Off the beaten Treks
Kailali: Ghodaghodi Tal
Kailali: Ghodaghodi Tal
Nepal's wetlands
trekking areas
Myagdi: Pun Hill expects boom in trekking
Ghodaghodi Tal - Facing a murky future
Kailali Located in the Far Western region of Nepal in Kailali district lies an ecologically significant wetland-Tal. Unlike the wetland of east Koshi Tappu, little attention has been given to this wetland, which in every way has parallel attributes to Koshi Tappu and is a proposed Ramsar site. The size of the wetland is around 10sq km and its elevation ranges from 195m-207m above mean sea level. The wetland covers three VDCs of the Kailali district.

The surrounding area of the wetland consists of forests, scrubs, human settlements and agricultural fields. Ghodaghodi Tal is collectively composed of nine different lakes, namely, Ghodaghodi, Ojhuwa, Purbi Ojhuwa, Chaitya, Baishawa, Sunpokhari, Nakhrodi, Budhi Nakhrodi and Ramphal all of various sizes separated by marsh land.

As a whole the wetland is categorized as a fresh Water Lake associated with marshes that encoMapss various rivers, swamps, marshes, reservoirs, ponds, flood plains and paddy fields. Of the nine-sister lakes, Ghodaghodi, which lies adjacent to the East West Highway, is the largest and a concrete dam regulates its outlet. There are various interesting mythological beliefs about the name of the lake. Ghodaghodi literally means male and female horse.

Popular cosmic belief says a hermit crushed Lord Shiva and Parvati into a horse. The pair circled around the lake and hence the name Ghodaghodi. The other belief is that the indigenous Chaudhari people living around the vicinity of the lake made various animal artifacts but by and large they made the horse and hence its worship. This act may have led to the naming of the lake Ghodaghodi. The next story is that the lake was too large in ancient times and was impossible for a single horse to make a circle in one day and hence the name was proposed.

Wetlands are among the most threatened ecosystems of the world and are not an exception to Nepal. As population pressure, internal migration, and need for agricultural land intensifies, wetlands get threatened. Wetlands cover 5.5% of the total land area of Nepal and are the most productive ecosystems. Ghodaghodi Tal is an important prime habitat for migrating and resident birds.

Around 140 species of different birds are sighted around this wetland, some birds migrating from as far away as Siberia and Mongolia during the winter season. Over 10 different species of fish, 3-5 species of reptiles, 11 species of mammals, 3 different species of amphibious toads and frogs and, one of the celebrated animals of Nepal, the Marsh Magar find a home in Ghodaghodi Tal.

The area also supports a high diversity of flora numbering 248 species. IUCN has classified the Ghodaghodi Tal into Lacustine, Palustrine and Riverrine systems. It is an obvious fact that Ghodaghodi Tal has helped maintain the microclimate of the region and importantly flood mitigation and replenishment of ground water. Ghodaghodi Tal fulfills the habitat requirements for many unique species of waterfowl during all phases of growth. Besides its ecological importance, Ghodaghodi Tal has high socio-economic and cultural value.

Rural people in several ways use the water body, like fishing, extraction of plant materials, and recreational purposes. Since the surrounding area is highly productive, it provides good opportunities for farming and grazing livestock. Thus the local people find their basic needs like fodder, fuel wood, wild fruits and vegetables, grazing land, and water from the wetland for their livelihood and to maintain their households. Besides, the Shiva temple in the adjoining area of Ghodaghodi Tal signifies the cultural value of the lake.

Ghodaghodi Tal is an integral part of the life of the people living around its periphery who find their basic needs in the wetland. Unfortunately, though people have a ritual relationship with the wetland, they fail to recognize their dependency on the wetland and consequently invite ecological problems. The two major factors responsible for the wetland degradation are anthropogenic and natural. With regard to anthropogenic factors, migration was seen as the biggest problem.

