World Environment Day 2012
VOL. 05, NO. 21, June 08, 2012 (Jestha 26, 2069)
The Green Signal
With experience of successfully implementing the community forestry program, Nepal has an immense possibility to benefit from the drive to go for the green economy as proposed by the World Environment Day of June 5, 2012
By A CORRESSPONDENT
At a time when the global communities are talking about the need to benefit from the green economy, Nepal has an example to offer how going green can be good. With its worldwide reputation in forest management earned by the community forest user groups and successful conservation of the national parks, Nepal has experiences to share with the world how mobilizing the people at the grass root level pays off.
After a decade long experiment in the community forestry sector, more than 20,000 forest user groups are taking care of a large number of forests, generating employment opportunities as well giving economic benefits to the grass root level people.
Till a decade ago people considered the expansion of the protected areas as a burden to the community but now the buffer zone concept has changed the livelihood of the entire conservation areas where people are reaping the benefits from going green. Nepal’s national parks are good examples of resource generation through management of natural resources.
As Nepal celebrated the World Environment Day with the slogan for encouraging green economy and sustainable development, it sent a message that Nepal’s overall economic prosperity largely depended upon maintaining its entire eco-system.
“I am happy that we have celebrated the World Environment Day throughout the country by raising awareness at the community level as well as highlighting the importance of the green economy in the context of Nepal,” said Uddhav Banskota, head of environment division of the Ministry of Science Technology and Environment.
The UN Environment Programme defines Green Economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological deficiencies. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.
Practically speaking, a Green Economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These investments need to be supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes.
But what does all this mean for you? Well, if the Green Economy is about social equity and inclusiveness, then technically it is all about you! The question therefore asks you to find out more about the Green Economy and assess whether, in your country, you are being included in it.
“To learn more about the Green Economy bookmark the World Environment Day website, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and we shall be unraveling the concept of what the Green Economy really is and what it means to you ahead of World Environment Day,” says an exhortation for the social media users.
Others too agree that Nepal has many potentials to benefit a large number of population from greening the economy.
“Nepal has an immense possibility to uplift the life of millions of people through green economy. The first step will be to mobilize the over 20,000 forest user groups,” said Dr. Dinesh Chandra Devkota former vice chair of the National Planning Commission.
World Environment Day
Like in the past, Nepal celebrated the World Environment Day with different programs this year as well. The focus, however, shifted to the grass root level or the district level. One of the aims of this year’s program was to carry the message at the grass root level and highlight the importance of going green.
The 2012 theme for the World Environment Day is Green Economy: Does it include you? Evidently, there are two parts to this theme and the first tackles the subject of the Green Economy. This is where some people shut off their minds because they find the concept of the Green Economy a little too complex to understand.
UNEP launched the Global Environment Outlook 5 (GEO 5) on 6 June. Three years in the making and involving close to 300 experts, GEO is the UN's most comprehensive environmental assessment. In the run-up to Rio+20, GEO 5 will analyze the state of the global environment and track global progress towards international sustainability targets.
The remarkable turnaround in forest management in Nepal is directly attributable to the benefits generated for local groups in the communities.
More Measures Needed: Banskota
Uddhav Banskota, joint secretary and chief of environment division of the Ministry of Environment, is a member secretary of the World Environment Day. As usual, Nepal has been celebrating the World Environment Day on June 5 this year. Banskota spoke to New Spotlight on various issues related to the important day. Excerpts:
What is the importance of the World Environment Day?
For a country like Nepal, which is very vulnerable and fragile to environment degradation, the occasion is very important to raise our issues of concern. We celebrate the WED differently than the last year. There was tree plantation program, environmental awareness program and so on. This is for the first time World Environment Program was organized throughout the country. We also mobilized local NGOs to celebrate the World Environment Day. The District Development Committees and District Administration Offices were asked to take the lead in organizing the World Environment Day Programs.
What is the importance of World Environment Day in Nepal’s context?
