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Kamala Sarup: Environment in War in Nepal

Environment in War in Nepal


By Kamala Sarup

6th of Nov is International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, celebrated all over the world. It's main objectives is to raise awareness of wars' impacts on the environment.

Security and sound environmental policies are not usually thought of together, yet they are inextricably linked. Conflicts create desperate circumstances which almost always lead to a degrading of the environment. The planting of land mines instead of crops is but one glaring example. War itself can be said to be the most environmentally destructive activity which man engages in. Yet, without basic security, how can the environment be improved long-term?

The key is, of course, greater economic benefits. People enjoying the creation of greater prosperity rarely have the inclination for conflict creation activities. None of this can, of course, be quickly or simply accomplished. The UK is a shining example of how a country can become environmentally sound as it raises its awareness of the benefits of comprehensive economic development that is socially responsible, yet highly profitable.

And also a sense of security creates a sense of well being that is most conducive to the creation of such an environment. Outlook is the key. For example, Nepal is not just a landlocked country, but, literally, a piece of heaven on earth. Our geography, beauty, culture, traditions, national philosophy, arts and architecture are treasures not only for Nepal but also to be offered to the entire world. There are so many values that we can offer to the world once we have fully developed our own potential and manifested that potential in the creation of new, environmentally sound Nepal.

If a just and equitable political settlement is reached via negotiations in 2006, then by 2007-2008, Nepal may be able to increase its earnings from tourism by a factor of 2 to 3 times according to conservative estimates (based primarily on the development of the Asian tourist market. This does not include the Gulf or Western markets which will also surely increase).

And also, Increased environmental awareness begins at the grass roots level. One cannot simply decree that all will become more environmentally aware as a solution, although this is tempting as a "quick fix" political fiat. Perhaps the role of modern politicians is to consult with private industry to develop a comprehensive program with which to educate the general public to the benefits of environmentally sound practices.

For example, the indiscriminate cutting down of trees for fuel, although perhaps ingrained as a solution by the people, has the effect of degrading the environment, presenting a less attractive picture to tourists and potential foreign investors and creating persistent air and water pollution problems.

If Nepal and private industry cooperate to develop an alternate, affordable fuel source for the people, the benefits are greater than merely not denuding hillsides. Lower health care costs, advantages in regional competition for foreign investment as well as increased tourism and foreign exchange are merely some of the benefits of such an environmentally sound policy. Similarly, less polluting local transport solutions can also yield multiple benefits as has been demonstrated in such diverse places as Switzerland, Germany and the State of Colorado in America. An American journalist said.

Currently, we are perhaps going through a sort of transitional phase where we are trying to find an equilibrium between our traditional roots versus the modern world. In a very short period Nepal has advanced a great deal. And we can do even more if we all cooperate in devising and creating a socially and environmentally responsible Nepal for the 21st century.

But still there can be little doubt that the promotion of a better environment will assist Nepal in both the investment and health fields. Moreover, an improved environment yields additional dividends in terms of presenting a more attractive destination for visitors. This has the effect of promoting tourism and investment simultaneously. Thus increased environmental awareness has multiple benefits which can directly translate into specific economic gains for Nepal.

Tourism as a whole in Nepal is a huge foreign exchange earner for the nation. Some recent estimates have it as the third largest (behind only the textile and overseas worker remittance industries). Surely, this is only scratching the surface. If a well-designed model is agreed upon by the concerned parties, will not all earn more money? And will this not, if it is sustainable, be in effect a golden cow dispensing fortune for the entire country?

This is the dream which must be pursued. In designing a new model for safe environment and tourism in Nepal, we should build upon the excellent foundation first enunciated in 1972 by the German government in its landmark study of a sustainable ecotourism model for Nepal.

What has changed since those days? First, the science of ecology and recycling has advanced enormously. Second, there are specific examples in other countries which can be studied and used to develop a more detailed model for Nepal.

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(This article was publish in nepalnews. Kamala Sarup is an editor of peacejournalism.com)

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