The farmlands of Rupandehi and Kapilvastu districts encompass a large rural area where agriculture is the main land use (68%) followed by forests which cover 21.6% of the area. There are plains in the south and dry bhabar and Churia Hills to the north. A number of perennial and seasonal rivers and streams including the Telar, Tinau, Sundi and Dano river systems flow through the area. The forest, scrub, wetlands and grasslands surrounding Lumbini (the birthplace of Lord Buddha) are an especially important refuge for wildlife.
This area has the best known population of the globally threatened Sarus Crane in Nepal and is the only known site in the country where the species breeds regularly. The resident and migrant populations of Sarus and their breeding are regularly monitored (e.g. Suwal 2002). In 2000 a biodiversity assessment found 210 bird species in Rupandehi district. A total of eight globally threatened birds have been recorded here including White-rumped Vulture and Indian Spotted Eagle Aquila hastata that both breed, and also Slender-billed Vulture, Cinereous Vulture and Lesser Adjutant that are all seen regularly (Suwal 2002). The Telar and Dano floodplains are recognised as important habitats for birdlife (Bhandari 1998). There are areas of tropical dry forests that are known to support significant populations of characteristic species of the Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone biome.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammal species include the globally threatened Nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus (which was introduced here), Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicallata and Striped Hyaena Hyaena hyaena. Other mammals include Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Bengal Fox Vulpes bengalensis, Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula, Chital Axis axis, Indian muntjac Muntiacus muntjak and Leopard Panthera pardus. There is a plan to reintroduce the globally threatened Blackbuck Antilope cervicapra.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Industrial development in Rupandehi district is a significant threat to birdlife in the area. It has resulted in the erection of power lines that stretch across rural farmland and are hazards to large low-flying birds, especially cranes and storks. A cement factory, paper mill and distillery discharge effluents to the Dano River causing water pollution. Sarus Cranes also face threats from nest vandalising, chick stealing, and the use of agricultural pesticides and fertilisers.
In Rupandehi District the Community Managed Wetlands Project aims to conserve biodiversity, notably of birds and at the same time improve the economic status of local people through community-managed wetlands. The project has established community wetlands by taking a participatory approach with local people and forming wetland user groups by consensus amongst the villagers. Wetlands are leased from the Village Development Committees for an annual fee. The project provides the necessary investment, training and technical input for wetland management and the setting up of income generation schemes such as fisheries and duck farms. The project has identified some important wetlands for biodiversity conservation as well as income generation for local people. The wise use of wetlands has been initiated at three of these wetlands in the district so far: Khudabagar, Khungai and Chiliya. The aim is to make these user groups independent and the wetlands self-sustaining with a few years (Inskipp 2004).
The area includes the Lumbini Crane Sanctuary, which was established by the International Crane Foundation in 1995. The sanctuary land covering 100 ha is leased from the Lumbini Development Trust by the International Crane Foundation. This sanctuary demonstrates wetland management and conservation education, has an interactive centre and a conservation outreach programme which includes radio programmes on the environment. A number of wetlands have been constructed in the sanctuary to attract nesting cranes and other wildlife. Annual activities such as crane conservation education camps, art exhibitions, and crane festivals are organised to generate awareness amongst local people (Suwal 2002). More recently, the Lumbini Development Trust has created wetlands within the core monastic zone which will help promote conservation of water birds.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Farmlands in Lumbini area. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 27/01/2020.