Having spent more than three decades of his career in the environmental and developmental sector, former vice chairman of the National Planning Commission Dinesh Chandra Devkota knows what works and what does not in gearing up to go for sustainable development of the nation. In the context of the World Environment Day, Dr. Devkota spoke to New spotlight on various issues. Excerpts:
What do you say about this year’s slogan for the World Environment Day?
The slogan talks about green economy and sustainable development. When we talk about the green economy, we must make efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change through the green side of it. Secondly, I am much concerned about how we can transform the lives of people living below the poverty line, that is, how to uplift their livelihoods. One of the thrusts of the green economy should be to enhance the lives of the poor people. As this year’s WED’s slogan has said, the time has come now to use the green economy to uplift the lives of the poor people living in the Least Developed Countries. After negotiations in UNFCC, the world’s developed countries, which contribute huge amounts of carbon in the atmosphere, should consider to promote the green economy so that sustainable development can be possible. Developing countries and LDCs need to streamline their development programs to greening their economy and that should be put into action.
What does Nepal need to do now?
There are a lot of things to do. The Ministry of Environment and Science and Technology as well as the National Planning Commission need to draw pay attention to some urgent aspects. They must push the green economic agenda as a core issue of sustainable development. They need to intervene where things are not going that way. All of us know, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 (Rio+20) is going to be held this year and this is very important occasion for a country like Nepal. Realizing the importance of this, the National Planning Commission produced the National Status Paper during my tenure as the vice chairman. Supported by UNDP and ICIMOD, this is the first of its kind document which highlighted Nepal’s needs. I don’t think the National Planning Commission has pushed the work any further in this area. As there is the status paper before us, what Nepal needs now is to make the intervention strategies based on this. In the intervention strategies, solar, cleaning things and employment generation could be some aspects in the greening job.
How can green economy address unemployment?
There are 5 million unemployed youths in the country. If we employ all these young people, it will boost the green economy. Nepal has huge natural resources and rich bio-diversity, water conservation. Nepal needs to use all these resources up to the optimum level and boost the green economy. However, Nepal Status Paper for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2013 (Rio+20) has basically made efforts to link three sustainable development agenda, which include environment, economy and social development. Confining within these three, there is the need to develop sub-sector strategies. For instance, how can we carry Nepal’s agriculture sector into the green economy. How to bring the ministry related to environment and population closer to mitigate the climate change related impacts. Similarly, how can we link ministry related to employment and those unemployed to provide job opportunities in green economy. How to create the jobs? Similarly, the issue related to Community Forestry User Groups, and natural resources need to be addressed to make them effective to create the green jobs.
How can we generate employment in the forest sector?
We need to generate employment at the grassroots level. Policymakers need to sit together with Forest User Groups to explore the possibilities to generate employment. There are around 20,000 Community Forestry User Groups. If a user group creates five jobs, they will consume over 100,000 jobs. The National Planning Commission needs to build a strategy, keeping this fact in mind. The NPC has to formulate intervention strategies. This is the need of the hour.
Don’t you see there is a way to celebrate the World Environment Day in a more concrete manner?
Every year UNEP selects different kinds of slogans for the World Environment Day. However, the country with strong leadership and commitment celebrate the programs to achieve certain goals. However, countries like Nepal, where political agenda override the development issues, ignore the agenda. Thus, we are unable to celebrate such international day to suit Nepal’s own interests. When we celebrate such days, we need to transfer words into actions.