Our only “green planet” is losing plant and animal species at an alarming rate which scientists tell us is about one hundred times the normal rate of extinction. This means that as human beings, we are losing our future sources of food and medicine as well as narrowing down our future options to survive in a changing climate. We then resort to taking responses such as planting trees on World Environment Day with T-shirts and caps painted with nice slogans. Raising awareness is good and having a dedicated day in a year is also good; but not enough.
Nepal’s climatic and topographical variations in a very short physical distance make it an ideal habitat for numerous plants, animals and birds. We have a high proportion of the world’s biodiversity and hence we also have an unfairly large portion of the responsibility to conserve them. It was with the intention to learn more about what local communities, the national parks system, and Nepal’s development and conservation partners such as USAID and WWF were doing, that I participated in the Green Hiker, Green Planet trek to Langtang National Park. The diverse team and the magnificent setting made us all very humble and determined to do more.
Animals in captivity may not be a very popular idea for many and we can all be sure that animals in cages are a thing of the past. Even well managed zoological gardens do not really have a bright future except when they are doing cutting edge research or captive breeding for endangered species. Young children are really not going to enjoy seeing these beautiful creatures in cages when they have the option to see them in the wild. In Nepal, the Chitwan National Park is accessible today for everyone. The captive animals are still generally very popular for the rural folks that come to Kathmandu, and the Jawalakhel zoo is still a “must visit” place on their check list. It therefore serves very well as an urban conservation education center. The state of the place has really improved over the past decade.
To the south of the Kathmandu valley is the scenic and lush green area of Godavari, the home of the famous botanical gardens. There is a fish farm and the St. Xavier’s School. The area is the water source for the Panch (five) and Nau (nine) Dharas or water spouts that supply clean and fresh water to the valley towns. There are sacred spots here for all faiths as well. Unlike Shivapuri to the north, Godavari and Phulchowki still await legal protection status. I guess we need to visit this place, fall in love with it and then campaign hard to protect it.
In this issue of ECS, the team has worked hard to bring to you writers, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs and of course the artists who make Nepal the unique place it is. We hope that these stories about their work and life enable the creation of new spaces where everyone gets a chance to grow and contribute to society. ECS has proven itself to be a great platform for this purpose. Talking of places, Okhaldhunga, in the eastern hills of Nepal, must become a place we all determine to visit once in our lifetime. The place has become famous for many reasons, one of which is a song written by Siddhi Charan Shrestha and sung by Narayan Gopal, “Mero pryaro Okhaldhunga…” Whatever you do this month please make time for the Nepali way.