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Mainstreaming community-based conservation in a transboundary mountain landscape: lessons from Kangchenjunga

22 / 11 / 2012, Eldis Biodiversity

This paper draws recommendations for transboundary and participatory biodiversity conservation from the Kangchenjunga Conservation Landscape Initiative. This 'biodiversity hotspot' - shared by Bhutan, India and Nepal - is one of seven transboundary landscapes indentified by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) for regional cooperation development. Until the mid-1990s, conservation efforts in Kangchenjunga were primarily focused on the creation of Protected Areas (PAs), resulting in a collection of 'conservation islands' with different management regimes surrounded by a landscape in which biodiversity continued to decline. Since then, concepts of best practice in sustainable biodiversity management have transitioned from protectionist to a participatory ecosystem approach. This has led ICIMOD to develop conservation corridors in order to link the PAs and to assist countries in managing this transboundary landscape in a sustainable way.The influence of national policy in people-centred conservation in the area is discussed by country. Nepal has progressed significantly from strict protectionist strategies in the 1960's to initiate a number of new and amended legislative actions to recognise community rights, introduce buffer zone regulations to address needs and conflicts with locals, and further participatory forest conservation. Despite many progressive efforts, there have been mixed results in India with regard to implementation. Bhutan has empowered forest user groups in a representative system of conservation management covering 49 per cent of the country's geographical area.The paper concludes with five recommendations for Bhutan, India and Nepal:

include community conserved areas within PAs, embracing the needs and role of local people in conservation;
introduce legislation that grants rights regarding natural resources and participation in biodiversity management to community-based institutions, the poor and the socially marginalised;
develop institutions and management programmes to identify and establish corridors between PAs;
empower community-based institutions to fully participate in natural resource management;
adopt a formal framework to address transboundary issues in the Kangchenjunga region.

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