February 22, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

The importance of urban community forest for ecological balance

The Nepal Weekly
July 18, 2023

By Siksha Khanal l

The Society of American Foresters  Dictionary of Forestry (1998 edition) has defined urban forestry as the art, science and technology of managing trees and forest resources in and around urban community ecosystems for the physiological, sociological, economic and aesthetic benefits trees provide society (Konijendijk et al., 2006).” In other words, urban forestry is an integrated city-wide approach to the planting, care and management of trees in the city to secure multiple environment and social wellbeing for urban dwellers (miller, 1998). This community forest consists of forty-three households.

Ranibari community forest lies within the Kathmandu Valley which is home to 144 community forests. But Ranibari is the only community forest located within the boundary of the Ring Road. Ranibari community forest can be as a good example of urban forest. It is situated at an altitude of 1,303 meter and lies at North West part of Kathmandu Metropolitan City Ward No. 3, Lazimpat covering an area of 6.95 ha. The area is otherwise surrounded by the concrete jungle. This forest is prime bird habitat and recreational spot in Kathmandu.

Originally, Ranibari was the garden built by the king Shivasen Malla for his queen in 1643 B.S. The Ranibari forest was used as a place to conduct Diwali pooja (worshiping the family deity) by the king of Shah dynasty. This forest is known as ‘PORPA AJIMA’ in Newari people, where the local community worship Goddess Rani Devi. The native have strong faith on Ranibari temple, most of whom regularly visit there.  It has reached to vulnerable situation and then people recognized that it’s their ancestral property so they have to protect it and hand it over to coming generation. Keeping this in mindh, they madecontinuous efforts for making developing it into a community forest. It was handover in 2057/09/10 B.S. to the local community for the protection, management and utilization. The major objective of the Ranibari community forest management is for biodiversity conservation and providing environmental benefit to the urban dwellers.

The native people are strongly determined towards conservation of the forest because of their strong religious belief. The Ranibari Communist Forest executive committee is truly dedicated to the protection, management and proper utilization of the forest.  Ranibari community forest is completely fenced as per the need of the hour. The community forest has received financial support from the local body as well as other concerned organization for its protection and management, which has resulted in zero encroachment. The fencing was done not only to discourage deforestation but also to avoid unethical activities in the area.

Ranibari is a natural forest, which is home to around 39 different species of flora as well as 67 species of birds. Urban forest might not be suitable for wildlife because of the small area, extreme human interference. Besides, the urban zone contains extremely low water resources and inadequate food availability. If the number of animal becomes larger than manageable then it may create risk for human beings, so efforts has been made to keep the number of jackals minimum so as to maintain ecological balance and also not to cause any negative impact in the surrounding area. Here food and water is both naturally or artificially supplied for the birds and animals. In Ranibari, regeneration promotion, weeding, cleaning, pruning, salvation and harvesting is regularly carried out. Weeding of banmara (Ageratina adenophora) is very essential and it is carried out annually so that this species could not invade the forest’s open space. Plantation on naked area or space with certain criteria, as it is suggested to plant native species with the point of native species conservation. In the coming days  exotic species plantation will be avoided within the forest area. Selection system has been mentioned in operation plan, but it seemed not to have timely silviculture practice because of the higher harvesting cost. The expenditure is more than the revenue so even over matured trees are not harvested. Because of the rapid urbanization throughout the world, policy makers and development planner has given a high priority for urban and peri-urban forestry which includes urban parks and gardens, roadside plantations, trees along the banks of rivers, streams and canals, surrounding houses and private properties and forests in peripheral of urban areas The reason of emerging the concept of urban forestry worldwide in response to the adverse environmental effects due to increased urban population and infrastructure (Gautam, 2018). Unplanned urbanization seems to invite various consequences which might have been the reason of today’s nasty and irrelevant situation. Thus, people recognition about the importance of urban forest for the wellbeing has considered being mandatory. A healthy urban forest could be ideal and includes a several criteria such as species diversity, regular silvicultural operations practice, fulfillment of urban people needs, high level of people satisfaction, active people participation, good plans and policies, a good agent of quality, healthy and prosperous life, a medium to combat environmental degradation and free from any kind of hindrance like destruction, illegal felling, encroachment and so on.

•     Ranibari urban forest which provide environmental as well as socioeconomic wellbeing needs absolute  forest protection planning, program and actions  for the management and maintenance to establish an ideal urban forest.

•     Environmental benefits includes shade and cooling effect, water conservation, rain water harvesting, ground water recharge, bio-aesthetics, providing green character to cities and breaking monotony of concrete building/ structures, pollution mitigation, noise reduction, urban biodiversity conservation, an identity to the city as eco-city. Forest has taken to play an important role in urban hydrologic processes by intercepting and retaining or slowing the flow of precipitation reaching the ground. These ultimately reduce the rate and volume of storm water runoff and increase the water quality.

Here are the benefits of the Ranibari Forest:

•    Social benefits: social cohesion, playing and recreational avenues, shelter to visitors, fuel wood, plantation, connect people with nature, health benefits to the citizens.

•    Economic Benefits: Opportunities for green job, ecotourism, recreation.

•    For the soil conservation bamboo dam has been constructed in the erosion prone site.

•    In the past there were wetlands, but by the time, urbanization turned into complete concrete surrounding resulted in the water resource degradation.

•    There are 5 recharge pits for the purpose of round water recharge.

•    . Awareness has been conducted timely for students and urban dweller.

•    Inclusion of urban forestry development management act and activities in formulating plans and policy for local, regional and national development projects.

Conclusion:

Finally, various stakeholders such as municipality, government office, community organizations and urban people should get regularly involved in coordination, cooperation and monitoring works in the forest. Local government can use its authority to protect the urban forest.