The Government of Nepal renamed the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) into the Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoFE) in 1992 with any additional environmental functions at the time of Minister Shailaja Acharya and it was again renamed as MoFSC before the establishment of the Environment Protection Council in 1993. In September 1995, the Government, led by Prime Minister Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba, established the Ministry of Population and Environment (MoPE) with defined functions. The MoPE survived for a decade and was dissolved in 2005. The Ministry of Science and Technology was renamed the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MoEST) in 2005. Merging and separating ministries continued till 2018 by forming the Ministry of Environment (MoE), MoEST, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE), MoPE and finally MoFE without any major changes on functions and responsibilities. For the last two and half-decade, the environment was dealt with as a 'potato' by mixing with population, science, technology, and forests. The record shows a higher level of dedication of the MoE in discharging its functions.
Prior to the establishment of MoPE, the Government implemented the Environmental Impact Study Project headed by Mr. Sushil Bhattarai, a seasoned, committed and dedicated forester since 1981. Mr. Bhattarai started a government-funded project with slightly over NRs 1 lakh (annual budget, including salary) and contributed substantially in raising awareness at different levels even by organizing seminar annually during King's visit to developing regions, introduced Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, convinced the policy-makers to include environment-related policies in the periodical plans (6th & 7th plans), and drafted national environmental policy and a bill. Project budget reached to NRs. 6 lakhs and 24 thousand in 1987. Then, separate Environment Divisions were established in the National Planning Commission in 1988, and the Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management in 1987.
Environment Division of the Department was later moved to MoFE in 1992. The contribution of Dr. Mohan Man Sainju, Prof. Upendra Man Mall and P.P. Shah was instrumental in including environmental policies in the periodical plans in the 1980s. It took nearly one and half-decade to establish MoPE in 1995 with defined roles and responsibilities. The contribution of Dr. Arju Deuba was recognized in establishing the MoPE.
Excluding Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers having an environmental portfolio for a shorter period, a total of 28-ministers led the Environment Ministry with one repetition of Mr. Prakash Man Singh, first Minister for Population and Environment in Nepal. Ten and 12 ministers represented Nepali Congress and Communist Parties (UML and NCP, including 5 ministers from NCP-united) respectively, and the remaining 6 were from other Parties. Almost all got the environment portfolio when they became the minister for the first time. During this period, 23 secretaries served the environment ministry. With this in the background, this note memorizes the key outcomes of the political (M) and administrative (S) leaders on the environment (first initiative) during the last 25 years.
Many people contributed to developing and implementing policy and legal instruments with guidelines and manuals, in establishing and/or strengthening institution(s) and internalizing environmental assessment systems and climate change activities in Nepal. At present, environmental institutions have been sufficiently staffed, equipped and matured; necessary policies and legal instruments, and acceptance on the urgency of protecting and sustainably utilizing environmental goods and services are in place; necessary funding is available from bilateral and multilateral sources; and knowledge is sufficiently generated and documented. Nepalese universities are producing a good number of human resources. Nepal has made 'huge' national and international commitments in ensuring environment conservation and advancing climate change activities. People have a strong desire to participate in improving the environmental quality but there is a big gap between 'commitments and actions' and mobilization of 'knowledge-based' human resources. In many cases, needs for revising policies, guidelines, guides, etc are raised before their implementation along with the change in leadership.
Nepal has 'golden opportunities' to benefit from the environmental assessment process, water and air quality improvement, and climate change adaptation but requires to translate commitments into actions professionally.