In his tenure of just about 15 months, Minister of Environment THAKUR PRASAD SHARMA gave a leadership to complete the plans and projects which were pending for years. National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) is one of them. From enhancing technical capabilities of the Ministry to preparing NAPA and proposing ministerial meeting for Mountain Alliance Countries, minister Sharma has made a number of moves. Minister Sharma spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues. Excerpts:
You have been talking about the need to have a NAPA document for Nepal since last one and a half years as a panacea for all environmental ills. Since the cabinet has approved the NAPA now, what changes will it bring?
Nepal is highly vulnerable to adverse impacts of climate change. We have spent all our efforts during my tenure to highlight these vulnerabilities. However, we did not have a document of National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) to get funds for our priority projects. First of all, we can even ask funds from Least Developed Countries. The document opens the door for their fund. Our position will be better in UNFCC. Out of 48 Least Developed Countries, Nepal is the 45th country and Nepal enters into international arena with its plan in all areas. I am proud to say that Nepal is only the second country where the cabinet approved the NAPA.
The process of NAPA started with your appointment as a minister of environment and concluded during your tenure. How do you look at this?
My experience as a minister is that we can make everything possible if there is commitment and dedication on the part of the leadership. We can bring a lot of change by managing smaller things together. Despite lack of technical experts, institutions and other resources in the Environment Ministry, the efforts made by our team of employees show that nothing is impossible.
What remains to be done?
As you know the process of NAPA is now complete, another difficult task is implementation. However, the document identifies the projects for various stages and Nepal can seek the funds. Another important part is about the establishment of Department of Environment which is now in the process. We have already started to formulate National Climate Change Policy. Whoever may come as a minister next time, the minister will have enough experts, institutions and policies to work with. There are basic institutions in place. The activities of ministry will be enhanced further.
How difficult was it to bring these changes?
Frankly speaking, I have faced many difficulties to bring those changes. My team in the ministry completely backed and supported me when I took initiatives. Similarly, prime minister and other cabinet colleagues trusted me. This is the reason the cabinet passed my proposal to approve NAPA. Had I not convinced the prime minister and ministers earlier by giving them highlights of the document, NAPA would have been sent to a committee of the cabinet which might have delayed it for long. I had clearly told them that this document opens the gate for funding to implement urgent projects related to climate change.
How easy do you think will it be to implement NAPA?
We have already identified a number of priority projects under six ministries and two cross cutting sectors. Within these eight sectors, we can implement dozens of projects. There will be projects under ministries of forest and soil conservation, agriculture and cooperatives, energy and irrigation, works and urban and health. We can move ahead with hundreds of projects. It will include many other projects. There is the need to give the continuity. Now Nepal has NAPA which will appeal for funds. If we fail to manage them, it will send a very wrong signal.
Do you agree that political support at the policy level can be important?
Yes. It is important. I cannot take all decisions by myself. What I require is technical capabilities as well as institutional capabilities. I have done so many major works. When I started to work in the ministry, there were no documents and no works. Although my ministry is small, policy decisions taken by my ministry will have major implications.
Weren’t you disappointed when the ministerial meeting for Mountain Alliance was postponed?
Of course, it disappointed me a little but I am happy to say that the ministerial meeting of Mountain Alliance is already in the pipeline. It will be held in March next year. This initiative itself is a major initiative on the part of Nepal. Despite opposition, suspicion and negativism on the proposal, I am able to establish the fact that holding ministerial meeting of Mountain Alliance is in the interest of Nepal. From Kalapathar to Copenhagen and recently in Kathmandu, Nepal has been able to attract global concern on the impacts of climate change in Nepal. It is a very bold step to hold the meetings of ministers of 51 countries. Thanks to the team efforts of Ministry of Environment, we are able to generate enthusiasm and encouragement. Even Nepal’s development partners strongly supported my efforts to hold the conference. When I visited Switzerland recently to attend an international conference, many ministers taking part in the conference admired Nepal’s initiative to take the leadership role among mountain countries. Nepal is in a very difficult situation but the positive side is that we are able to take the leadership on our own on issues like Mountain Alliance. This is a good sign.
Are You Successful?
We are successful in our mission to move ahead. I am very proud to say that Nepal’s development partners frankly admitted to support Nepal’s efforts to organize international conference. During the last 15 months of my tenure, I have hardly had lunch at home. We can do this kind of things with small expenditure. From selecting employees to establishing institutions, I have been able to do work without any controversy. Ministry of Environment’s vision is that Nepal’s environment will lead other things. If you have clear mind and intention, you can do anything. We have made every mission possible. I am proud to say that this is the success of all the employees of the ministry.