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Impact of corruption and climate change on Nepal’s rivers

BY BHRIKUTI NIROULA
February 2019 articles on two prominent news channels BBC and Al Jazeera regarding how climate change and global warming have threatened the Himalayan glaciers drew my attention. They have issued a serious warning that the Himalayan glaciers are melting in such a way that they could be vanished by the end of this century. It is very frightening but their arguments are valid. There are about four dozens of major glacier-fed Himalayan rivers, which give life to more than two billion people. The Himalayas are not just a geographical landform but also a dawning of different and distinctive civilizations, people, languages, cultures and bio-diversity, which all survive and flourish only if the Himalayan glaciers remain intact. Now the question arises why it matters to Nepal. Well, we all have been taught that ‘Nepal is a yam between two big boulders’. When this connotation was conceptualized, it was theorized primarily based on the geo-political sensitivity of the country. But, when it comes to a modern day interpretation, Nepal is in fact a yam between two big boulders since it is sandwiched between two mega-diverse countries, two different civilizations, two different ecological zones, two big economies, two aspiring global leaders and most importantly, in this case, two large contributors to greenhouse gases. Therefore, Nepal is naturally, biologically, strategically, culturally, economically and politically a hotspot. Due to its location, Nepal is very vulnerable to disaster from every point of view, if some serious issues are not addressed with great caution.
Considering the gravity of the situation, a brave Swedish teen Greta Thunberg has now become a voice throughout the Europe and the world for raising awareness on climate change and global warming. I am very happy to hear that she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for climate activism. I wish her all the best. It is obvious that it doesn’t have to be an old-aged and gray-haired expert to be a climate activist. It is a commonsensical issue. We the people of young generation must give a boost to her campaign and act accordingly. Just like she said we should not allow greedy and corrupt people in power to steal our future.
As we know, most of the Nepal’s major rivers are also glacier-fed. They are the blood vessels of the country. In this article, I would like talk about some serious man-made ecological problems about Nepal’s rivers, which are dying mainly because of unsustainable urbanization, lack of effective environmental regulations, lack of river related economic development projects, massive pollution, illegal exploitation of rivers, criminal nexus between the officials and the contractors, impunity and political criminalization. This is an incredibly worrying matter. Illegal and uncontrolled sand excavation and river bed material extraction is eroding the river bed causing a great impact on the riparian ecosystem. These materials are not just a deposition of sand and boulders, they also replenish the nutrients in the running water providing healthy river ecosystem they support. Over extraction and excavation have greater impact on the river environment and destroy the diversity and general health of the aquatic and riparian flora and fauna species thriving in them. We have seen that different paper and electronic news media have time and again highlighted the rampant criminal involvement in river exploitation throughout the country but governments are turning a deaf ear and a blind eye. Unlawful stone crushers in thousands are being operated near riverbed without the supervision of geo-environmental experts or mining inspectors. It is not difficult to understand the apathetic attitude of the government officials. It’s all about greed and corruption.
Let’s take an example what could possible go wrong if the river dies out or get polluted. East Rapti River flows from east to west through the Chitwan National Park, which is a home to many exotic flora and fauna. About ten tributaries and rivulets contribute to this river, which is a life-line of the Park. If this river and its tributaries die out or let it die because of the aforementioned reasons, the whole ecosystem of the Park will collapse. It is calamitous to think of anything like this. It will have the most serious and irreversible consequences. Other national parks and reserves will also share the same fate. We can’t afford to lose our biodiversity, our identity, our future.
Nation’s prosperity does not always have to be measured in terms of economic development. Every country in a given geographical region has its own ecological niche and diversity. Amidst global threat of rapid climate change, any country that is successful in preserving and promoting its ecological and bio-diversity will be a prosperous country in future. Nepal must also do everything it can to preserve its biodiversity by enhancing its efforts in massive afforestation and reforestation, curbing environmental pollution, producing and using clean energy, promoting scientific way of agro-forestry, conducting massive awareness programs and enforcing strong or even draconian legislation to protect them.
At the end of the day, politics has always played the key role in our country. Unfortunately, Nepal has been in the hands of ignorant, corrupt, narcissist and out-of-touch politicians for many years. They lack the knowledge of environmental sensitivity and biodiversity of our country. They are only worried about the survival of their kith and kin, not our biodiversity. I am hopelessly optimistic about the present government, which is led by the goofy and facetious Comedian-In-Chief. Therefore, I call upon the youth of our country to raise their voice and contribute whatever they can to stop the greedy criminals and politicians to steal our future.
(The writer can be reached at bhrikutiniroula25@gmail.com)

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