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For a country like Nepal, the global climate has emerged as one of the biggest threats. While the Himalayan nation’s contribution to the worldwide greenhouse gas emission is negligible, the country finds itself surrounded by a number of global warming-induced challenges.

Saurav Dhakal is an entrepreneur and a climate activist whose focus has been on green investment to help create a resilient and sustainable economy. His business ventures include StoryCycle, an alternative media platform, and GreenGrowth.life, an e-commerce platform for locally-sourced organic food. In a conversation with the HRM, Dhakal talked about the impacts of climate change, sustainability and how his ventures are working toward sustainability and climate change actions. Excerpts:

Q: As someone practicing sustainable farming and development, how do you see the challenges of climate change for a country like Nepal?
The melting of glaciers in the Himalayas which are the source of many of Nepal’s rivers is causing water scarcity and reducing the availability of water for agriculture, drinking, and hydropower.

Climate change is affecting agriculture in Nepal, causing crop failures, decreased yields, and reduced food security. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods are becoming more frequent and intense. It is also exacerbating the frequency and severity of natural disasters such as landslides, flash floods, and glacial lake outburst floods in Nepal. This puts the lives and livelihoods of millions of people at risk.

On the other hand, climate change is having a significant impact on health in Nepal, particularly through the spread of water-borne and vector-borne diseases, as well as air pollution from the increased use of fossil fuels.

We are also seeing the impacts of climate change on the unique biodiversity of Nepal, including the loss of endemic species, changes in migration patterns of animals, and the degradation of critical habitat. Its impact is also seen in tourism in sector as popular trekking routes and destinations are becoming less accessible due to the impacts of glacial melt and natural disasters.

These challenges call for urgent actions for Nepal to address climate change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the resilience of communities and ecosystems.

How is climate change affecting agriculture and the livelihood of the people relying on agriculture in Nepal?
As climate change is leading to changes in temperature and rainfall patterns in Nepal, which are causing crop failures, decreased yields, and reduced food security. This is particularly affecting small-scale farmers who rely on rainfall for irrigation and have limited resources to adapt to these changes. The exacerbation of soil degradation is reducing the productivity of agricultural land and making it more difficult for farmers to grow crops.

We are also experiencing an increased frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, which are causing significant damage to crops and reducing yields. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns are also leading to an increase in pest and disease outbreaks, which are affecting crop productivity and food security.

These challenges are having a significant impact on the livelihoods of people who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. It has now become important for Nepal to take action to support the adaptation of agriculture to the impacts of climate change and to promote sustainable and resilient agricultural practices.

What should be our strategies for both long and short terms to face the challenges?
Both short-term and long-term strategies are needed to address the challenges posed by climate change in Nepal.

Short-term strategies:

  1. Climate-resilient agriculture: Promoting climate-resilient agricultural practices, such as drought-tolerant crops, rainwater harvesting, and soil conservation measures, can help farmers adapt to changing climate conditions and maintain food security.
  2. Disaster risk reduction: Strengthening disaster risk reduction measures, such as early warning systems, evacuation plans, and infrastructure development, can help reduce the impacts of extreme weather events and protect lives.
  3. Renewable energy: Increasing the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
  4. Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan: Promoting Walking, Cycling, and Public Vehicles in Cities

Long-term strategies:

  1. Low-carbon development: Encouraging low-carbon development and transitioning to a green economy can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
  2. Climate-smart forestry: Implementing climate-smart forestry practices, such as reforestation and agroforestry, can help sequester carbon and promote sustainable land use.
  3. Sustainable tourism: Encouraging sustainable tourism practices, such as eco-tourism and sustainable transport, can help reduce the carbon footprint of the tourism sector.
  4. Climate education and awareness: Raising awareness and educating the public on the impacts of climate change and the importance of taking action.
  5. International cooperation: Nepal should also actively participate in international cooperation on climate change, including through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to access resources, technology and support to address climate change.

These strategies should be integrated and implemented in a comprehensive and participatory manner, involving all relevant stakeholders, including government agencies, civil society organizations, and the private sector.