This is a symbolic program to raise the awareness on world environment as well as to show national stake holders the implications of risks to environment in our day to day life, and how the environment has been affecting human life and relations between human and environment. Our aim is to disseminate the various aspects of environment to the common people. As you know, this year’s slogan is Green Economy, the main slogan for Sustainable Development. The international slogan is Green Economy, Does it include you? By championing the slogan, we reached the people taking the message as to how environment and human relations can be integrated. This includes so many things, including green sector, and brown sector. Our effort needs to be directed to save environment by making sustainable development. We also need to make our behavior environment friendly by changing our behavior to make our life environmentally sustainable. Just celebrating environment day once in a year cannot make any difference but it will definitely help to make the environmental issue an agenda at the national level.
There are many problems related to environment. I agree that we have yet to take enough steps for the protection of environment. The Ministry itself is not satisfied with the present state of environment. For instance, we are yet to bring concerned stakeholders on the same platform for the same cause with the unity message. This means we are unable to unify all different stakeholders. Although the environment sector is really a big sector, the Ministry of Environment is a single institution and it does not have any other departments. The Ministry does not have institutions at the grassroots level. This is the reason we have to rely on other ministries for the implementation of programs and projects. To address the environmental issues properly, we need to have adequate resources as well as physical infrastructure. There is also the scarcity of manpower in the Ministry with 79 employees. Out of them, an overwhelming majority are lower level staff. There is virtually a handful technical staff. These are the weaknesses that need to be addressed.
What programs are there for the capital city, Kathmandu, which is facing the problems like air pollution, river pollution and what not?
We are aware about the situation in the capital of Nepal. We have already started to manage plastic bags in the capital. The Ministry has already approved guidelines to regulate the overuse of plastic bags. The Ministry has already moved a proposal to ban plastic bags inside Singha Durbar secretariat. We are also working to improve the quality of air in the capital city. Initially, we asked industrial boilers to use the technology to reduce the black smoke. We have certain focus programs for Nepal also.
Go Green, Not Just Talk It: Devkota
Having spent more than three decades of his career in the environmental and developmental sector, former vice chairman of the National Planning Commission Dinesh Chandra Devkota knows what works and what does not in gearing up to go for sustainable development of the nation. In the context of the World Environment Day, Dr. Devkota spoke to New spotlight on various issues. Excerpts:
What do you say about this year’s slogan for the World Environment Day?
The slogan talks about green economy and sustainable development. When we talk about the green economy, we must make efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change through the green side of it. Secondly, I am much concerned about how we can transform the lives of people living below the poverty line, that is, how to uplift their livelihoods. One of the thrusts of the green economy should be to enhance the lives of the poor people. As this year’s WED’s slogan has said, the time has come now to use the green economy to uplift the lives of the poor people living in the Least Developed Countries. After negotiations in UNFCC, the world’s developed countries, which contribute huge amounts of carbon in the atmosphere, should consider to promote the green economy so that sustainable development can be possible. Developing countries and LDCs need to streamline their development programs to greening their economy and that should be put into action.
What does Nepal need to do now?
There are a lot of things to do. The Ministry of Environment and Science and Technology as well as the National Planning Commission need to draw pay attention to some urgent aspects. They must push the green economic agenda as a core issue of sustainable development. They need to intervene where things are not going that way. All of us know, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 (Rio+20) is going to be held this year and this is very important occasion for a country like Nepal. Realizing the importance of this, the National Planning Commission produced the National Status Paper during my tenure as the vice chairman. Supported by UNDP and ICIMOD, this is the first of its kind document which highlighted Nepal’s needs. I don’t think the National Planning Commission has pushed the work any further in this area. As there is the status paper before us, what Nepal needs now is to make the intervention strategies based on this. In the intervention strategies, solar, cleaning things and employment generation could be some aspects in the greening job.
How can green economy address unemployment?
There are 5 million unemployed youths in the country. If we employ all these young people, it will boost the green economy. Nepal has huge natural resources and rich bio-diversity, water conservation. Nepal needs to use all these resources up to the optimum level and boost the green economy. However, Nepal Status Paper for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2013 (Rio+20) has basically made efforts to link three sustainable development agenda, which include environment, economy and social development. Confining within these three, there is the need to develop sub-sector strategies. For instance, how can we carry Nepal’s agriculture sector into the green economy. How to bring the ministry related to environment and population closer to mitigate the climate change related impacts. Similarly, how can we link ministry related to employment and those unemployed to provide job opportunities in green economy. How to create the jobs? Similarly, the issue related to Community Forestry User Groups, and natural resources need to be addressed to make them effective to create the green jobs.
