Eco-Friendly Solutions to Environmental Challenges

How Nepal is Tackling Environmental Challenges through Eco-Friendly Practices

Dec 11 . 2023,Omi Karki
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Environmental challenges have become a global phenomenon threatening our planet's health and well-being. The increasing frequency of natural disasters, species extinction, and air, water, and soil pollution are some of the issues we face today.

However, amidst all these challenges, Nepal has taken significant steps towards tackling environmental problems through eco-friendly practices.

Nepal, one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, faces several environmental challenges, such as deforestation, soil erosion, air and water pollution, and biodiversity loss. Nonetheless, the Nepalese government and various organizations have implemented eco-friendly practices to address these challenges.

The Nepal Environmental and Scientific Services (NESS) and the Urban Management Program for Asia and Pacific (UMPAP) are actively involved in drafting and implementing measures to eradicate or decrease environmental hazards in the country.

In this article, we will dive deeper into Nepal's approach towards comprehending and remedying environmental challenges through eco-friendly practices.

We will explore the initiatives and programs the Nepalese government and various organizations have put in place to promote sustainable tourism, forest conservation, renewable energy, waste management, and biodiversity conservation.

We will also delve into the role of local communities in Nepal's environmental conservation efforts and how they contribute to the country's eco-friendly practices.

Join us as we explore the innovative and eco-friendly solutions that Nepal has adopted to tackle environmental challenges and the impact of these practices on the country's natural resources, economy, and society.

Promoting Sustainable tourism

Tourism has become a massive industry worldwide, and Nepal is no exception. However, its impact on the environment is often overlooked.

The country has been experiencing economic dependence on tourism, ecological degradation, cultural alienation, and social dislocation. These challenges have prompted many tourists to seek more responsible and sustainable ways of travelling.

Nepal has recognized the importance of balancing economic growth with environmental conservation through sustainable tourism practices.

Sustainable tourism is about ensuring that the socio-cultural, environmental, and economic dimensions of tourism are respected and protected.

It means being a responsible traveller by optimizing the use of ecological resources and contributing to the conservation of natural heritage and biodiversity.

The socio-cultural dimension of sustainable tourism involves respecting the authenticity of host communities. It means engaging in respectful and meaningful interactions with locals, learning about their customs and traditions, and supporting local economies by purchasing locally-made products.

The environmental dimension of sustainable tourism involves minimizing the negative impacts of tourism on the environment.

This means conserving natural resources, reducing waste, and minimizing energy consumption. In Nepal, sustainable tourism practices include promoting eco-trekking, encouraging visitors to use biodegradable products, and supporting initiatives to protect wildlife and their habitats.

The economic dimension of sustainable tourism involves ensuring that tourism benefits local communities and the economy.

This means creating job opportunities for local people, supporting local businesses, and promoting responsible tourism practices that contribute to the well-being of host communities.

Conservation programs

Nepal is home to a vast array of ecosystems and wildlife, with 80 out of the 118 ecosystems in the country. The government has designated 24% of the total area as protected areas, which includes wildlife reserves, national parks, conservation areas, hunting reserves, and buffer zones. These areas are extensively conserved and managed to preserve the country's natural resources, biodiversity, and cultural heritage.

Nepal is rich in renewable energy resources, and the government has been making efforts to harness these resources to promote sustainable development and conservation. One way Nepal conserves its natural resources is by legalizing the concept of buffer zones in the mid-1990s. Buffer zones are areas adjacent to protected areas that are managed to maintain biodiversity, promote sustainable use of natural resources, and provide benefits to local communities.

Sustainable Communities Initiatives

In 2013, WWF Nepal and the Government of Nepal launched the Sustainable Communities Initiative in Alaltari under the Terai Arc Landscape Program.

WWF and the government jointly implement this conservation approach in six different protected areas of Terai, between Parsa Wildlife Reserve in the east and Shuklaphanta National Park in the west.

The program aims to promote sustainable livelihoods for forest and river-dependent communities while conserving biodiversity and natural resources.

Sustainable Efforts Implemented in Nepal

One of the sustainable efforts under this program is the promotion of homestays. This initiative enables tourists to stay with local families and experience the local culture while providing an additional source of income for the families.

Another effort is the promotion of biogas plants that use animal waste to generate energy for cooking and heating, reducing the dependence on wood and other biomass fuels.