Do you think the government’s overall development policy has prioritized climate change? Are there any missing links in our policy approach? 
While the Nepal government has taken some steps to address the impacts of climate change and promote sustainable development, the issue of climate change has not been fully integrated into the country’s overall development policy. Climate change is still often seen as a secondary or separate issue, rather than a central component of Nepal’s development strategy.

There are several missing links in the current policy approach to climate change in Nepal. One major gap is a lack of investment in low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure and development projects. Another issue is the limited capacity of government agencies and institutions to implement and enforce policies and regulations related to climate change.

There is also a lack of coordination between different government agencies and stakeholders. It is crucial that the government takes a more integrated and holistic approach, involving all relevant stakeholders and sectors.

How can it be possible for Nepal to move toward a ‘green economy’?
Moving toward a green economy in Nepal will require a number of actions that include:

  1. Promoting renewable energy: Nepal has significant potential for renewable energy, including hydropower, solar, wind, and biomass. The government can encourage the development of these sources of energy through policies and incentives to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.
  2. Encouraging energy efficiency: Improving energy efficiency in buildings, industry, and transportation can help reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The government can encourage energy-efficient practices through building codes, energy labeling, and incentives for energy-efficient technologies.
  3. Supporting sustainable agriculture: Promoting sustainable agricultural practices, such as agroforestry and organic farming, can help increase food security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve biodiversity. The government can support these practices through policies, technical assistance, and investment in rural development.
  4. Developing sustainable transportation: The government can support sustainable transportation through investment in infrastructure, promotion of non-motorized transportation, and incentives for clean vehicles.
  5. Protecting and restoring ecosystems: Protecting and restoring ecosystems, such as forests, wetlands, and mangroves, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve biodiversity, and support sustainable livelihoods.
  6. Promoting sustainable tourism: Encouraging sustainable tourism practices, such as eco-tourism and community-based tourism, can provide economic benefits while minimizing the environmental impacts of tourism. The government can support sustainable tourism through policies and investment in infrastructure, as well as promoting environmentally-friendly practices among tour operators and tourists.

These actions will require significant investment, technical assistance, and policy support from the government and the private sector, as well as the active participation of communities and civil society organizations.

What is needed for the private sector’s participation in this regard? What are the long-term benefits for businesses to go green?
A supportive policy and investment framework are needed for the private sector to participate in the transition to a green economy in Nepal. The government can provide tax incentives, subsidies, and other forms of financial support to encourage private sector investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable agriculture.

The government should also focus on providing a stable policy environment by setting clear and consistent policies, regulations, and standards related to the environment and sustainability. This will help businesses plan and invest with confidence. The state can encourage public-private partnerships in the development and implementation of green projects, such as renewable energy, sustainable tourism, and conservation programs.

The long-term benefits of going green in Nepal are immense. Adaptation of sustainable practices and technologies can help businesses improve their competitiveness by reducing costs, improving efficiency, and enhancing their reputation. Sustainability-focused products and services are becoming increasingly in demand globally, providing new opportunities for businesses to reach new markets and customers.

In conclusion, private sector’s engagement is critical for the success of green economy in Nepal, and the government can play a key role in creating a supportive environment for this engagement to happen.

How do you view/review the Nepal government’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2040 when the government itself is promoting fossil fuels by extending the construction of a petroleum pipeline?
The commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2040 is a commendable goal for the government, but its promotion of fossil fuels through the construction of a petroleum pipeline does run counter to this goal. Achieving net zero emissions will require significant changes in the country’s energy mix and reducing its dependence on fossil fuels.

To align its actions with its stated goal, the government could consider alternative energy sources, such as hydropower, wind, solar, and geothermal energy, which are abundant in Nepal and have significant potential for growth. Additionally, the government could invest in energy efficiency measures and promote energy conservation to reduce energy demand.

It’s also important to consider the impact of these actions on the country’s economy, energy security, and access to energy for all citizens. A comprehensive approach that takes these factors into account will be needed to ensure a successful transition to a low-carbon, green economy in Nepal. While the government’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2040 is important, it’s important for its actions to align with this goal and to take a comprehensive approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting clean energy in Nepal.

