February 4, 2014

--For immediate release--

Nepal’s ‘Heart of the Jungle’ imperiled by mega-projects

An international scientific group has decried schemes to bisect Nepal’s most important national park with railroads and feeder roads. Chitwan—which means ‘Heart of the Jungle’ in Nepalese—is home to globally important populations of one-­horned rhinoceros, Bengal tiger, sloth bears and many other wildlife species.

Representatives of ALERT, the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers, said that plans to push a major railroad and eight feeder roads into the park could be environmentally devastating, given the potential for increased fragmentation, disturbance and poaching of the park’s wildlife.

“In terms of its spectacular richness of wildlife,Chitwan is the Serengeti of Nepal,” said ALERT director William Laurance, a distinguished research professor at James Cook University in Australia.“It teems with over 700 wildlife species and has some of the largest populations of wild rhinoceros and tigers in the world.”

Scientists from ALERT expressed great alarm about Nepalese and Indian government plans to bisect the park with a major leg of the East-­West Railway. “Most options being considered so far would cut right through the park,” said Laurance, “but viable routes that skirt the park are available.”

The researchers emphasized that Chitwan national park plays a vital role in the regional economy in Nepal, attracting upwards of 100,000 tourists annually and supporting nearly 400 hotels and eco-­lodges.

“Throughout the world, new roads and transportation projects are often the first step in the demise of wildlife,” said ALERT member Dr Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, who studies road and poaching impacts on tigers and other fauna in Asia. “Once an area gets opened up by roads or railroads, poachers and colonists often invade.”

“As a World Heritage site, Chitwan is a jewel of the planet,” said Laurance. “We urge Nepal to avoid high-­risk mega-­projects that could imperil Chitwan’s amazing wildlife and natural values.”

For further information contact:
Distinguished Professor William Laurance
Prince Bernhard Chair for International Nature Conservation
James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
Email: bill.laurance@jcu.edu.au