Notes from Nepal: Teaching Climate Change in the Himalayas
“There is no finer temple than nature, and man is closer to his god when calmly enjoying the glories and grandeurs of enchanting scenery of the green forests, high peaks of the mountains and flowing rivers, than in any man-made lofty shrine.” — King Mahendra, Nepal (1920–1972)
Nepal has an amazing range and variety of fauna and flora. In this country, the vegetation of the east and west Himalayas meet. As one proceeds across Nepal from east to west, there is a gradual change in the forest at any particular altitude.
Owing to its geography and the great variety of plant and animal life, Nepal could rightly be called Nature’s Paradise. This developing country is still virgin territory for the study of the environment and its exploitation for human use, because a great percentage of the total population depends upon the natural resources for their livelihood.
As part of my Master of Science program at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, I will soon be heading to Lamjung district, which is a catchment area of Annapurna Conservation Area. I will be traveling with four classmates to make a presentation about climate change to uneducated people living in rural areas. We’ll also find out how much they know about climate change and its effects.
Annapurna Conservation Area encompasses the Annapurna range and its adjoining areas in western Nepal. It is bounded to the north, by dry alpine desert of Mustang District and by Tibet; to the west, by Kali Gandaki River; to the east, by Marsyangdi Valley; and to the south, by the Pokhara Valley and the foothills leading to Pokhara, the nearest town. Pokhara is some 30 km to the south. It is the largest conservation area in Nepal and covers an area of 7,629 sq. km.
In excess of 45,000 foreign trekkers visit Annapurna Conservation Area each year. More than 120,000 people of various ethnic groups inhabit the 59 village development committees in the region.
Most of the inhabitants are subsistence farmers, dependent on the natural resources of the area and using traditional land-management practices. Annapurna Conservation Area project has its main emphasis on natural resource management, promotion of tourism through local participation, and conservation education.
Over the next five or six years, my fellow students and I will carry out studies on forest conservation, alternative energy, conservation education, tourist awareness programs, community development projects, community health and sanitation, research, and training. These programs are supported by both government and non-government organizations.
Our study group will be staying at Khudi, a small village in Lamjung. We will organize a one-day public discussion program for the local people to talk about environmental issues. Climate change will be our top priority this time.
Afterward, we will draw conclusions about what we have learned there. We will also give our recommendations about how to increase participation in conservation programs and environmental issues.
In the coming weeks, I will be reporting about our progress. I look forward to sharing my story with you.
“The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness that makes no demand for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its activity: it affords protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axe man who destroys it.” — Gautam Buddha.
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