Integrated Landscape Management to Secure Nepal’s Protected Areas and Critical Corridors (ILaM) Project provided thesis research financial support to 17 young students. The research grant provided an opportunity to carry out research on biodiversity conservation, natural resource management, and landscape management in Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) biological corridors, protected areas and buffer zones. The financial support was provided to students who are pursuing their studies in the field of environment, forestry, and natural resources in Bachelor’s and Master’s level from various national Universities or affiliated educational institutions.
The ILaM project published a “Call for Proposal” to interested students through it’s project website (Call for proposal). The received proposals were evaluated by the thesis proposal evaluation committee considering the approved guidelines and the successful candidates name list was published in the project website (name list).The selected thesis applicant and ILaM project according to the project guideline signed a Study-Grant agreement. The selected research topics covered themes on protected area and biological corridor management in landscape approach, Wildlife Management, Sustainable Forest Management, Eco-tourism, forest-based livelihoods, Gender and social inclusion, environmental and social safeguard in natural resource management. ILaM project organized a thesis grant orientation on February 9, 2023, wherein grantees were informed about the thesis grant process and oriented on the social and environmental safeguard aspect to be considered while carrying out research in the field.
Ms. Sushila Bhatta, one of the research grant recipients on “Potential release site of confined Blackbuck (Antilope Cervicapra) in Suklaphanta National Park” assessed the vegetation composition and potential release site of blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) in the grasslands of Shuklaphanta National Park, Nepal. Vegetation analysis was conducted using stratified systematic sampling along transect lines. The vegetation composition analysis identified a total of 16 grass species and 12 tree species in the grasslands of Shuklaphanta National Park. The number of species and cover percentage of grasses and herbs were recorded. The research indicated significant increase in the population of Blackbuck signifying successful outcome of conservation measures for the protection of blackbucks and the need for extension of habitat as the population is going beyond the carrying capacity.
The research on “The Status of Land use land cover change and plant diversity in Bishazari and associated lakes” is carried out by Ms. Sajja Panta. This research is based on the theme of Protected Area and biological corridor management in landscape approach. The Bishazari and associated lakes, a Ramsar site lies in the middle part of the Barandabhar Corridor Forest (BCF) an important wildlife corridor connecting Chitwan National Park and Mahabharat forest range in the north. The Shannon Diversity Index (H’) was used for the calculation of vegetation species diversity. The research highlighted the level of biodiversity and richness in species at Bishazari and associated lake area necessitating conservation efforts to safeguard this diverse and unique ecosystem.
Ms. Neeta Pokharel conducted research on “Local Cultural beliefs and practices of the Indigenous communities related to Wildlife in the Buffer zone of Chitwan National Park.” The research was conducted in the Baghkhor village, Nawalparasi which lies in the buffer zone of Chitwan National Park. Ms. Pokharel researched on the local cultural beliefs and practices of two indigenous communities - Bote and Musahar. Both qualitative and quantitative analysis was applied to analyze collected data. The research majorly focused on indigenous Bote and Musahar communities and their rich culture that connects them with the natural habitat conservation of wildlife. She also highlighted for an immediate need of documenting the traditional knowledge held by indigenous communities which enhance sustainable conservation by strengthening cultural practices.
“Habitat Suitability Assessment for Tiger (Panthera Tigris) in Khata corridor of Terai Arc Landscape in Western Nepal” entitled thesis by Mr. Sahayog Chhetri is about Wildlife Management. The research was conducted in the Khata corridor and the adjoining south - west patch of Babai River. It is important to evaluate the habitat suitability to comprehend the likelihood of inhabiting forests in the future. The research was carried out with primary and secondary data collection along with collinearity analysis, habitat modeling and connectivity analysis. The research emphasized the need to strengthen conservation measures, restoration of degraded habitats and continuous monitoring of Tigers.
The research on “Contribution of Ecotourism in local livelihood and role of people in protected area management in pre Covid-19 and post Covid-19 phase” was carried out by Sushank Pokharel. The study was conducted at Amaltari Buffer zone homestay village situated in Nawalpur district of Gandaki province. Both primary and secondary data collection were used to carry out the research. Mr. Sushank highlighted the importance of eco-tourism as a means of improving local livelihoods through promotion of knowledge and skills among community people. Ecotourism is also one of the key factors that contributes for the protection of wildlife and conservation of forests by promoting conservation awareness among local people during environmental challenges like Covid-19.
The ILaM project supported thesis grants to these young students enabling them to explore more comprehensive and in-depth research in the field of forest management, biodiversity conservation, livelihood of local communities, inclusiveness, and environmental and social safeguards. Since, all the research has been conducted in the Terai Arc Landscape focusing on respective thematic topics, the findings are expected to address challenges on the project implementing sites.
ILaM project’s financial assistance to young students alleviated some of the financial burdens associated with conducting effective research and completing their thesis. Similarly, conducting research helped students develop essential skills such as critical thinking, data analysis, problem solving and writing skills. The thesis grant has been motivating them to continue their pursuit of higher education and research as they pursue their academic and research endeavors.