Environmental conservation in Nepal is suffering from an investment crisis. Now everyone is responsible for corrections
While infrastructure development was at the center of the world’s concerns after the industrial revolution, the preservation and promotion of the environment has taken center stage in the past two decades. With the concerns of climate change, many national and international efforts have been made for the conservation of biodiversity, water resources and the environment in general.
But, environmental conservation requires money, as the theme of Earth Day 2022 suggests. While Nepal has been focusing a lot on development projects lately, the most pressing issue seems to be environmental conservation, which is often overlooked. But does conservation, while necessary, have enough money to continue in Nepal? Stakeholders say that neither the government nor the private sector has generated enough investment and that it is everyone’s duty to correct the problem.
If you analyze the government’s allocation to the environmental conservation sector over the year, the Nepalese government’s investment seems to be on the rise. This fiscal year, Rs 11.72 billion has been allocated to projects under 25 sub-themes, informs Prakash Thapa, the information officer of the Ministry of Forests and Environment. But, as in other sectors, the budget expenditure rate is also quite low in environmental preservation, with only 42% spent in the first nine months.
While the budget appears to be growing, stakeholders complain that the federal government has not prioritized environmental conservation.
“It is a problem not only nationally but internationally, even though environmental issues as well as the commitments of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals have been highlighted a lot. And the budget is also decreasing,” says Prabhu Budhathoki, former member of the National Planning Commission.
Forestry and environmental expert Budhathoki adds, “According to the NPC’s analysis report on SDGs and Nepal’s commitment, it was concluded that Nepal needs Rs 18 billion more per year to be able to achieve the Goals. Similarly, around Rs 2-3 billion more is needed for Nepal to work on two SDG targets related to environmental conservation.
I/NGO investment and intervention is also limited, he says.
Water conservation activist Prakash Amatya also agrees. “There is insufficient understanding of environmental conservation and protection among government instruments. There is a huge investment in the drinking water project of Melamchi and the construction of the tunnel for the inter-basin transfer of water resources from one valley to another, but there is no concrete plan for conserve the natural water environment in the Kathmandu Valley.
“We have not been able to work to minimize the impacts of air pollution, waste management, land use and plastics use,” Amatya says, pointing out that It’s time to act.
Investment in environmental conservation in Nepal is insufficient because policy makers have failed to realize the importance of the sector to national GDP, says Ananta Rama Bhandari, forestry program manager at World Wildlife Fund Nepal.
“The valuation of forests is limited to wood and fuel [firewood], but according to a study, we indirectly derive two-thirds of the benefits from the forest. We still need to make policy makers understand the prospects for environmental conservation.
Budhathoki recalls that in the 2016/17 financial year, the government allocated Rs 22 billion for the forest and environment sectors. “When the budget has halved now, it indicates that priorities have changed.”
Behind the absence or decline in investment in the preservation of the environment, the players hold the government primarily responsible. “Additionally, it may also be due to the recent pandemic which redirected money from different sectors to facilitate and invest in the health sector,” Bhandari says.
The international budget and aid that Nepal receives has also been redirected for the same. The pandemic and its effects may have reduced offices and many have been closed, leading to a further cut in the budget, adds Bhandari.
Role of stakeholders
However, many people think this can be considered good news. According to them, the amount allocated by the federal government appears low because some local governments have taken over the role of environmental conservation in their jurisdiction.
Therefore, if the budget needs to be increased, people at the local level should take the lead, stakeholders suggest.
“The Ministry of Finance allocates the budget based on proposals submitted by departments and ministries, requesting a budget they need. A ceiling for the budget is set around May,” says Budhathoki, suggesting that people need to be active throughout the process to ensure sufficient investment in the environmental conservation sector.
He says if the respective departments need the budget, they should work on it. “The decision will also depend on the kind of leadership the department enjoys and its persuasive abilities.”
“We need to lobby and make policy makers realize that if we don’t make conservation efforts today, development and life will end up costing more tomorrow. Once we have shown that there is a direct and active impact on people’s lives, we can bring about change with increased public pressure for government to be proactive in working on the issue.
“We need to ensure that the focus is on preservation and maintenance as well as green businesses and ecotourism,” he adds.
Meanwhile, pointing to the low spending figures mentioned by Thapa, Budhathoki says: “If we only spend about half of the allocated budget in a fiscal year, it shows that we are unable to use the resources we have. have. We cannot therefore expect the budget to increase if the trend continues. In fact, we can still expect further reductions in the budget.
Additionally, WWF’s Bhandari says, “We need to start using and maximizing the creative management of the resources we have. We need to start dividing work areas properly and focus on conservation. »
Meanwhile, says Budhathoki, at the individual level, one can reduce the carbon footprint and the use of fossil fuels. “We must make active efforts for the environment and wildlife if we are to ensure their sustainability.”
Apart from that, Budhathoki concludes, “The depletion of natural resources in Nepal is a global concern. And, being a global concern means global responsibilities. We must therefore call on international agencies to help us protect our resources.