Signing-up for conservation commitments in Nepal

A new era has dawned in scientific, horticultural and conservation collaborations between the UK and Nepal with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and the Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation Department of Plant Resources (DPR). The development flags up a significant commitment to long-term capacity building in plant research, conservation and education in the South Asian biodiversity hot-spot.

While RBGE has connections in Nepal dating back to the early 1800’s, this is regarded as a distinctively fresh form of partnership. The deal was sealed when Mr Yam Bahadur Thapa, Director General of Nepal’s Department of Plant Resources, flew to Edinburgh to meet RBGE Regius Keeper Simon Milne MBE. Looking forward to a number of imminent new initiatives including plans for a Biodiversity Education Garden to be built at Nepal’s National Botanic Garden, the two agreed the way was open for yet closer working ties.

Simon Milne commented: “The connections between the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Nepal date back some 200 years and our working relationship is going from strength to strength. This accord underscores a common commitment to build on the strength of our past affiliation towards even more productive collaboration. We can look forward to new opportunities in developing appreciation, education, knowledge and conservation of the plant kingdom and protecting the natural capital that sustains us.”

Mr Thapa added: “King Mahendra was so impressed by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh when he visited in 1960 that he inaugurated Nepal’s first and only National Botanic Garden two years later. RBGE horticultural staff are out in Nepal at the moment giving much-needed training to my staff and we are looking forward to developing our partnership in the future.”

Dr Mark Watson, Head of Major Floras at RBGE and Editor-in-Chief of the international Flora of Nepal research programme explained the significance of the MOU: “Although it is a small country, Nepal has an enormous range of habitats and is home to some 7000 species of vascular plants, making it a globally-important biodiversity hot-spot. However, conservation and sustainable use of plant biodiversity is hampered by the lack of primary inventory information and means to identify and characterise species.  This is exacerbated by a lack of trained people to undertake plant biodiversity inventory and documentation. Poor facilities, lack of equipment and limited funding also need to be addressed.

“The process is underway. RBGE has led several in-country workshops and hands-on training events. MSc and PhD training of Nepalese botanists at the University of Edinburgh and RBGE is proving a success and many more ambitious plans are in the pipeline.”

Click here for more information on RBGE's Flora of Nepal research programme.

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