Uddhav Banskota, joint secretary and chief of environment division of the Ministry of Environment, is a member secretary of the World Environment Day. As usual, Nepal has been celebrating the World Environment Day on June 5 this year. Banskota spoke to New Spotlight on various issues related to the important day. Excerpts:
What is the importance of the World Environment Day?
For a country like Nepal, which is very vulnerable and fragile to environment degradation, the occasion is very important to raise our issues of concern. We celebrate the WED differently than the last year. There was tree plantation program, environmental awareness program and so on. This is for the first time World Environment Program was organized throughout the country. We also mobilized local NGOs to celebrate the World Environment Day. The District Development Committees and District Administration Offices were asked to take the lead in organizing the World Environment Day Programs.
What is the importance of World Environment Day in Nepal’s context?
This is a symbolic program to raise the awareness on world environment as well as to show national stake holders the implications of risks to environment in our day to day life, and how the environment has been affecting human life and relations between human and environment. Our aim is to disseminate the various aspects of environment to the common people. As you know, this year’s slogan is Green Economy, the main slogan for Sustainable Development. The international slogan is Green Economy, Does it include you? By championing the slogan, we reached the people taking the message as to how environment and human relations can be integrated. This includes so many things, including green sector, and brown sector. Our effort needs to be directed to save environment by making sustainable development. We also need to make our behavior environment friendly by changing our behavior to make our life environmentally sustainable. Just celebrating environment day once in a year cannot make any difference but it will definitely help to make the environmental issue an agenda at the national level.
There are many problems related to environment. I agree that we have yet to take enough steps for the protection of environment. The Ministry itself is not satisfied with the present state of environment. For instance, we are yet to bring concerned stakeholders on the same platform for the same cause with the unity message. This means we are unable to unify all different stakeholders. Although the environment sector is really a big sector, the Ministry of Environment is a single institution and it does not have any other departments. The Ministry does not have institutions at the grassroots level. This is the reason we have to rely on other ministries for the implementation of programs and projects. To address the environmental issues properly, we need to have adequate resources as well as physical infrastructure. There is also the scarcity of manpower in the Ministry with 79 employees. Out of them, an overwhelming majority are lower level staff. There is virtually a handful technical staff. These are the weaknesses that need to be addressed.
What programs are there for the capital city, Kathmandu, which is facing the problems like air pollution, river pollution and what not?
We are aware about the situation in the capital of Nepal. We have already started to manage plastic bags in the capital. The Ministry has already approved guidelines to regulate the overuse of plastic bags. The Ministry has already moved a proposal to ban plastic bags inside Singha Durbar secretariat. We are also working to improve the quality of air in the capital city. Initially, we asked industrial boilers to use the technology to reduce the black smoke. We have certain focus programs for Nepal also.