National Consultation Meeting on “Environmental and Social Impacts of Large Infrastructures in Nepal”
On 27 August 2013, Hariyo Ban Program, WWF Nepal organized a national consultation on “Environmental and Social Impacts of large infrastructures in Nepal” during which Mr. Krishna Prasad Acharya, Chief of Planning and Human resources Division, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation chaired the program. With an overview about Hariyo Ban Pragram, Judy Oglethorpe, Chief of Party, Hariyo Ban Program highlighted on the objectives and functionality of the workshop. Mr. Shuva K Sharma, Team Leader, Scott Wilson Nepal, gave an overview of the infrastructures under discussion and presented on the key findings of the study focused on two landscapes: Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), streching from the Bagmati River in the east to the border with India in the west and Chitwan-Annapurna Landscape (CHAL), encompassing the Kali Gandaki river basin in Nepal.
As a representative from The Small Earth Nepal (SEN), I had an opportunity to interact in the consultation during which the issues regarding East West Railway, Tunnel road, Fast Tracks, Hydropower developments within ACAP region, Kaligandaki Corridor Road, Postal Roads, Irrigation schemes in TAL areas, Airport expansion areas, Transmission lines, Rural roads, Sand and Gravel extraction, Oil and Gas exploration and extraction were discussed. Though it focused on different ongoing and proposed infrastructure, URBANIZATION was missing, which in my view was the critical aspect of development that is highly influenced by the constructional work carried out in the country. When remote or rural areas are supposed to have a new infrastructure, it means they are in a transitional phase to be transformed into urban areas and we talk about sustainable development. My only question regarding it was has the study of urbanization done in those areas? As we know whenever there is construction, there is destruction as well which might have bigger impacts on the livelihood of the people as they highly depend on the agriculture and forests. Whenever, the road has been constructed, the settlement has been increased in those areas and there are changes in land use patterns. So, it is very important to have a study on urbanization and human settlement management before implementation of such projects.
Moreover, the discussion also highlighted that there is communication gap between local people and project management due to which local people are not provided employment as committed before the implementation of the projects. This mean, such infrastructures also have greater impact on economic aspects which may prevail people to migrate for jobs. My additional comment was on title of the program, where I recommended to change it to “Environmental and Socio-economic Impacts of Large Infrastructures in Nepal”. Following my points, there were additional points regarding the study on demographic characteristics, human demand, industrial zones, eco-tourism, wildlife crime and negotiation within policy makers.
Though we talk a lot on sustainable development, somewhere corruption and political influence have always been obstacle for the sustainability of such projects. There is high demand low budget, lack of technical resource person, skill mis-match, weak supervision, lack of awareness in communities, lack of reliable EIA report (most of which are cut and pasted) and need of monitoring and evaluation system.
Now we need not the only infrastructures but climate resilient infrastructures. There is need of cooperation in between related stakeholders on the cross-cutting issues which have been the major obstacle for the development of infrastructures in Nepal. The program was adjourned with the conclusion to incorporate all the issues raised and discussed in the final report. Hariyo Ban team will take necessary actions accordingly with all the recommendations.
However, I realized young people participation in such types of consultation is very crucial when it is all about development.