewood, and grass for their livelihood in a controlled and sustainable manner. Park and the buffer zone are regulated by 2 different regulations namely Chitwan National Park Regulation 1974 and Buffer Zone Management Regulation 1996. (UNESCO, no date). Even though best precautions are taken in order to conserve the park and peoples cultural aspect, it does not seem to be enough.
Mainly the uniqueness of the Tharu community seems to be in danger. Awareness among the community members should be created so that they know how to value their own customs and traditions rather than adopting new and foreign ones. Many different hotels and tour operators are providing the community with the opportunity to show their cultural dress and dance in front of the tourists which is almost the only source of extra income of the people in that community. Due to lack of other skills and proper education they are being forced to leave their own community and move to places densely populated with tourist attractions and accommodation facilities, where not only them but other people as well have to work extremely hard.
Illegal prostitution has also increased due to the same reason. Government is trying to control this but it does not seem to be enough. In order to protect the people and the workers many different NGOs and INGOs should come and help to provide them with better education and working conditions. The government of Nepal has been including Chitwan national park in its 5 year development plans ever since the establishment. The first (1975-1979), the second (2001-2005) and the third (2006-2011), all included Chitwan national park as one of their priorities.
Chitwan national park is one of the most important place for Nepal and the whole world not just as a source of economy but also as a place filled with many rare and endangered animals. It could be the place which could be enjoyed by many more tourists, scientists, researchers, enthusiasts, conservationist and most importantly the future generation. Sustainable development of tourism in the place could be a challenge for present generation and a gift for future generation. A global concern towards the conservation of this place could be necessary and very important for its sustainability.
Government of Nepal Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation Policy, Planning & Infrastructure Development Division Documentation, Research & Statistics Section. (2011). Nepal Tourism Statistics 2011 (Annual Statistical Report). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.tourism.gov.np/uploaded/fullpage.pdf. [Accessed 10 October 12].
Ministry Of Forest And Soil Conservation, Department Of National Park And Wildlife Conservation. (2006). Chitwan national park. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.dnpwc.gov.np/protected-areas/national-parks/8-Chitwan-national-park.html. [Accessed 10 October 12].
Ministry Of Forest And Soil Conservation, Department Of National Park And Wildlife Conservation. (2006).Conservation of wild flora and fauna. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.dnpwc.gov.np/programs/24-conservation-of-wild-flora-and-fauna.html. [Accessed 10 October 12].
Ramesh Shrestha. (2003). Eco–tourism for sustainable development in Royal Chitwan National Park. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.mtnforum.org/sites/default/files/pub/6189.pdf. [Accessed 10th October 2012].
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2012). Chitwan National Park. [ONLINE] Available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/284/. [Accessed 10 October 12].