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Development vs. environment

By PR Pradhan
The fundamental theory of some of the Western countries which want economic hegemony over the underdeveloped nations, is to keep such nations under the poverty line always. And our southern neighbour India, which has experienced the pain under the British colonial rule, wants her small neighbouring nations poor all the time so that she will be able to enjoy an economic hegemony over these countries.
If any underdeveloped country wants development, she should be able to avoid artificial hurdles created by those countries who want economic hegemony.
In Nepal’s case, if one will go through those potential projects, strong opposition was witnessed when the World Bank was about to start construction of the Arun 3 project some three decades ago. Those “dollar farmers” were so strong that they were able to manipulate the then UML general secretary Madhav Nepal to work with them. Nepal had written a letter to the World Bank chairman to postpone the project. Finally, when serious controversy surfaced at the political level, the World Bank decided to withdraw its hands from the Arun Project. The beauty of the Arun 3 project was that Japan and German had become ready to fund the project at very nominal interest rates. Due to the cancellation of the project, Nepal always suffered from load-shedding problem. During that time, small and medium size turbine manufacturers from Europe and specially the Indians had spent billions of rupees on Nepali “environmental activists” who were known to be the “dollar farmers”.
We also saw strong opposition during the time of implementation of the Kaligandaki hydropower project. Locals in the project area who were alert from the fate of the Arun Project, had fed grass to those “dollar farmers” when they were making efforts to provoke the locals to oppose the project.
The government is all set to construct an international airport in Nijgadh. The government is constructing a fast-track road from Kathmandu to Njigadh and it is expected to be completed within four years. Considering the air-traffic pressure at the Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal needs an alternate international airport close to the capital city Kathmandu as soon as possible. There is no alternate to Nijgadh as after years of study Nijgadh was located not today but decades ago as the place where a second international airport has to be constructed.
Unfortunately, the so-called environmental experts, who were in deep sleep for decades, have woken-up now and started to protest against the Nijgadh airport project. They are suggesting the government to change the venue as a huge number of trees are going to be chopped away which will create an environmental hazard in many aspects. Deforestation is a serious problem in Nepal. Land mafias and forest mafias are chopping trees all over the country. The “environmental activists” have remained silent on such a massive level deforestation in association with the political leaders. The political leaders are taking decisions to encroach forest areas for new settlements. In such decisions also, those “activists” have remained silent. Even in Nijgadh area, the people have encroached forest land and constructed houses. On this also, those “activists” are silent. Even if the Nijgadh airport is not constructed, surely, the trend of illegal deforestation will not be stopped as mafias are stronger than the government. Without implementation of strong laws and strong regulations against them by the government, the trend of deforestation is not going to be stopped. Therefore, those “activists” have to put pressure to the government for strong laws and heavy punishment against those criminals must be realistic, not only idealistic.
Nepal is still an India-locked country. India doesn’t want a well-equipped and modern international airport in Nepal, it is well-understood by all. Just recently, India rejected Nepal’s demand for allowing four new entry and exit routes for the Nepal bound aircrafts. This is solely Indian hegemony on Nepal and also this is an attempt to avoid construction of the proposed Nijgadh international airport. And, without strong commitment among the Nepali leaders for nation building, it is still doubtful that the Nijgadh international airport is going to be constructed as we are talking about this airport since our childhood days.
Due to the heavy aircraft traffic at the TIA, one aircraft approaching the TIA has to remain on hold in the Kathmandu sky for minimum half an hour to three hours before they can land. One can assume, how much level of air pollution one aircraft will create while flying additional hours in the Kathmandu sky. Similarly, how much sound pollution will be created by one aircraft on hold for hours, we can assume ourselves. To ovoid all these problems, we need an international airport not in ten years or so but immediately. This is the time to put pressure on the government to construct the Nijgadh airport at a war footing level rather than creating disputes as we don’t have any other alternatives.

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