The program also promotes turmeric enterprises, community clinics, and women-led micro-enterprises. Turmeric enterprises involve cultivating turmeric, a sustainable alternative to traditional cash crops that require intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Community clinics provide primary healthcare services to the local communities, improving their overall well-being. Women-led micro-enterprises involve establishing small businesses run by women, such as handicrafts and eco-tourism activities.

These sustainable efforts positively impact both forest and river-dependent communities, promoting conservation and sustainable development in Nepal. Nepal is taking a step towards a more sustainable future by harnessing the power of the sun and water.

Renewable Energy

Nepal faces unique challenges in meeting its energy needs as a country that harbours no known reserves of oil, gas, or coal. The rugged and remote terrain of the country makes it difficult to reach isolated communities, and typical energy sources like biomass, human labour, and imported kerosene need to be improved to meet the growing demand.

Fortunately, Nepal is leveraging its abundant renewable energy resources to meet these challenges and drive sustainable development.

Biomass 

Biomass is Nepal's most significant primary energy source, comprising wood, dung, and agricultural residue. Unfortunately, 95% of household biomass is traditionally and predominantly consumed for cooking and heating purposes, leading to unsustainable deforestation rates of 2.1%, the highest in the region.

 

To address this issue, the National Energy Strategy Framework includes a Biomass Energy Strategy (BEST) to improve and manage the biomass situation in Nepal.

Biogas

Another promising renewable energy source in Nepal is biogas, which is generated through the anaerobic digestion of organic matter.

With at least 1.2 million households herding and keeping cattle, Nepal's farming system heavily relies on livestock, creating significant potential for biogas production.

The technical biogas potential is 57% on Terai, 37% in Hills, and 6% in remote hills, making it an attractive option for energy production and environmental preservation.

Solar

Nepal's abundant solar energy potential is another area of focus for renewable energy development. With roughly 300 days of sun per year, the country receives 3.6 to 6.2 kWh of solar radiation per square meter per day, making it ideal for solar energy production.

Solar water heaters, Grid-connected PV, solar lanterns, and solar home systems are just a few examples of solar technologies implemented in Nepal, providing clean and reliable energy to thousands of households and businesses.

The solar lanterns, locally known as "solar tuki," have been embraced by the Nepalese population with open arms, and the country now boasts 155,000 units in use as of 2010, a testament to their success.

These solar tukis are redefining the country's energy landscape by constituting 737 kWp of capacity, offering a clean and efficient solution to the country's energy needs.

Additionally, Nepal is powering over 2,600 villages with solar home systems, an impressive feat that has yielded an output of 5.36 MWp.

This achievement signifies the country's unwavering commitment to promoting clean energy in remote and isolated communities, a critical step towards ensuring energy security and environmental preservation.

Hydro

Nepal's plentiful moving water from its rugged and mountain alpine terrain also makes it a prime location for hydroelectricity production. However, the South-West monsoon delivering this water is inconsistent, with 80% of the country's rain occurring from June to September and the remaining 20% falling as snow during the dry season.

This mismatch creates a complicated engineering challenge, leading to severe load shedding during winter months, with power outages lasting up to 18 hours.

Despite these challenges, Nepal's installed hydroelectric capacity is 710 MW, with an overall theoretical potential of 83,290 MW and a technically feasible potential of 45,610 MW.

Wind 

Nepal's quest for renewable energy sources has also led to the exploration of wind energy. However, the potential for wind energy is constrained by the country's rugged and mountainous terrain and unpredictable climate conditions.

The pioneering wind turbine generator was installed in Kagbeni of Mustang District in 1989 with a capacity of 20 kW. Still, unfortunately, its blade and tower were broken within the first three months of operation.

Despite this setback, Nepal has continued to explore wind energy, with other wind turbines inaugurated in Chisapani of Shivapuri, Kathmandu and the Club Himalaya in Nagarkot. Regrettably, these wind turbines are no longer functional.

Despite the challenges, the Asian Development Bank Renewable Village Program has successfully installed two 5 kW wind turbines in Dhaubadi hamlet of Nawalparasi District.

While wind energy may not be as promising as other renewable energy sources in Nepal, its potential should not be discounted.

