Deforestation is a growing problem in Nepal. According to WWF Nepal, only 29% of the country’s forests remains.
Main reasons for decline are
Illegal logging: political party leaders have been found to be helping the criminal gangs active in illegal logging and poaching.
Culture of corruption and insider deals has made it easier for the criminals to take advantage of the situation and carry on their logging operations without regards to the environment.
Unplanned Urbanization: To make way for growing populations centers across Nepal, forests are being cleared away. Although there are organs within the local administration to manage building codes and check for violations, they functioning in snail’s pace. By the time they have determined that a violation has occurred, the building is three story tall and filled with renters. Because of lawlessness in the country-thanks to political turmoil in Kathmandu, government cannot make the builders take the illegal construction down. Political fringe groups take advantage of situations like this to further fan anti-establishment emotions and sometimes pit one community or religious group against the other. Corruption and political and social influence dealing has also hampered operations of the code enforcers.
Energy need: 87% of domestic energy need in Nepal is met by firewood. Alternative energy sources and green energy technology is a must for the country. There is great interest in the country for solar and bio energy, lack of adequate funding the flip-flopping energy policy of the government, although, is hindering the green energy growth.
Private sector, however, is pushing ahead in developing alternative energy sources in Nepal. FoST, which stands for “Foundation for Sustainable Technologies”, is providing low-cost, low-tech, easily-applicable and locally built sustainable technologies for improving the quality of life of poor rural communities and to protect the fragile environment of Nepal.
Wild fires are also responsible for deforestation in Nepal, but compared to the three major factors, effect of the fires is not that severe. Mad made causes are killing the forests more than the natural reasons.
Unchecked deforestation is threatening Nepal’s bio-diversity and it also a threat to the country’s public because every year floods claim lives of hundreds across the country.
Last year the flooding the land slides were very severe, just one district 45 people were killed and many more displaced. In my column for UPI Asia, I had an opportunity to express my frustration:
“As a popular proverb goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” Nepal has been fooled many times over and yet there is no feeling of shame. Every year, the monsoons cause flooding, landslides, misery, death, destruction and hunger and yet, surprisingly there are no advance preparations or preventive measures to combat it, as if natural disasters are totally natural and somehow the poor deserve it for being poor and ignorant.
There was a time, not very long ago, when Nepal used to have miles of dense forests, undisturbed and protected. They formed a natural layer of protection against raging rivers and landslides. Forests also balance the environment, preventing soil erosion, which helps agriculture and local ecosystems.
But with the promise of rapid development, these precious national treasures have been squandered. Forests have been cleared for housing, construction projects and agriculture with little or no thought for the environment.
Successive governments paid lip service to preserving Nepal’s natural beauty and little was done to protect forests. Deforestation is so rampant that presently only 29 percent of the country’s forests remain. So, it is no surprise that every year swollen rivers cause so much havoc and destruction because there are no forests standing to block their way.
The same goes for landslides. Uncontrolled population growth and rapid urbanization has pushed people to cut trees and build houses in their place.
Outside of Kathmandu valley, hills that were once covered with trees and vegetation are no longer in sight, their place taken by houses. When rain comes, there are no trees to hold the land and it slides down taking houses and people with it.
In some parts of the country, community efforts keep a close guard on surviving forests and actively police the area to keep loggers and unauthorized firewood collectors out. This is a remarkable public effort but unfortunately pales in comparison to the scale of the problem.”
A year has gone, unfortunately, it seems that no lesson has been learned by the leaders in Kathmandu. There is still no comprehensive alternative energy policy and no plans on how to save the forests and still allow for development and growth. Sustainable development is not just a slogan; but for the deaf ones in helm of affairs in Kathmandu it is just a way to get foreign aid and all expenses paid foreign trips.
Previously published at Think About It Climate Change