Population pressure has intensified within the last decade as people have migrated here in large numbers from Surkhet, Dailekh, Baitadi, Asham, Myagdi and Gulmi in search of better opportunities. Grazing by animals, picking wild mushrooms, firewood collection, fishing and logging are done in a haphazard manner. No regulatory measures have been adopted. The greed for higher productivity has led to the encroachment of the marshy area of the wetland. This act has a direct impact upon the aquatic and terrestrial dwellers. Leaching of chemical fertilizers, insecticides into the water body will invite serious threats to the existence of the lake. The next problem is nature induced or due to natural factors. Various degrees of landslides occur periodically in the most fragile Churiya hills.

Unfortunately the Churiya region happens to be the catchment area of the wetland and consequently the silt is drained into the wetland decreasing its size and productivity each year. The soil in the surrounding area is sandy and loosely arranged. This means heavy silt deposits in the water body during the monsoon. Encroachment of Cititium species into the waterlogged area of the wetland is the next problem. These species grow in clumps and accelerate the process of eutrophication in the wetland. Heavy organic matter production inside the lake due to the decomposition of aquatic plants has elaborated the problem of Biological oxygen demand and dissolved oxygen. According to the locals there has been a remarkable decrease in the fish population within the last decade. The concrete reason is the siltation problem accompanied by the higher biological oxygen demand due to higher decomposition.

The potential danger is eutrophication of the lake due to over organic production and siltation. Enforcing aspirant conservation measures is hard as the poverty-stricken people around the wetland question their survival. People around the wetland have seen, observed and played in the wetland for their livelihood. A complex relationship of people with the biophysical aspects of the lake exists. To achieve a common ground the government must explore a core of sustainable utilization of resources understanding the philosophy of life of the people living in the vicinity of this wetland. Very limited investigations have been carried out about the Ghodaghodi Tal. However IUCN and the British Embassy have taken keen interest in the development of this wetland.

At the local level, the District Forest Office has started the fencing off of the Ghodaghodi Tal area. But isolating the wetland from the existing community will only invite illegal encroachment. A sustainable use of resources should be addressed to impose effective conservation, after all people are the masters of their resources and have customary rights to the resources at their disposal.

Although it has been proposed, the government has yet to designate the area as a Ramsar site. If the present trend of negligence continues, Ghodaghodi Tal will become history, that too in a short span. The wonderful gift of nature will only exist inside the pages of books. We have no legislative provisions for the conservation of wetlands, although Nepal has agreed upon various conventions aiming at integrating the conservation in a global context.


Nepal officially declared three more wetland areas in the country as being fit to make it to the coveted Ramsar Site. The three wetlands are: Ghodaghodi Tal area of Kailali district, Jagadishpur reservoir area of Kapilvastu district; and Beesh Hazaar Tal area of Chitwan district.

The first-ever wetland convention took place in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Nepal too began marking the Day from the same year after ratifying the Ramsar Convention in 1987. Nepal has yet to fulfill certain obligations that come with being a signatory. The authorities concerned are yet to properly manage the 240 wetlands in the country, of which 163 are in Terai alone. According to wetland experts, there are many things that Nepal has yet to do to fulfill its responsibility as a signatory to the Convention.

The historic Ramsar Convention recognises 42 wetland types divided into marine, coastal, inland and human-made. Nepal has inland and riverine types of wetland, in the form of lakes, including ox-bow lakes, ponds, reservoirs, river floodplains, marshes and rice paddies.

Wetlands occupy five per cent of Nepal's total landmass. There are 193 species of wetland-dependent birds, including 11 globally threatened species, in Nepal. Nepal's wetlands also provide refuge to 10 endemic amphibians and one endemic reptile, eight endemic fish species, and 11 species of endangered aquatic plants, including seven endemic species. They are also home to the one-horned rhinoceros, Bengal tigers, Asiatic elephants, fishing cat, gharial, and mugger crocodiles, turtles and gigantic dolphins.

Wetlands are an important contributor to the global ecosystem.

External link
Special Link Ramsar IUCN World Conservation Union