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Involvement of senior citizens in biodiversity conservation

image0012By Sanju T. Magar
The present trend of increasing life expectancy and declining birth rate is bringing unprecedented growth in the number of ageing population. Currently, the number of ageing population accounts for 13% globally and it is estimated that it will be around 22% by 2050. Similarly, in Nepal, there were 1.5 million ageing population in 2001 and more than 2.1 million in 2011 which constitute 6.5% and 8.13 % of the total population respectively. As per the national census of 2011, Nepal’s total population growth rate is only 1.35 whereas the growth rate of 60+ populations is above 3.5.
This unprecedented demographic transition as ageing population is bringing so many challenges and opportunities. The knowledge and experience of older people is precious resource of society to solve many problems including climate change. But stereotype ageism and discrimination are preventing older persons to remain active even in situations where they are willing and able to participate in social life. Such attitude towards older persons increases dependency ratio and leads the society to view older persons as social burden. This problem is our own creation. Instead, if we create enabling environment for the elderly to be active e in the social life, they could be the most valuable resource much needed to guide and contribute to our social development process.
image003Climate change is an emerging global issue. There are so many facts and figures which clearly illustrate the upcoming global crisis due to the enormous climate change. The developing countries like Nepal are the least responsible for climate change and most vulnerable to its impact. The European Commission Report, November 2015 has presented some current and future impacts of climate change.Like melting of polar ice caps; rising sea levels and retreating glaciers; and more severe or frequent of floods, drought and heat waves. Climate change is exacerbating other human pressure on biodiversity. Many plant and animal species are at risk of extinction due to climate change.
image005These two growing global issues of present are bringing so many opportunities and challenges at the same time. There is the interrelationship between climate change and older people. Though the climate change is emerging as a major global challenge for all age group, there is much evidence that the adverse effect of climate change poses specific risk for ageing population than other age group as they are the socially isolated, less mobile and highly vulnerable marginalized group of a society. We can take an example of 2003 heat wave across Europe. It was estimated that about 14,000 people died due to that heat wave in France of which 70 % were people aged over 75 years. Similarly, it is estimated that 460,000 older people is directly affected in the last year earthquake of Nepal.
Similarly, this unprecedented increase in number of ageing population is also creating opportunities to control the climate change as senior citizens are the most experienced and knowledgeable resource of a society. Their immense knowledge and experience on thesubject by virtue of their long life is very comprehensive to solve the problem of climate change. But the present society in general do not have a forum or social structures through which the immense knowledge and skill of senior citizens could be channelized for social development, including the fight against climate change.
So many policies and programmes have been implemented to reduce the rising problems of climate change.  New Global Goals, 2016-2030 has also set targets for climate change on goal number 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. But those planned policies, programmes and set global goals cannot be achieved without the inclusive actions of all ages.
Considering this fact, Ageing Nepal in partnership with National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) successfully completed the pilot project “Involvement of Senior Citizens in Biodiversity Conservation”. Under this pilot project numbers of activities were organized by participating the elderly of Astha Bhuja Samaj, a local organization of older persons, Budakilkantha-12 Municipality, Kapan, Kathmandu. Senior citizens of Astha Bhuja Samaj were taken educational tour to Central zoo, Jawalakhel and Shivapuri National Park to motivate them in conservation work and to educate them about the basic scientific knowledge in biodiversity conservation. At the end of the project, active elderly participants of the project formed Astha Bhuja Biodiversity Conservation Committee. The committee formed tocontribute the ongoing protection and preservation activities of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park and to remain active and productive in old age. Mr. Krishna M. Gautam, Chairperson of Ageing Nepal handed over Rs. 15,000 to octogenarian President of Committee Mr. Ramraja Pokhrel as seed money for the conservation work. The committee aims to involve senior citizens in plant nursery and plantation in an around Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park.
This kind of programmesnot only contributes to involve the growing population in productive activities but also it support to solve the global emerging issues like climate change. This kind of two way beneficial projects is very essential to replicate nationwide.

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