When we were in Chitwan last November, Chiranjibi Pokharel (Head of our partner organization Nepal Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) in that area) showed us a number of large grasslands, threatened by a rapid encroachment of forest. There is a suspicion that this might be caused by low groundwater levels: upstream a lot of water is used for irrigation, hydro-power and drinking water. Also the – mostly illegal – extraction of sand and stones does not really help. So Chitwan is in danger. By decreasing grassland, the number of deer will also decrease – and in the long run the number of tigers.
And how is this in Bardiya? In January 2017 we organized a workshop in the Netherlands with the subject: the geo-hydrology of the Karnali and the Babai, the rivers that run through Bardiya National Park.
Participants: Prof. dr. Dr Herbert Prins (Resource Ecology, Wageningen University), Prof. dr. Dr Jasper Griffioen (Water Quality Management, Utrecht University, TNO), Ir Laurène Bouaziz (hydrologist Technical University Delft, Deltares), Ir Willem Oosterberg (hydrologist Rijks Waterstaat), plus board members of the Himalayan Tiger Foundation.
Willem Oosterberg gave a wonderful overview of the geological, hydrological and climatological factors that affect the water supply of Bardiya National Park.
The catchment area of the Karnali-Geruwa and the Babai rivers. (Source: Zurich, ISET and Practical Action 2015 – What we can learn from the August 2014 Karnali river floods in Nepal).
What to do? First of all we need more basic information about the hydrology of Bardiya. So in close cooperation with NTNC we will set up a hydrological monitoring network in the area. This functions as a pilot for a future research program, which should lead to a better water management in the wildlife parks in the Terai. It sounds like a detour to save tigers, but it certainly is not. It is even essential.