Wednesday, 19 June, 2024

Addressing Nation’s Environmental Concerns


Indira Aryal 

In the first 100 days, the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government has raised high hopes among people regarding the protection of environment, minimising human-animal conflict and encouraging the use of electric vehicles by lowering the taxes levied on such vehicles.
The current government has given priority to forest conservation and environmental protection as well as the implementation of plans and programmes relating to environment.

Ban On Plastic Bags
One of the landmark decisions taken by the current government within the first 100 days is to impose a complete ban on the production, import, sale and use of plastic bags with a thickness of fewer than 40 microns by publishing a notice in the Nepal Gazette on September 15. The decision was made public by the Ministry of Forests and Environment on September 22.
The Supreme Court has also issued an interim order for a complete ban on the use of plastic bags thinner than 40 microns within 21 days on August 12. A single bench of Justice Nahakul Subedi had issued the interim order.
“The Ministry is continuously working on the implementation of plans and programmes set by the government and programme presented during the budget speech. However, budgetary programmes and plans in the environment sector were affected by the delay in the ratification of the budget. But still, we are working tirelessly to make the government a success,” said Megh Nath Kafle, spokesperson at the Ministry of Forest and Environment.
It took time to give pace to the work as the ministry remained without a minister for a long time. Now that the government has got full size, we can expect works will take pace in this crucial sector.  

Revenue Collection
Within the past three months, the government has been able to collect Rs. 564.5 million revenue from forest products, tourism and petroleum pollution. A full 1,748 vacancies have been created to employ people for various jobs related to forests and the environment. 
The government also planted 17,000 saplings in 69 hectares of land across the country within these three months. The government has also encouraged the production of herbal medicines. Herbal Production and Processing Company Limited produced 17.90 tonnes of aromatic oil and 685,733 tonnes of herbal care in 100 days. 
Some 228 herbal species were specified and recommended for testing, analysing and certification. 
The Ministry of Forest and Environment also approved an Environmental impact assessment report and sophisticated environmental management plan report within this period. 
Some 107 water sources, ponds and wetland area were managed and 19 gullies, mounds, and landslides have been controlled and prevented within this short time. 

Tourism In Protected Areas 
The government is continuously working for the promotion of tourism in the protected areas. As per the programme and policies to strengthen the protected areas, one view tower, five-kilometre forest path, two wooden bridges, and a five-kilometre tourist footpath were constructed. A total of 28,263 tourists, including 835 foreign tourists, visited the protected area during the three months. 
The government recently approved a report prepared for nine thematic areas of Climate Crisis and Risk Analysis. The report on “Unpacking Eighty per cent Allocation to Local Level” has been approved regarding the expenditure of at least 80 per cent of climate finance on local bodies as adopted by the National Climate Change Policy 2076. 
The government has also approved Nepal's participation as a member of the Secretariat of the Adaptation Action Coalition, which aims to accelerate global action on adoption to achieve a climate-resilient world by 2030. 
The International Declaration on Forestry and Land Use has also been approved by the government within this period. 
Foreign Grant Assistance of US$ 27.4 Million financing agreement has been signed with Green Climate Fund for ‘Improving Climate Resilience of Vulnerable Communities and Ecosystems in the Gandaki River Basin’, Nepal.  
Human-wildlife conflicts were registered in Banke and Bardiya during this period, and the government has distributed Rs. 5.4 million to compensate the victims within this period. 

Preparation For COP 26  
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba will be participating at the UN climate change conference (COP26), World Leaders Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12. A meeting of the Council of Ministers held on Monday decided to this effect.
Prime Minister Deuba will be presenting "Nepal’s Status Paper for COP26" for the mitigation of climate change. He will also present COP26 Nepal Roadmap. Plans like 'Enhancing partnership and dialogue leaving no one behind and showcasing Nepal’s Climate Change Agenda will be presented in COP26.

The mountain and its unique characteristics, vulnerability and threats, and its role in building resilience are not adequately represented in UNFCCC and climate negotiations. Nepal wants to develop a global coalition of like-minded mountainous countries within similar issues to lobby for the inclusion of these issues in COP26. 
Other agendas for the COP26 are -- Operationalising Gender Action Plan (GAP)- Implementation of National Gender and Climate change strategy and action Plan, Recognition of National Gender and Climate Change Focal Person as the capacity of Climate Change Focal Person, Progress on Technology Transfer and Capacity Building agenda items and Local and Indigenous People, Youth and their role and addressing their climate challenges. "Recognition of Youth" will also be an important agenda for COP26.
For a government, 100 days in office is not enough for getting sufficient progress in any sector. The ongoing efforts made by the current government on the environment and conservation sectors are worth applauding. However, there are some problems such as delays in allocating budget. 

Collecting revenues of Rs. 564.5 million from forest production, tourism and petroleum pollution was also not an easy task during this short period. The government’s preparation to attend COP26 is also remarkable, however, the current government has a short time to prepare policies and plans to present at the International Forum.
Approving Nepal's participation as a member of the Secretariat of the Adaptation Action Coalition, which aims to accelerate global action on adoption to achieve a climate-resilient world by 2030 is also another important task completed by the government, which will become a milestone to achieve the global target to respond to climate risk.
(Aryal works at TRN.)