Conduct a clean-up campaign, training programs related to waste management to prevent plastic waste impacts on the existing wildlife and ecosystem of the project area.
Conduct biodiversity surveys throughout the hiking trail to collect data and information on the local natural resources.
Install biodiversity informational boards and eco-friendly dustbins in the trail to enhance the knowledge and experience of outdoor enthusiasts.
Despite the interruption from two consecutive national lockdowns for over 5 months of time, SMCRF was successful in conducting most of the planned activities, including 2 waste management training, 4 clean up hikes, installation of eco-friendly bins in one part of the project area and commence the biodiversity survey. A successful promotional activity in the form of World Pangolin Day 2020 was also celebrated prior to the pandemic crisis on 15th February. Most of our mass gathering was conducted while maintaining social distancing and proper use of safety equipment such as masks, surgical gloves and sanitizers.
Waste Management Trainings
The main objective of the waste management training was to sensitize local stakeholders, particularly the Community Forest User Group (CFUG) members from the three municipalities on the management of the solid waste – both organic and inorganic wastes. Training was focused on waste management and segregation, technical aspects of making compost from organic waste and 4R principles of the waste. Apart from that, discussion on topics like the current situation of waste management, issues and efforts to solve inorganic waste at community level, exploring the roles of CFUG in managing waste from the forest area were discussed among the participants. Training was able to sensitize on how inorganic waste can not only be disrupting to the surrounding on the vicinity of human settlement but also equally hazardous to the wildlife as there is the chances of animals accidentally ingesting plastic and other materials.
Clean Up Hikes
The objective of the clean up hikes were to motivate people in conserving the natural habitat of various important wildlife species while maintaining the beauty of the historically and ecologically important forest area. Depending on the condition and stretch of the trail, each hike took 2-7 hours to complete. Volunteers and enthusiasts from different walks of life were involved, including students, researchers and most importantly, local stakeholders like CFUG members.
Despite the pandemic and prolonged national lockdown, there was an abundant amount of inorganic waste on the trails. Locals informed that the COVID-19 brought more trash in the forest area. With the increasing feeling of being trapped and isolated within the walls of homes during lockdowns, people visited the forest area for recreation. However, with no local authorities to clean up the area, we could find more amount of scattered waste than expected. The trends of visit and hence the waste generation were particularly during weekends and national holidays.
Almost 400kgs of waste was accumulated through the hikes conducted. The inorganic waste collected were composed of – plastic PET bottles (both soda and mineral water) polythene bags, food wrappers, plastic cups and plates, aluminium cans and glass bottles etc. PET bottles (30%) and food wrappers(30%) were found to be the most dominated plastic pollutants on the site.
During the hiking campaigns, dozens of picnic spots along the hiking trails were found to be more polluted as day-trippers don’t take their trash with them. While plastic bottles and wrappers were found along the stretch of the trail, most of the glass bottles and aluminium cans were collected from such picnic spots. For the waste management along the trail, there were no waste bins as such, limiting to only a few picnic spots. Burn pits were more common for inorganic waste, although improperly burnt inorganic wastes were found spread outside the pits.
The objective of installing bins hence was to encourage hikers and visitors to properly dump their waste instead of leaving scattered in the wilderness. Considering the recommendation of the Kirtipur municipality, eco-friendly bins (dokos or bamboo baskets) crafted by a marginalized community were installed. This has also helped in promoting local entrepreneurs from Kirtipur city. At places where trash is extensively high, large wire bins were installed that could hold more waste than bamboo bins.
A reconnaissance survey was done on the three municipalities to build a rapport with the community forest representatives and also with ward elected members. The biodiversity survey started in November 2020 and is currently our field team is working on the last site or route and it will be completed within the month of January. Documentation of flora and fauna -mammals, birds, butterflies, small mammals (bats, rodents) along with nocturnal and elusive species using camera trapping are being done using the standard methodologies. Four experts and four assistants are currently in the field collecting the data. Desk work of literature review on biodiversity of the project area is completed.