26 July 2020, Kathmandu
ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) launched in 1986 is the largest project first tested as a pilot program in Ghandruk village development committee in 1986 undertaking of the NTNC (National Trust for Nature Conservation).
ACAP is rich in biodiversity and is a treasure house for 1,226 species of flowering plants, 105 mammals, 518 birds, 40 reptiles and 23 amphibians. There are several features that make the Annapurna region a unique place in the world.
It is also the first Conservation Area and largest Protected Area in Nepal. It covers an area of 7,629 sq. km. in Kaski, Lamjung, Myagdi, Manang and Mustang districts based on the operational plan prepared by experts—Mingma Norbu Sherpa, Brought Coburn and Chandra Gurung. and is home to over 100,000 residents of different cultural and linguistic groups.
NTNC has been granted the right to collect entry fees from visiting trekkers for operation of ACAP. Revenue received from this is then invested back into the region, its resources and its community.
Additional funds are also raised from national and international donors to strengthen conservation and development efforts. This is an exemplary achievement of a Non-Government Institution’s ability to manage a significant portion of the protected area system in Nepal.
The natural and cultural features of Annapurna Conservation Area have made it the most popular trekking destination in the country. Tourism, over the years, has been firmly established as one of the most important sectors of the local economy. These trekking destinations have been made a hub for an integrated tourism management and other development activities that benefit local communities and the environment.
Through ACAP, it has been over three decades since NTNC has fulfilled its mandate to promote conservation and prosperity of the Annapurna region, its resources and its peoples. However, NTNC believes that areas such as the ACA will ultimately have to be managed by the local people themselves in perpetuity.
Therefore, the focus is on building local capacity, both at the institutional and individual levels, to meet all the conservation and development aspirations of the people.
Most importantly, conserving natural resources of ACA for the benefit of present and future generations is challenging. Similarly, reviving tourism in such protected area to bring sustainable social and economic development to the local people is equally inevitable.
For this, an integrated community-based conservation and development approach is needed for the management responsibility of ACAP. There must be an effective preparation of an exit plan to hand over the management responsibility to the local communities.
So far, dialogue must be initiated to form a new collaborative governance model that encompasses all three levels of government and communities in protected area management. With this, the NTNC’s role is still crucial to provide technical support stressing on capacity development programs.