Developing a Conservation and Environmental Management Plan for the Phewa Lake of the Nepal

Bishwa Thapaliya ( Environmental sustainability manager),i did MA( English) and MSc (sustainable development)


Phewa Lake is the Nepal’s second largest lake which is situated at the south-western edge of Pokhara valley. Rai et al. (1995) stated that Phewa Lake occupies an area of 5.23 km2, watershed area of 123km2 and also the lake has various uses such as hydroelectricity, irrigation, fishery, tourism, pilgrimage for Hindus and a boating facility. Furthermore, the Phewa Lake has a single passage, where water is diverted for irrigation and hydropower generation. About 1700 wooden flat timber boats and other craft are operating in the lake, mainly for tourism services. It is estimated that 16% of Pokhara’s total income is generated through tourism (Oli 1997), and the shorelines of Phewa Lake, especially the western side, includes one of the most popular tourist spots of Pokhara Valley, with many hotels and restaurants. However, the following Table 1 shows the Physio- graphic features of Phewa Lake.

Major Conservation and Management Issues of Phewa Lake

Borre et al. (2001: 203) have stated that the major threats to lakes to the world include; ‘severe lake encroachment, accelerated eutrophication, invasive species, toxic contamination, over fishing, water diversion, acidification, and climate change’.  In the context of the Phewa Lake of the Nepal, the major  socio-ecological  threats are;  the  conflicting  legal issues  within between  different   stakeholders in regards to land use in the Phewa lakeshore  area ,  reclamation and encroachment , sedimentation, lake water  pollution, threats to biodiversity, unplanned  tourism development activities,  inadequate  institutional capability(Sherestha, 1999). However, the empirical studies of Phewa Lake have revealed that the Phewa Lake has facing major conservation and management issues (Ferro 1980, Fleming 1981, Nakanishi et al. 1988, Rai 1998, Davis et al. 1998). Lamichhane (2000:125) has noted that Phewa Lake is facing severe environmental problems as a result of ‘nutrient loading from agriculture, landslides, and rapid urbanization in the surrounding area and also sewage and solid waste from the surrounding settlements is directed into the lake’. Furthermore, the increased tourism with in Phewa lake area has also played the major roles for environmental degradation of the lake (Oli 1997).More ever; Phewa Lake is also seasonally oligotrophic due to heavy rainfall in its wider catchment area (Rai 2000).

 Phewa Lake holds enormous socio-ecological dynamics as well as a scientific, economical and cultural values but ‘ a vulnerable ecosystem due to sedimentation, eutrophication and encroachment represent a case of concerned lake in the ominous need of better environmental decision and good management practices’(Bista et al.2002:140). Furthermore, environmental deterioration of Phewa Lake has cause severe loss of aquatic resources which resulted on significant losses on ecological values of the lakes. Authors like Borre et al. (2001) indicated that the major issues of Phewa Lake are related to social and political problems, as well as lack of the stakeholders’ participation for environmental decision making   and also Phewa lake’s issues related to the socio- economic and cultural aspects of all the stakeholders.  Furthermore, those major environmental issues of Phewa Lake have created   a significance demand for a better environmental management strategy for the Lake. In order to   develop the better environmental management strategy, it is absolutely necessary to conduct the system analysis of Phewa Lake and also need to recognize the cause and effects of the system analysis. Moreover, the Stakeholder analysis and management system analysis are another important   paradigm   to consider before the establishment of the environmental management strategy.

