Country a biodiversity hotspot; conservation work

KATHMANDU: Despite the country being a biodiversity hot spot, conservation work has remained a mere formality here. Two months ago, following the declaration of the United Nations to celebrate 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) had announced to speed up its conservation efforts in the country. But the announcement, this time too, is likely to be a mere formality.

An official at the ministry, however, said that work could not take momentum due to frequent changes in the chief of the environment division who oversees biodiversity issues. The biodiversity division witnessed a change four times in the last eight months while it is without a head for the last two months. Joint secretaries Surya Prasad Joshi, Krishna Acharya and Krishna Chandra Paudel were for a short time leading the biodiversity division within the last eight months.

"The frequent change of the chief has created problems. Everyone is talking about the biodiversity year but the ministry has not even finalised the programmes set up for this important issue," said the official, requesting anonymity.

The biodiversity division has only two employees at present and an official heads both the environment division and the biodiversity division.

A staff at the division expressed anger over high ranking officials' irresponsibility and said, "Our policy makers just pay lip service. We don't have the budget, plan and other resources to focus on the biodiversity conservation."

Bijay Raj Paudel, an official at the department of forest said, "The policies and strategies have been made in the past investing huge amount of money but no one cares about the strategy and no one implements them."

There is world class paperwork, but the actual work in the field is negligible in the country.

The Nepal Biodiversity Strategy that was prepared by investing more than $ 200,000 has failed as authorities have not implemented it.

According to the ministry, the government has approved six directives and various action plans; more than 15 plans on various issues of forest and wildlife have been drafted and they await approval.

"Policy papers are piling up but the implementation is in the horizon," lamented another official at the ministry.

MoFSC is the focal point ministry for the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) of which the nation is a party and the ministry is responsible for the celebration of the international year declared by the UN. However, shortage of manpower and absence of the divisional head exemplifies our indifference on issues that demand seriousness.