Success Story

Communities conserve wetlands in Rupa lake
Focal Area Biodiversity
Grantee Local Initiative for Biodiversity Research and Development (LIBIRD)
Project No NEP/05/07
Project Location Lekhnath Municipality, Kaski

The Rupa (beautiful) lake in Kaski district which looked like a swamp, a few years ago looks different now. Finally the lake has been able to generate resources to improve the lives of the local people. Presently, the lake is even more beautiful and pristine than the name suggests !

Until now the lake was only used for fishing by a handful of traditional fishermen. Due to encroachment, the size of the lake has been squeezed down to 100ha from the original 135 ha. The UNDP- GEF Small Grants Programme in 2002 provided funding through the Local Initiative for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LIBIRD), a national NGO, to initiate a Community Biodiversity Register (CBR) Project. The project chose Rupa Lake Conservation and Fisheries Co-operative for the purpose.

"When the co-operative was established, I could only gather 36 members, each contributing Rs 5,000 to form the co-operative", said Mr Lekhnath Dhakal, Chairperson of the co-operative. "At that time, Lekhnath Municipality also took a very bold decision by handing over the management responsibility to us but we have not disappointed them," he further added.

The co-operative has simultaneously initiated the conservation work and fish farming in the lake. By now the cooperative has divided the wetland in a local fish zone, a bird conservation area, a wild rice zone, a white lotus zone and a fish breeding zone. It has maintained a register of 54 wetland species including 34 fish species found in the lake. The effort has paid off as both species diversity and income has increased over the period of four-five years.

In first year, the co-operative had earned Rs. 900,000 and last year the figure rose to Rs. 4 million. This success has encouraged more members to join the cooperative. Today, 360 member households have joined in the co-operative and the share value has increased to Rs. 12,000.

The co-operative employs the traditional fishermen (Jalari) for fishing and there are 13 regular employees and 20 other seasonal employees. The co-operative supports 5 local primary schools and has provided scholarships for 40 poor students including the Jalari children. "This is a huge shift for the Jalari children, who used to spend their childhood fishing", said Ganga Maya Gurung, one of the members of the cooperative.

As a result of t h e i r success, the cooperative has also been able to attract other donors, such as the IUCN Netherlands and the World Vision. The majority of the income from the lake is used to meet administrative costs. Annually, the co-operative provides Rs. 4000 each to 13 community forestry users groups for the management of the watershed. Likewise, funds are also used to construct small check-dams and to plant more seedlings. The income is further invested in income generation activities suchas goat farming, bee keeping, mushroom farming and organic farming. Since there is no law regarding the management of wetland in Nepal, this initiative could be a model for managing other wetlands in the country.

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