'We should be adopting a gentler, more considered approach, seeking
always to work with the grain of nature in making better, more
sustainable use of what we have.'
--H.R.H Prince Charles.
Traditional management of natural resources in Khumbu is influenced
by Buddhist beliefs. Following the nationalization of Nepal's forests
in the late 1950's, the National Park and Himalayan Trust have been
working with the local community to re-introduce the work of the
nawa, or traditional forest guardians. The locally elected village
nawa relies on the Monastery to choose the best dates for the yearly
activities according to the Tibetan calendar.
Drawing a Boundary.
On an auspicious date the nawa fixes a Line, or Di, which is a
boundary around the agricultural areas. For a certain period in
summer, no animals are allowed to graze within this area and they are
taken to higher pastures. In addition, the Di can also mark areas
where grass or wood cutting and even household fires are restricted.
This annual ceremonial expulsion of livestock protects crops, plants
and trees during the short crucial growing season.
The Protected Forests.
The nawa is also responsible for the 'Kyak Shing' or protected
forests. Most were decreed sacred by the local lamas but some were
secular and protected for community use such as building bridges.
In the last century, sacred or protected forests comprised nearly
half of Khumbu's forest. Some of these woods were totally protected,
and even carrying an axe into the area was forbidden for fear of
upsetting the local protectors and deities. In other forests,
controlled felling was allowed. The only trees still standing in some
villages are the sacred trees, believed to be the abode of the "Lu"
or local spirits.
Over 150 years ago a few forested areas were placed under the lama's
protection in Phortse. Although limited cutting is allowed in some
areas, over ten hectares of old mossy birch forest show no sign that
a single branch has ever been cut. In this way not only were the
forests protected but so too was the wildlife. This is a striking
example of traditional values protecting the landscape even in an
area where trees are so useful and scarce.
The Forest at Tengboche.
The forest around Tengboche was given to the monastery in 1919 and is
sacred. Before growing pressure from mountaineering and tourism,
controlled felling was allowed, but the forest was protected from
severe cutting. In spite the fact that National Park regulations
require camping groups to carry kerosene and the cutting of green
wood is outlawed, regulations are disregarded and the forest is
suffering from unsustainable cutting. Porters and lodges use live
wood for cooking and heating and as there is no fuel on the higher
trekking routes, porters take it from here. Tengboche Rinpoche, the
abbot, still has the original letter granting the forest to the
monastery and it is hoped that with the help of new initiatives in
park management the forest will revert to its former status with the
effective, traditional way of management and protection.
In Pangboche, there is a beautiful old grove of juniper trees near to
the monastery. Here Lama Sangwa Dorje is said to have scattered a
handful of hair to the wind, which took root as the forest. These
trees are not only sacred but also inhabited by local spirits. People
believe that if they are cut it will result in sickness and