Ghodaghodi Tal: An Important Ramsar Site

Designated as a Ramsar site in August 2003, Ghodaghodi Tal is located on the slopes of the Siwalik Hills in the Kailali District of Nepal. The forests and wetlands of this conservation site serve as a corridor for wildlife between the Siwalik Hills and the picturesque Terai lowland. The area is surrounded by patches of forest and includes a number of shallow oxbow lakes, with a multitude of ponds, marshes, wide open meadows and streams. It is in this idyllic setting that some of Nepal’s vulnerable and critically endangered species are found. These include the majestic Bengal tiger, marsh crocodile, red-crowned roofed turtle, three-striped roofed turtle, Eurasian otter, smooth-coated otter, swamp deer and lesser adjutant stork.

Nine of the U-shaped lakes – Ghodaghodi , Chaitya, Ojhuwa, Purbi Ojhuwa, Sunpokhari, Nakhrodi, Budhi Nakhrodi, Baishawa, and Ramphal – cover a large percentage of the area. Ghodaghodi is the largest of the lakes, and a concrete dam has been built to regulate the outlet of the lake’s water. It has been reported that up to 140 species of birds have been sighted in Ghodaghodi Tal, some of which migrate from Mongolia and Siberia during the winter season. Other wildlife in the wetlands includes more than ten species of fish and a variety of reptiles and amphibians.

On the outskirts of the designated wetland, which covers an area of around ten square kilometers, are human settlements and agricultural fields. Conservationists have voiced concern that human settlements encroaching on the wetland area will upset its delicate ecological balance, threatening the survival of the resident wildlife. It seems that this fear is not unfounded as, within the last decade or so, large numbers of people have migrated to Ghodaghodi Tal from Dailekh, Surkhet, Asham, Gulmi and Myagdi, mainly because the area is fertile, providing grazing for animals, as well as timber, fish and food, such as wild mushrooms. Agricultural fields have begun to encroach on marshy areas of the wetland, with chemical fertilizers and insecticides leaching into the water.

Fortunately, nature has the amazing ability to regenerate when given the opportunity to do so. With Ghodaghodi Tal now having Ramsar status, and IUCN classifying the area, it is hoped that measures will be taken to prevent the situation from deteriorating, while providing for the needs of the people living there, so that future generations will also have the benefit of enjoying this beautiful area of Nepal.