Bezawit Royal Palace Forest Protection and forested Corridor along the Blue Nile River
Bezawit Royal Palace Forest Protection and forested Corridor along the Blue Nile River

Near Bezawit Royal Palace and adjacent to the arboretum project lies one of the last remnants of indigenous forest in Northern Ethiopia. While in the past, the forest was protected by the palace authorities, it is now under treat due to the absence of proper administration of the site. This small forest (in the range of 30-35 ha) is already severely damaged and already mostly reduced to small shrubs, most of the larger trees having been cut for wood. Furthermore, the forest is shrinking every year as the local population extracts wood resources as fuel and construction material as well as grazing their livestock. Despite this, the site is still home to a large number of birds, python and larger animals such as cheetahs and baboons. Loosing a forest at the edge of the capital city of the second largest region in Ethiopia would be a great loss in terms of endangered forest species, habitats for endangered wildlife and for the welfare of a growing urban population. AIZON is also conducting an inventory of tree species and wild life still present in the forest.

AIZON explored possible alternatives to protect the Bezawit forest in collaboration with various stakeholders (village and city administration, local population, church authorities, relevant technical departments such as environmental office, tourism office) and advocates to the Municipality, Cleveland (the sister city in the US) as well as relevant technical departments to undertake the necessary actions to save the forest.

AIZON has developed the concept of a “forested corridor” along the Blue Nile River between Lake Tana and the spectacular Blue Nile falls (Tis Abay). The Blue Nile River and its banks are not only particularly scenic, but also extremely rich in biodiversity from trees, shrubs, wetlands and river species. The Blue Nile hippos living along this corridor have almost disappeared – there are less than 5 individuals still alive! These diverse ecosystems also serve as refuge for long range bird migrations between Northern Europe and Central Africa. A forested corridor would provide a protected area for wild life to move between Lake Tana and the safer environment in the inhabited Blue Nile gorges downstream of the water fall. The Bezawit forest and other small forested spots along the river would gain in wild life diversity. Such development would also substantially benefit tourism in the Bahar Dar region.

Aerial view of the Royal Palace in Bahar Dar (picture taken from Ethiopian Airline commercial plane) in March 2005. The white arrow shows an area covered with few large trees left from the original forest while the yellow harrows points at the degraded forest area where only short bushes are left. Without immediate measures, the remaining trees will disappear in just few years.
Livestock are going into the forest every day to graze on degraded land that lies between the remaining indigenous forest trees…
… and wood load are going out from the forest every day. It is estimated that during the dry season 50 to 100 human and donkey loads of wood are being extracted daily from the forest for fuel and/or charcoal production. At this speed, it is estimated that in the next 5 years, one of the very last indigenous forest in Ethiopia will have disappeared (Bahar Dar, May 2005)

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