System Analysis of the Phewa Lake

  A recent class handout by Walkerden (2010) indicates that system analysis is an assessment of chains of cause and effect which focus on articulating the relationships between the structure and dynamics.  Furthermore, Walkerden (2010:2) argues that systems analysis “contributes a disciplined approach to interdependence which organises one’s thinking and makes gaps in knowledge unambiguous as well as makes assumptions clear and also directs attention to the sources of problems; therefore the strategy and policy proposals can be evaluated more independently”.  Furthermore, a good environmental system analysis approach should focus on relationships between scoping, structure and dynamics phases (Walkerden, 2010).  For instance, with the case of  Phewa Lake,  primarily  the scoping issues (like reclamation and  encroachment, pollution, sedimentation) should  to be addressed  within the  current  management  system practices and also need to clearly identify the lists of indicators and actions which can be helpful to understand how a current system is behaving (socially, economically, ecologically).  Secondly, the structure phase can be use to describe the pattern of cause and effect relationships that link the indicators and actions and finally, dynamic phase of Phewa lake system can be useful to describe how aspects of the system changes over the time.

Figure 2 shows the various chains causes and effects which are facing by overall Phewa lake system. For instance, when rainfall near to lake area, then catchment surface water flows and joins to the river, again river flows and carries water, sediments and nutrients which   stores into the Phewa Lake.    However, system analysis of diagram shows the complexity and dynamics of the system which allow environmental decision be more technically sensible. For example, poor water quality of lake causes algal problem which impact the human health, as well other species within ecosystem.

Within the system analysis context, it is also important to understand how the concepts of feedback loops are in plays. Marten (2001: 23) argues that positive and negative feedback are “the effect that changes in one part of an ecosystem or social system has on the very same part after passing through a chain of effects in other parts of the system”. However, negative feedback provides stability and positive feedback stimulates change.  In the case of the Phewa Lake, reclamation and encroachment issues can be useful to discuss about the positive and negative feedback loops. For example, within the short period of 1981- 2001, 5.8 km2 of lake area of 1981 has been reduced to 4.4 km2 by 2001(JICA, 2002). In order to understand this encroachment issues, it is important to analyse the   whole system   as well as concepts of feedback loops.

 Authors like Guo et al. (2001) analysed differently how system dynamics works with in environmental sectors which is very interesting way to analyse the Phewa Lake.   By using the system dynamics methods, authors like Guo et al. (2001: 96) argue that system analysis which ‘deals with a system by using an integrated approach, however, the examination of individual subsystem is crucial for integration, Through this assessment interactive relationships among the subsystems can be clarified, and embedded links among a number of system components can be identified’.  For instance, in the context of Phewa Lake, seven subsystems can be considered, including, tourism, population, water resources, pollution control, water quality, agriculture and religious activities.

Figure 3 shows that interaction among various mechanisms in the subsystems. Any significant change in one part may lead to a series of consequences to the other   subsystems. For instance, in the case of Phewa Lake, tourism industry with in the lake area can bring  a lot of economic benefits such as  income generate  from  hotels, restaurants, recreational activities  and  as well as boating. However, in the same time, tourism industry also uses water and agriculture products and discharge solid and chemical waste to the Phewa Lake which will impact of health of people, loss of water quality, impact on fish. Therefore, tourism subsystem activities are related not only economic development, however also bring a number of environmental and ecological as well as sociological anxiety. Thus, a proper study of system analysis can be helpful to identify the various causes and effects of system.

Stakeholders Analysis of Phewa Lakes

According to the Grimble & Chan (199:118),stakeholder analysis is “a process of systematically gathering and analysing qualitative information to determine whose interests should be taken into account when developing and/or implementing a policy or program”  Furthermore  WWF (2005:4) indicates that a stakeholder can be  defined  as “ any individual, group, or institution that has a vested interest in the natural resources of the project area and/or who potentially will be affected by project activities and have something to gain or lose if conditions change or stay the same”.  Authors like Ingles (1999), and Grimble (1998) believe that stakeholder analysis of Phewa Lake can be used to identify and define the characteristics of key stakeholders as well as illustrate out the their key interests in relation to the problems and purpose of the that the project, and also identify conflicts of interests among the stakeholders, to help manage such conflicts by negotiating the power and finally, help to identify creative alternatives and possible win/ win solutions.

In the case of Phewa Lake, Stakeholders come from diverse interests and backgrounds, for examples are government institutions (at different levels), donors, directly affected individuals or groups (farmers, tourism industry, local community, fishermen) and indirectly affected groups (environmental groups, NGOs, INGOs). Example of the stakeholders of Phewa Lake of Nepal can be found on table 4.

·          Current Environmental Management System of Phewa Lake according to ISO 14000

In terms of current environmental management system of Phewa Lake, there are no specific authorities or management responsible for the conservation and management of the Phewa Lake (Banskota & Sharma, 1998) which can link as a tragedy of commons. Because of this inadequate institutional capability has hindered effort on sustainable management of the Phewa lake resources.  Yet, environmental management system should help to preserve a lake ecosystem’s stability and integrity and also management goals should consider economic and political needs and include a vision for the future.

Nakamura (1997) states that Phewa Lake needs a new innovative way of lake management include partnership and integrated catchment approach, which means need to have wider stakeholders’ involvements for conservation of Phewa lakes.  Furthermore, Engel (1987) states that Phewa lake management should embrace the holistic perspective and sustainable use of Phewa lake resources.  In contrast, Jorgenson & Vollenweider (1989) emphasis on system approach, which can be helpful to understand causes and effects of Phewa Lake.  In reality, Phewa Lake does not have any proper environmental management system because of the lack of environmental governance within the authorities, and also Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most of the time environmental conservation plan does not come as major agendas for government. Pokhara Municipality and JICA (an INGO working for conservation management of Phewa Lake) establish the management strategy and plan for conservation of Phewa Lake.

However, like most of environmental management system, the Phewa Lake also should follow the Plan, Do check Act structure provided by the ISO 1400 (See figure 5).  First of all, Phewa Lake EMS development process should start with establishing an environmental policy which should linked with Phewa Lake’s conservation strategy. For example, the commitment to prevent water pollution of Phewa lakes, promotion of ecotourism, and commitment compliance legal requirements are the main environmental policies.  Secondly, in planning step, it is vital to identify the legal issues of lakes, as well as identify the significant environmental impacts from the Phewa Lake’s stakeholder activities and also clear objectives and targets. Furthermore, within the implementation and operation step,   Phewa Lake’s EMS should develop the EMS document and also should   develop and implement standard operating measures. Within the checking and correction step, Phewa Lake’s EMS should introduce monitoring and measuring mechanism and also should identify the main problem and cause. Finally, as a part of management review of  Phewa lake,  there is hardly  any  evidence  of  existence  of  proper  authority body to manage the Phewa lake. However, as a management review steps, Phewa Lake’s EMS should identify the new trends and variation and should adopt the management actions.  Here is

Holistic assessment of the Phewa Lakes of Nepal

According to the Walkerden (2010:3), good environmental decision making is a “triangulation of system analysis x stakeholder analysis x management system analysis and design”. Furthermore, Walkerden (2010) believes that the triangulation of system, stakeholder, and management system analysis are essential for environmental management decision making because system analysis approach helps us to make sense technically by indentifying the system boundaries, actions, and indicators as well as consideration of networks of cause and effects. Moreover, stakeholder analysis approach helps us to make sense politically by indentifying the stakeholders’ positions, interests and power. Stakeholder analysis helps us to align in between the different stakeholders. Finally, Management system analysis approach helps us to make sense managerially by adopting the ISO 14000 environmental management system. In the case of Phewa Lake, there are not a real triangulation of system, stakeholder, and management system because of lack of environmental governance, poverty   and   lack of environmental management institutions.

However, there are following recommendation for future action should be taken by Phewa Lake’s EMS

Integrated conservation and development approach
Adoption of watershed/ ecosystem approach
Promotion of ecotourism
Stakeholder involvement
Conservation action plans and guidelines
Eco zoning of lake shoreline
Greater involvement of local and national government