The Potential of Renewable Energy 

Nepal, a land of unparalleled natural beauty, is blessed with scenic landscapes and immense potential for renewable energy.

The country has harnessed 710 MW of electricity from various sources, mainly hydro. However, the technical renewable energy potential is a staggering 77,949 MW, with an annual potential to generate 226,460 GWh of clean electricity.

Regarding hydropower, Nepal has an overall theoretical potential of 83,290 MW, of which 45,610 MW is technically feasible. Among these, 42,133 MW can be harnessed in an economically viable manner, making Nepal a potential powerhouse of hydropower.

While wind energy is less widely explored than hydropower, Nepal still boasts significant potential in this area.

With suitable terrain and weather conditions, the country can generate a substantial amount of electricity from wind power. The installation of two 5 KW wind turbines in Dhaubadi village is just the beginning of Nepal's foray into the world of wind energy.

Waste Management: Tackling a Growing Problem with Eco-friendly Solutions 

Like many other developing countries, Nepal faces a growing challenge in managing waste. With the increase in population, urbanization, and industrialization, the amount of waste generated in the country has also increased significantly over the past few years.

However, the good news is that Nepal is actively promoting waste segregation and recycling and also leveraging composting and biogas production to reduce waste.

Managing waste in Nepal is about keeping the environment clean and healthy and ensuring sustainable development across the ecological, economic, and societal sustainability domains.

The Government of Nepal (GON) has taken several initiatives to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the National Planning Commission (NPC) is the focal institution for SDG monitoring.

Solid Waste Management Act, 2068 

The Solid Waste Management Act of 2068 (2011) was enacted to manage waste in Nepal effectively. The Act is explicit on various aspects of waste management with clearly outlined roles and responsibilities from the central to the local level.

Chapter 1, Clause 2 (a) defines the "Local Body" as a concerned municipality, sub-municipality, city, and the then Village Development Committee, whose roles are critical in solid waste management.

Chapter 3 of the Act outlines local bodies' responsibilities in the solid waste management process, which includes the construction and operation of infrastructure like transfer stations, landfill sites, processing plants, compost plants, and biogas plants.

Additionally, local bodies are responsible for waste collection, final disposal, and processing. They are also responsible for ensuring that the waste collected is used in other ways, such as being used as a resource for biogas production or composting.

While the challenges of managing waste in Nepal are significant, the country has taken several steps to promote eco-friendly solutions. Waste segregation and recycling programs have been initiated, and composting and biogas production are being leveraged to reduce waste.

In addition to these initiatives, the GON is working to promote awareness about the importance of waste management and individuals' role in creating a cleaner and healthier environment.

Nepal Climate Change Policy 2076 (2019) 

As the world becomes more conscious of the impact of waste on the environment, Nepal is taking action to tackle this growing problem with eco-friendly solutions. The country faces a myriad of challenges in managing waste, but its commitment to sustainability is evident through various initiatives and policies.

Nepal Climate Change Policy 2076 (2019) acknowledges the importance of waste management and highlights the need to use biodegradable waste for energy production.

This strategy emphasizes properly administering hazardous waste and segregating waste at the source, including households, hotels, and hospitals.

Environmental Protection Act, 2076 (2019) 

The Environmental Protection Act of 2076 has emerged as a shining beacon of hope for Nepalese citizens, breathing life into their fundamental right to bask in a pristine, unadulterated environment.

This visionary Act compels polluters to pay the price for any harm they inflict on Mother Nature while maintaining an unshakeable balance between development and sustainability.

Chapter 2, a crowning achievement in this masterpiece of legislation, mandates the rigorous examination of environmental impacts before any development project can take flight.

Through the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) report and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the Nepalese government is committed to ensuring that development marches forward in harmony with nature.

Chapter 3, the "Pollution Control" chapter, is an authentic tour de force. It lays out the necessary standards for mitigating the deleterious effects of pollution from vehicles, industrial enterprises, hotels, restaurants and the emission or disposal of hazardous substances.

Sub-section-2 warns that no person shall be permitted to wreak havoc on public life, health, or the environment. All must comply with the stringent standards set forth by the Nepalese government.

In short, the Environmental Protection Act of 2076 is a groundbreaking achievement, leading the charge towards a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable Nepal.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2016-2030

In line with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Nepal has set targets to reduce cities' per capita environmental impact by improving air quality and municipal waste management.

