Relating Flow to Ecology of Wetlands in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve

Nepal has vast sources of water available for human use, however like other countries around the world, increasing population with industrial and irrigation demands put pressure on these resources. Nepal is also an energy poor country, whose vast water supply can be used to generate electricity through hydropower plants. Energy generation is critical to the economic future of this developing country. Cascades of hydropower plants are planned across Nepal’s rivers, which means several power plants per selected river system are envisioned as a way forward for the country. Hydropower plants generally interrupt the natural regime of river flow as dams or diversions around river sections are created to generate power. The riverine environment is very sensitive to such changes in the flow regime.

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A knowledge gap exists in Nepal with respect to understanding the relationships between the movement of freshwater through river basins and the ecology the water supports. The Himalayan region supports some of the highest biodiversity in the world. Key water dependent ecological assets include the Ganges dolphin, Asiatic buffalo, fish and wetland birds to name a few.

To address this knowledge gap, a group of 12 Nepali ecologists undertook a review and reported the known links between river flow and ecology in the Koshi River Basin. The importance of understanding these relationships lies in understanding the ecological flow requirements that are required to maintain the integrity of ecosystems. The key benefit of understanding river flow-ecology relationships is that when river flow changes occur, information is available to support the development of environmental flow policies that recognize the need to protect (and possibly enhance) ecological components and multiple uses of the river into the future. For this, we selected three Master's Level students through open call to carry out researches to show the relationship between flow changes and macrophytes (Ms. Tika Regmi), macro-invertebrates (Ms. Sunita Shrestha) and birds (Mr. Aditya Pal) in the wetlands of Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. All four seasonal field visits have been concluded in 2018 and 2019, and the team members are engaged in lab works and analysis of gathered data. The project is being implemented in generous support from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Land and Water, Australia.