How can we generate employment in the forest sector?
We need to generate employment at the grassroots level. Policymakers need to sit together with Forest User Groups to explore the possibilities to generate employment. There are around 20,000 Community Forestry User Groups. If a user group creates five jobs, they will consume over 100,000 jobs. The National Planning Commission needs to build a strategy, keeping this fact in mind. The NPC has to formulate intervention strategies. This is the need of the hour.
Don’t you see there is a way to celebrate the World Environment Day in a more concrete manner?
Every year UNEP selects different kinds of slogans for the World Environment Day. However, the country with strong leadership and commitment celebrate the programs to achieve certain goals. However, countries like Nepal, where political agenda override the development issues, ignore the agenda. Thus, we are unable to celebrate such international day to suit Nepal’s own interests. When we celebrate such days, we need to transfer words into actions.
‘We Should Go Green Such As With Ginko”
Under the dynamic leadership of CHANDA RANA, Save the Environment Foundation (SEF) has already completed a number of projects and programs in Nepal. As the oldest organization working to protect the environment of Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal, SEF is organizing various programs in June to celebrate the World Environment Day 2012. Rana spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues. Excerpts:
What is your plan for the World Environment Day, that is, June 5, 2012?
To mark the World Environment Day on 5 June 2012, we are going to prepare a 'Green Book for SEF - a survey of Greens promoted by SEF since 1998 to 2012 .We have already organized several green programs under the project Green Kathmandu. I am very happy about this year’s theme Green Economy: Does it include YOU?, which is very important and significant for us.
What programs have you launched in Nepal?
SEF is first organization to launch ‘‘Green movement '' in concrete jungle of Kathmandu. Our organization has constructed many environmental parks. We have planted around 8,000 trees in Kathmandu, starting from green belt of Ring Road to Tundikhel, Singha Durbar, Babarmahal to Airport route. Everyone can see now that over eighty percent of the trees have grown up in these areas.
What are the major plants you have planted in Nepal?
We have first historical Ginkgo Biloba Plantation in Nepal, among other plants. Save The Environment Foundation and Love Green Nepal jointly launched the first historical plantation of around 400 Ginkgo Biloba trees in inner boundary of Tundikhel and Nepal Army Headquarters premises in July 2003. Then Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa was a special guest at Tundikhel. I am proud that the trees planted are growing well these days. Ginkgoes planted by SEF can be seen inside the Tundikhel and Army pavilion premises.
Have you planted these trees other parts also?
SEF also took the initiation for planting Ginkgo Biloba trees in Nepal Army Headquarters, Kharitpati Army Barrack, Army Golf Course, Gokarna Golf Course etc. The trees planted in these premises are also growing satisfactorily. Altogether we planted 2000 Ginkgoes in Kathmandu.
Why did you choose Ginkgo?
Ginkgo Biloba is the oldest living tree on our planet earth. Ginkgo tree is the only living representative of the family Ginkgoaceae. Ginkgo's fossil records indicate that it has been growing on the earth for 250 million years when dinosaurs used to roam here. Charles Darwin, father of Evolutionary theories named it as a living fossil tree. Ginkgo trees have survived Hiroshima bombings as well hence it is called ‘‘trees of hope ‘‘. Ginkgo's female trees produce fruits which have great medicinal values, these fruits are called brain tonic too. They absorb higher amount of CO2 than other trees.
Where did Ginkgo trees originate?
The word "ginkgo" is derived from the Japanese word ginkyo, which stands for "silver apricot" referring to its fruits (seed). However, Ginkgo originated in China from where the trees spread to Japan, Korea
and throughout the world. Since ancient times, Chinese and Japanese monks have preserved ginkgo by planting them as sacred and fire-resistant trees in and around their monasteries, shrines, temples and mountain gardens. Leaves resembling that of Maidenhair Fern, ginkgo is also known as