Nepal's Environment at Risk from New Development Projects

Nepal's rapid development projects pose a threat to the river ecosystem and livelihood, highlighting the need for prioritizing citizens' living standards over detrimental projects.

Nepal's Environment at Risk from New Development Projects
River in Nepal, by Manuel Meurisse

16-05-2024

Dara Masita

Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

 

In Nepal, they are finding the balance between developmental projects and environmental protection. With the newly proposed hydropower projects, environmental conservationists have been voicing their concerns over it.

Several times, the people of Nepal expressed their dismay at developmental projects. The projects are sometimes proposed to be located on nature reserves, which would damage the ecosystems and habitats of the reserves. Additionally, Nepal's environmental regulations are not yet mature. The environmental impact assessments are deemed to be ineffective, and the “polluter-pays” principle is not used correctly. Developers would pay the fine after the environmental destruction is done with no repercussions. 

Projects such as the Super Trishuli Hydropower plant or the proposed Nagmati Dam have received concerns from conservationists and other stakeholders that could be affected if construction were to proceed in the river (e.g. rafting tourism industry). However, these stakeholders also mentioned that they are not “anti-development.” Nepal has been through a lot of conflict and peace-building efforts. It is finally time for the Himalayan country to focus on building large-scale infrastructure.

Nepal’s neighbouring countries, China and India, have inspired Nepal to take big strides towards infrastructure development. However, these neighbouring countries have also lowered their citizens’ standard of living to achieve rapid development. Conservationists are trying to avoid this, while politicians are saying that conservation laws are an obstacle to Nepal’s development.

Since Nepal is still in the early stage of rapid development, it should learn from the mistakes of its neighbouring countries and try to emphasise more environmental protection in this already fragile ecosystem. Moving forward, Nepal should take the right of nature and the right to a healthy environment into account to achieve sustainable development that would have long-term benefits.

 

Sources and further reading:

Abhaya Raj Joshi, ‘In Nepal, environmental advocates fend off ‘anti-development’ smear’ (Mongabay, 25 March 2024) <https://news.mongabay.com/2024/03/in-nepal-environmental-advocates-fend-off-anti-development-smear/> accessed 13 May 2024.

Abhaya Raj Joshi, ‘Controversy brews over proposed dam on Kathmandu’s Bagmati River’ (Mongabay, 22 February 2024) <https://news.mongabay.com/2024/02/controversy-brews-over-proposed-dam-on-kathmandus-bagmati-river/> accessed 13 May 2024.

‘Nepal's nature threatened by new development push: conservationists’ (Japan Today, 16 May 2024) <https://japantoday.com/category/features/environment/nepal's-nature-threatened-by-new-development-push-conservationists> accessed 16 May 2024