The political leadership has not considered climate change and its effects as the agenda of Nepal’s development. Why the issue of climate change is not a priority of Nepali politics? Is it because political leadership does not have enough information and interest in it?
The issue of climate change is a complex and multi-faceted challenge that requires sustained attention and action from political leaders. To ensure that climate change becomes a priority in Nepali politics, it will be important to increase awareness and education about the issue, allocate sufficient resources, and engage a wider range of stakeholders in the dialogue and decision-making process.

There could be several reasons why the issue of climate change has not been a priority in Nepali politics. As climate change is a complex and multi-faceted issue, it is possible that the political leadership in Nepal may not have sufficient information and understanding about its impacts and the need for action. Addressing the issue of climate change requires significant financial and human resources, and it may be difficult for the government to allocate the necessary resources to address this issue when it is facing so many other pressing challenges. Political leaders in Nepal, like many other countries, are more focused on short-term political gains rather than long-term solutions. Climate change can be seen as a low priority compared to other issues that have more immediate political benefits.

Your ventures are promoting climate actions and sustainability. How does it work?  
I am working via different platforms. StoryCycle is my primary platform. The “Story Cycle” is a term that refers to a process of using stories to raise awareness and engage people on the issue of the environment and climate action. The basic idea behind the Story Cycle is to collect, share, and use stories to inspire and motivate individuals, communities, and organizations to take action on the issue of climate change. The steps in the Story Cycle typically include:

  1. Collection of Stories: The first step is to gather stories from individuals and communities who have been affected by climate change, or who have taken action to reduce their carbon footprint and address climate change. These stories can be collected through various methods, such as interviews, surveys, and community workshops.
  2. Sharing of Stories: The next step is to share the collected stories with a wider audience. This can be done through various channels, such as social media, websites, and community events. The goal is to reach as many people as possible and to inspire them to take action on the issue of climate change.
  3. Reflection and Analysis: The third step is to reflect on and analyze the stories that have been collected and shared. This helps to identify common themes and trends and to understand the impact that climate change is having on individuals and communities.
  4. Action: The final step is to use the stories to inspire and motivate individuals, communities, and organizations to take action on the issue of climate change. This can include taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, supporting policies and initiatives that address climate change, and advocating for greater action on the issue.

The Story Cycle is a powerful tool for raising awareness and engaging people on the issue of the environment and climate action. By collecting, sharing, and reflecting on stories, the Story Cycle helps to inspire and motivate individuals and communities to take action and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Using the storytelling and mapping tools we are working on, The “Our Dream Cities” campaign is a specific initiative aimed at promoting sustainable urban development and addressing the challenges of climate change in cities. The main objective of the campaign is to inspire and motivate city leaders, urban planners, and communities to work together to create sustainable, resilient, and livable cities.

We operate GreenGrowth.life, an online marketplace that sources and sells organically grown and sustainably produced products.

Green Growth has been promoting Local/Organic/Healthy vegetables, fruits, and value-added products. How did this idea of “directly linking the producers to the consumers” by using new media and technology come?
The idea of directly linking producers to consumers, known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing, has been growing in popularity in recent years and is particularly relevant to the promotion of local, organic, and healthy products. We are evolving our idea since 2016 and learning about this. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the source and quality of the food they eat and are seeking more information about the products they purchase. Our marketing allows producers to provide this information directly to consumers, increasing transparency and building trust. We have been working on a traceability application where consumers can scan QR code to find the origin of products.

The growth of the internet and digital technologies has made it easier for producers to reach consumers directly. Online platforms, social media, and mobile apps allow producers to connect with consumers, share information about their products, and build a loyal customer base.

Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in local and organic products, and are seeking out alternatives to mass-produced, processed foods. Our platform provides a way for producers of local, organic, and healthy products to connect with consumers who are seeking these products.

It is difficult to determine the overall impact of marketing on the promotion of local, organic, and healthy products, however, it is clear that our platform has had a positive impact on many small and medium-sized producers, who have been able to build relationships with consumers and increase sales through direct marketing efforts.