Twice cursed

Published: Wednesday 30 June 1993

-- The ministry of environment and forests (MEF) has asked for an urgent clarification from its Nepalese counterpart on a Sino-Nepalese proposal to set up a natural reserve around the highest Himalayan peaks. China and Nepal have been working on the project for about 18 months and a US-based organisation, the Woodland Mountain Institute, has been chosen for consultancy services.

The reserve is expected to cover 40,000 sq km -- from the southern slopes of the upper Himalaya to the dry plateau of Tibet -- and will enclose within it three existing nature reserves in Nepal, including the Kyomolangma National Park near Mount Everest, and six of the world's 12 highest peaks. This region is the source of India's important perennial rivers -- including the Brahmaputra -- and is estimated to be home to 3,000 species of plants, 400 species of birds and 25 varieties of mammals.

India is reportedly irked at being left out of the project. While MEF officials fear the reserve may become a site for opportunistic exploitation of natural resources that could have a pervasive impact on Indian river systems, the Union defence ministry is merely concerned the reserve will become a site for placing electronic intelligence-gathering devices.

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