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The: Impact on Nepal's Food Basket in the Terai Belt


The Terai region of Nepal stands as a vital pillar of the nation's agricultural strength, celebrated for its fertile plains and bountiful harvests that sustain the country. However, this indispensable ecosystem confronts an imminent threat in the form of the degradation of the Chure Range, a critical natural barrier separating the Himalayas from the Terai. The deterioration of the Chure Range presents significant challenges to Nepal's agricultural productivity and food security, casting shadows over the nation's economy and well-being.

Known also as the Churia Range or Siwalik Hills, the Chure Range serves as a vital watershed and biodiversity hotspot, playing a pivotal role in regulating water flow, curbing soil erosion, and shaping microclimate patterns in the Terai region. Regrettably, unchecked deforestation, rampant mining activities, illegal logging, and unsustainable land practices have inflicted severe damage on this delicate ecosystem, resulting in widespread degradation and loss of biodiversity.

The repercussions of the Chure Range's decline are keenly felt in Nepal's Terai belt, often hailed as the country's "food basket" due to its fertile soil and conducive climatic conditions for agriculture. Contribute significantly to Nepal's agricultural output, the Terai region yields staple crops such as rice, wheat, maize, sugarcane, and fruits, serving as the cornerstone of the nation's food security.

Stretching from the Indus River in Pakistan to the Brahmaputra River in India, the Chure Range spans approximately 12.78% of Nepal's land area, serving as a crucial geographical feature. Comprising fluvial sedimentary rocks, this sensitive ecosystem transitions from upland areas in the Terai to the lower Mahabharat region, with rivers and rivulets originating from the Mahabharat range flowing through it into the Terai plains.

Following the successful eradication of malaria, human settlements began encroaching into the Chure and Bhawar areas, leading to intensified deforestation and agricultural cultivation. However, unsustainable land practices, including deforestation, overexploitation of forest resources, open grazing, and unregulated land use, have precipitated a decline in biodiversity and land productivity, negatively impacting the region's overall ecosystem.

Deteriorating water bodies in the Chure Hills and Bhawar region have exacerbated environmental challenges in the Terai-Madhesh, resulting in water resource depletion and increased instances of floods, erosion, and village inundation.Without prompt intervention, the vulnerability of the Chure region's ecosystem will escalate, amplifying hardships for the inhabitants of the Terai-Madhesh, where approximately half of Nepal's population resides. Recognizing the urgency of conservation efforts, the Government of Nepal launched the 'Presidential Chure Conservation Program' in the Fiscal Year 2011. This comprehensive program aims to address Chure conservation holistically, acknowledging its multidimensional nature and involving various stakeholders in the process.


Building a Resilient Churia Region in Nepal (BRCRN) project has been striving to bolster ecosystem resilience and uplift vulnerable communities. With an allocated budget of USD 47,342,154 and supported by the Green Climate Fund with its share of funding totaling USD 39,299,905, the project is scheduled to run from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2026.

The Churia region plays a crucial role in sustaining the ecosystems of the densely populated Terai plains. However, unsustainable natural resource management over the years has led to extensive land degradation, further exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.

The BRCRN project takes an integrated approach, placing a central emphasis on ecosystem restoration, specifically targeting the rejuvenation of forests, while also accommodating various land use needs. Effective stakeholder engagement is crucial for its success, facilitating collaboration with governmental bodies across all administrative tiers and grassroots community organizations.  However, despite the project's continuous implementation for half a decade, covering two-thirds of its projected timeline, substantial and measurable outcomes in the restoration of the Chure ecosystem have yet to be realized.

The degradation of the Chure Range compounds several challenges threatening agricultural productivity and food security in the Terai belt.

Soil Erosion: Deforestation and indiscriminate land clearance in the Chure Range contribute to soil erosion, leading to the loss of fertile topsoil and degradation of agricultural land in the Terai. Soil erosion reduces soil fertility, diminishes crop yields, and increases the risk of floods and landslides, posing a threat to agricultural livelihoods.

Water Scarcity: The Chure Range acts as a natural reservoir, storing and regulating water flow to the Terai plains. However, deforestation and land degradation disrupt hydrological cycles, leading to reduced water availability for irrigation, drinking, and domestic use in the Terai region. Water scarcity undermines agricultural productivity, exacerbating food insecurity and rural poverty.

Biodiversity Loss: The Chure Range harbors diverse flora and fauna, including endemic species and critical habitats for wildlife. Habitat destruction and fragmentation due to deforestation and land degradation threaten biodiversity conservation efforts in the Terai, disrupting ecosystems and ecological balance. Loss of biodiversity can have cascading effects on ecosystem services, pollination, pest control, and soil fertility, affecting agricultural productivity.

Climate Change Vulnerability: Degradation of the Chure Range exacerbates vulnerability to climate change impacts in the Terai region, including extreme weather events, erratic rainfall patterns, and temperature fluctuations. Climate variability and unpredictability disrupt agricultural cycles, jeopardizing crop production, livelihoods, and food security for vulnerable communities in the Terai belt.

Addressing the degradation of the Chure Range and its impact on Nepal's food basket in the Terai belt requires concerted efforts and integrated approaches to sustainable land management, watershed conservation, and biodiversity conservation. Key strategies to mitigate the degradation of the Chure Range and safeguard agricultural productivity in the Terai include:

Reforestation and Afforestation: Implementing large-scale reforestation and afforestation programs in the Chure Range to restore degraded ecosystems, enhance carbon sequestration, and promote biodiversity conservation. Community-based Forest management initiatives can empower local communities to participate in forest restoration and sustainable land use practices.

Sustainable Land Use Practices: Promoting sustainable land use practices such as agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and soil conservation measures to mitigate soil erosion, enhance soil fertility, and improve water retention in the Terai region. Adopting climate-smart agricultural techniques and resilient crop varieties can build resilience to climate change impacts and enhance food security.

Watershed Management: Implementing integrated watershed management approaches to conserve water resources, protect critical habitats, and regulate water flow in the Chure Range and Terai plains. Watershed conservation initiatives, including soil and water conservation measures, reforestation of riparian zones, and construction of check dams and water harvesting structures, can enhance water availability and agricultural productivity in the Terai belt.

Policy Reforms and Governance: Strengthening policy frameworks, regulatory mechanisms, and governance structures to address deforestation, illegal logging, and unsustainable land use practices in the Chure Range and Terai region. Enforcing laws against deforestation, promoting sustainable land management practices, and empowering local communities and indigenous peoples in natural resource management are essential for sustainable development and food security.

In conclusion, the degradation of the Chure Range poses significant challenges to Nepal's food basket in the Terai belt, threatening agricultural productivity, water security, and biodiversity conservation efforts. Addressing the root causes of degradation and implementing sustainable land management practices are crucial for safeguarding the ecological integrity of the Chure Range and ensuring food security and livelihoods for millions of people dependent on agriculture in the Terai region. Collaborative efforts involving government agencies, civil society organizations, local communities, and international partners are essential to mitigate the impacts of degradation and build resilience to climate change in Nepal's vital agricultural heartland.


Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi