Man-Made Jungles: How the Tharu Made the Chitwan and Bardiya Grasslands
Nepal has some of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Some are in mountain areas, but several of Nepal’s key areas are in lowland tarai environments. The lowland areas support endangered species such as Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinos. Since the 1970s, national parks and other conservation areas have been established by the Nepali state, in conjunction with international actors, to protect these areas.
The role of grasslands in maintaining the tarai ecosystems is often overlooked, as is the role of human beings, particularly Tharu communities, in maintaining the grasslands. In other words, the supposed “wilderness” that is the wild Nepal jungle can’t survive without clear human intervention.
When we think of jungle environments we often think of trees, but it is the grasslands that provide the habitat that supports some of the highest densities of fauna in the world.
But these grasslands disappear without human interventions, such as fire and grazing. When this human interaction was almost entirely eliminated with the establishment of national parks in the 1970s, the grasslands started to disappear. Today, parks use controlled burns and ploughing by tractors to restore and maintain the grasslands. The paper will use archival as well as photographic sources. It is part of a larger effort to show the potential for other types of history besides conventional political history. It would be ideal to place me with other papers with an environmental focus or historical focus.