The World Environment Day has come and gone with ‘green cities’ as its theme. Amid calls to keep Nepal’s environment intact, the rivers are getting more polluted with each passing day, agricultural runoff laced with chemicals from synthetic fertilisers and pesticides go into water bodies and the marshlands are shrinking. The water table is fast depleting. Atmospheric pollution is constantly on the rise. But environmental awareness has also picked up pace since the seventies in Nepal. Air pollution was the first concern and that pushed the two-stroke engines out of use. Anti-pollution measures and emission levels were introduced. The Environment Protection Act was enacted. Afforestation and community for-estry gained prominence along with the emergence of fashionable ‘sustainable development.’ Biodiversity conservation evolved as a new chapter and more national reserves and wildlife parks were created.
Although it woke up to face the pollution threat early, Nepal’s attitude to environmental concerns have resembled a fad, particularly with several NGOs trying to make hay in the newly opened vistas in the sector before their efforts are tapered off. Their performance has remained far from satisfactory. Bagmati, for example, continues to be among one of the most polluted rivers in Nepal despite so much is being done to restore it to its original glory. Siltation continues to be a threat to the Fewa Lake in Pokhara. Considering the limited ground Nepal has covered in the last two decades on the environmental regime, only pragmatic policies and their implementation will yield the desired results. It is unwise to squabble over whether environment should come under the purview of Ministry of Science and Technology or not. Several plants and animals are redlisted as imperilled. Larger issues of global warming are a serious threat. The current spell of haphazard urbanisation is not eco-friendly. These are some of the important issues the country will have to address in the near future. Waste-water treatment, institutional strengthening, air quality monitoring, biodiversity conservation, litter-free mountains, eco-friendly houses and eco-tourism must take the centrestage of development in the years ahead. It is time for Nepal to closely review its past achievements and fine-tune all endeavours as regards protection of the environment.