One of the targets is to ensure 100% sewerage services in all municipalities by 2020, while private hospitals are mandated to segregate waste by 2017.

It's imperative to note that waste management is a cross-cutting issue impacting diverse regions of sustainable development. The success of Nepal's waste management initiatives hinges on the cooperation and participation of various stakeholders.

The government has a critical role in policy formulation and enforcement, while local bodies are responsible for waste collection and infrastructure development.

Biodiversity Conservation

The beauty of the natural world and its inhabitants is unparalleled, but we often forget that our very survival is interwoven with their existence.

The air we breathe and the food we consume depend on the delicate balance of biodiversity, which is now under threat from our actions.

The next few years will be crucial in determining the fate of biodiversity and life on Earth. As conscious beings, we must understand and acknowledge the gravity of this situation and take action to preserve the richness of nature.

Mitigating Solution: REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)  

Since 2008, Nepal has actively participated in the REDD+ program, which aims to reduce deforestation and forest degradation emissions. One of the nine guiding principles of Nepal's REDD+ is to respect social and environmental safeguards.

The second objective of the REDD+ strategy is to ensure the effective implementation of safeguard measures.

This means that biodiversity conservation is a key focus area in Nepal's REDD+ program, in addition to enhanced carbon stock in project sites.

Implementation of Emission Reduction Program Document (ERPD) 

Implementing the ERPD in the Terai Arc Landscape is a significant step towards sustainable forest management, enhanced carbon sequestration, maintained ecosystem services, and reduced deforestation and forest degradation.

This program also prioritizes biodiversity conservation, promotion of natural regeneration, landscape restoration, protection of vulnerable species, greenery, and maintaining the ecological integrity of the project area.

Therefore, the implementation of REDD+ in Nepal will not only enhance carbon stock but also have a positive impact on biodiversity conservation.

UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization)

The UN-World Tourism Organization has highlighted the fastest-growing segments in the tourism industry, including nature and adventure travel.

"Nature-based tourism" is a rapidly expanding sector, often involving visits to national parks and wilderness areas in developing countries that are home to a significant portion of the world's biodiversity.

Nepal has 12 National Parks, 1 Hunting Reserve, 6 Conservation Areas, 1 Wildlife Reserve and 13 Buffer Zones, covering 23.39% or 34,419.75 sq. km of the country's land area.

Mainstreaming tourism without damaging the core values of biodiversity conservation is one of the successful approaches to protected area management in Nepal.

By promoting responsible tourism, we can ensure that the beauty and biodiversity of Nepal's natural resources are conserved for future generations.

In conclusion, biodiversity conservation is an urgent matter that requires our collective attention and action. By implementing programs like REDD+ and promoting responsible tourism, we can contribute towards preserving the natural world and ensuring a sustainable future for all.

Let us cherish and protect the diverse and beautiful natural world we are privileged to be a part of.

Towards Sustainable Tourism: A Call for Eco-Friendly Practices in Nepal

As we conclude this journey of exploring biodiversity conservation in Nepal, we are left with a resounding understanding of nature's critical role in our lives. Our very existence is intricately tied to the delicate balance of ecosystems that make up our planet, and the decline of biodiversity puts all life at risk.

Through the Environmental Protection Act and initiatives like REDD+, Nepal has taken a commendable step towards protecting and preserving its unique biodiversity. By adopting sustainable forest management practices and safeguarding vulnerable species, the country has demonstrated a commitment to striking a balance between development and environmental conservation.

But the responsibility of protecting our planet is not limited to governments and policymakers alone.

We, as individuals, can make a significant impact through the choices we make in our daily lives. Adopting eco-friendly practices like reducing plastic use, conserving water, and choosing sustainable travel options can go a long way in preserving the natural beauty of Nepal and beyond.

As visitors to this land, we have a duty to respect and cherish the diversity of flora and fauna that make up this unique landscape. By practising responsible tourism and leaving a minimal footprint, we can ensure that future generations can continue to experience the wonders of Nepal's rich biodiversity.

In conclusion, let us remember that the fate of our planet rests in our hands. Let us strive towards a sustainable future where biodiversity conservation is at the forefront of our collective efforts. Let us leave behind a legacy of responsible stewardship for the generations to come.