Green and Creative Solutions for Nepal’s Economy

A creative green economy can be a medium through which humans seek meaningful work, and contribute to the economy, without harming the planet and people.

 – Saurav Dhakal –

On my recent bicycle trip, I went to Nagdaha (Snake Lake), a pond located in Dhapakhel, Lalitpur. The lake is spread over approximately five hectares and the main inflow source is a natural spring, while the water flows out to form two small wetlands.

This lake is known as a natural habitat for a variety of aquatic plants, fish, and migratory birds. Many species of native fish such as Barbs and Snakeheads are abundant. The area is also home to several bird species including Black Kite, Black Drongo, Cattle Egret, Oriental Magpie Robin, Common Myna, Rose-ringed Parakeet, and Red-Vented Bulbul are some of the resident birds. Migrants include Cuckoos and Eurasian Coot. All these make the vicinity of Nagdaha probably the best place to watch birds in the Kathmandu Valley.

On the other hand, the lake has been used for various human activities like washing clothes, bathing, fishing, and irrigation, as well as religious purposes. However, the lake is not open for boating and swimming due to safety concerns. The increase in human activities and pollution have threatened the existence of the lake. But local residents of the area and authorities have been trying to preserve the integrity of the place lately.

I met a few young people who are working with Water lettuce. Water lettuce is an invasive plant that has covered large portions of Nagdaha, choking the native species and depleting the aesthetics of the wetland area. The group of youths got involved in the cleanup of the lake but a lack of public space resulted in the extracted weed being disposed of near the wetland shores. This resulted in another ecological impact due to its rapid decay, causing a horrid smell and a decline in water quality. This is where the team ‘Wetlands for Nepal’ decided to work on managing the invasive species prototyping, biopesticide called ‘Jholmal’. The biopesticide can be used by the ‘Mali family’ (traditional flower growers) who live around the lake and that flower is used for the worship of the Nag (serpent god).

Around the lake, there are many restaurants. The restaurant is famous among the holiday crowd for serving tasty and homely food.

From Nagdaha, it was 30 min cycling on to Chapagaon. I visited the Pyan Gaon, a small and beautiful centuries-old crafting village of Newars in Chapagaon, Lalitpur. The village got its name from the unique profession of making beautiful bamboo buckets used to measure grains. These buckets became regional standard measurements in units called Maana and Pathi. The bamboo is called ‘Pyang’ in the Newari language. The skill of making bamboo baskets not only identifies their villages but also represents a unique heritage. Hence, it played an important role in supplying traditional bamboo units to measure and weigh goods. The bamboo bins are used for multiple purposes such as storing food grains, spices clothes, medicines, and important papers and documents, and are constructed in such a way that insects, mites and rats cannot damage them.

However, urbanization has been taking a toll as people are gradually moving away from traditional craftsmanship. But now a group of local youths is working to revive it by training artisans to make new designs as per and interest of buyers that can also replace the plastic containers.

Nepal, like many other countries around the world, is facing the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation. As a result, there is a growing need to shift towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly economy. In the early 1950s, the country opened up to the outside world and since then, the market that pushes plastics has replaced some of the traditional craft. A good example is the replacement of Sal (Shorea) leaves plates with plastic plates.

Today, we also have a younger generation that cares and wants to take positive action. They are now exposed to the world and hence appreciate what they have even more. They are also caught between the need to make a living and support their families and the desire to conserve their traditions. In many areas, we see short-term economic activities winning. This has a longer-term negative impact on the natural resources, the people, and ultimately their skills and knowledge.

Hence, the creative green economy has a critical role to play to support sustainable development goals. It supports entrepreneurship, encourages innovation, and brings people together in a creative way. Whereas, the green economy is a need today that reduces environmental risks and ecological scarcities while contributing to social equity and the well-being of humans. Today more than ever, it has become our collective responsibility to decarbonize the economy and manage the full life cycle of products. Therefore, a creative green economy can be a medium through which humans seek meaningful work, and contribute to the economy, without harming the planet and people.

30 million Nepalis have the same development aspirations as anybody else on the planet. What we need to learn is that the model for development needs to change. We have learned the hard way that exclusion leads to armed conflicts and destruction. Climate change will increase our suffering in terms of water and food security and even the need to migrate. Many of us are already having to adapt to changes we may not have contributed to. Nepal is determined to be carbon neutral by 2045 and we must all contribute to achieve this objective.

Dhakal is an environmental activist and entrepreneur. He is the Founder and Curator of Story Cycle, an alternative media platform. 

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