Chure is not just environmental, but a political issue, experts say
The Chure region is once again at the center of the national debate.
The sudden wave of conversations about Chure, an ecological area important for its environmental services, follows a government decision to allow the export of sand, pebbles and stones.
Point 199 of the fiscal budget presented by Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel on May 29: “Based on an environmental impact assessment, stones, pebbles and sand extracted from mines can be exported to minimize the trade deficit.
The speech is currently focused on how the government’s new decision would lead to enormous environmental degradation and the impact it could have on biodiversity and the ecosystem, ultimately affecting people’s livelihoods. .
However, the question arises as to what actually led to such a decision by the government of the day and why there was no continued debate on the matter, even though Chure and other environmental service providers have been under attack for decades.
Experts say Chure has so far only been seen from an environmental perspective when the environment itself is a big political issue.
Many say that the statements by political parties, with the exception of one that belongs to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, criticizing the government’s decision are a double standard, because they too have done little to make any difference. environment a political issue.
“There should have been a broader political debate on conserving Chure, our future development trajectories through environmentally friendly pathways and how to make our development sustainable,” said Uttam Babu Shrestha, environmentalist and director of Global Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies, a tank thinker based in Kathmandu.
The Chure region, which covers about 12.78 percent of the country’s total land area and on which nearly 60 percent of the country’s population depends, directly and indirectly, for its services, has largely remained outside the region. political speech.
Although it caters to such a large constituency and covers 36 districts of the Chure Belt, the value of the region is still only discussed from an ecological point of view, not a political one, according to experts. .
According to Chandrakishore, a socio-political commentator who closely follows the political and environmental issues of the Tarai, the impact of Chure’s degradation has so far remained limited to individual experiences.
“Problems such as the drying up of water resources and other social and financial hardships due to the exploitation of Chure are discussed by individuals or families. This feeling is not yet socialized. As a result, he failed to gain political ground, ”explains Chandrakishore. “Everyone said ‘conservation, conservation’, but the Chure region failed to get the required commitment at the political level. “
According to Chandrakishore, who is also a journalist, none of the Nepalese parties have made the conservation of Chure their political agenda.
For a large part of Nepalese politicians, the environment is not an issue and they see it as something to be dealt with by environmentalists.
“When we talk about Chure, this is not isolated ground. It should be seen as a complete landscape comprising Chure and the Tarai and Madhes region which is home to nearly 50 percent of the population, ”says Shrestha.. “In addition, it is a habitat for endangered wildlife such as tigers, one-horned rhinos and elephants, among others, as well as other valuable species.”
When Ram Baran Yadav, the first president of Nepal, made protecting the Chure Hills one of his priorities, it was for the first time that it seemed that the environment would soon become an important part of the landscape as well. political speech.
The rampant exploitation of the Chure Range for its resources, mainly sand, pebbles and stones, caught the attention of Yadav, who then informed the government of Chure’s urgent need for conservation. Subsequently, the government proposed the Chairman of the Chure Conservation Program and declared the region “Chure Environmental Protection Area” under the Environmental Protection Act (1997) in 2014.
For its extensive conservation, a powerful “Chairman of Conservation Development Council Chure-Tarai Madhesh has been formed. In june 2016, the Council proposed a period of 20 years Chure-Tarai Madhesh Conservation and Management Master Plan to protect the Chure from further degradation.
However, the agency, which is supposed to keep Chure, has kept an ominous silence on the government’s decision to export sand, pebbles and aggregate.
Instead, after a hubbub, he came up with a statement endorsing the government’s decision.
Holding a press conference on Sunday, eight days after the budget, the council denounced journalists and environmentalists for making a mountain out of a molehill, completely downplaying how exploitation of the Chure Hills can have a global impact on the environment and people.
The agency maintained that the government’s plan to extract and export building materials will not affect the Chure area, which many say is a guess.
Experts say the fundamental problem in Nepal is power, and authorities often tend to trivialize environmental concerns.
The parties, instead of making Chure a strong political stake and pushing for his protection, found it to be a huge source for their own personal gains.
In Nepal, where extractive policy has flourished for several decades, the client-boss relationship has become a new cottage industry. There is no shortage of people who are politicians turned contractors or vice versa.
Experts say if politicians fail to realize that the loss of Chure could impact not only a group of people living downstream but also the entire country, conservation would be a difficult issue.
Environmentalists say the Nepalese politicians’ concept of development is so flawed that they have encouraged bulldozers to raze hills and forests.
that the government wants export natural products “Minimizing the trade deficit” is fair but ludicrous and should be rejected out of hand, experts say. Everyone needs to understand why Chure is such an important part of conserving the country’s environment, according to them.
If Chure loses its forests and sand, boulders, pebbles, and aggregate are mined, the subsequent rains and flooding could wipe out the entire mountain. This means not only losing biodiversity, but also endangering the lives of people living downstream.
Several decades of uncontrolled exploitation of the Chure chain for building materials have already made the region prone to disasters such as landslides and floods.
The deterioration of the range has even left greater impacts on people living downstream in the districts of Tarai, where the effects have spread to their daily lives.
They are battling a severe water crisis, annual flooding and loss of agricultural alluvial land due to sedimentation.
“Digging rivers for sand and stones has disturbed the groundwater in the Tarai region,” says Vijay Singh Danuwar, an environmentalist who has championed the cause of Chure’s conservation for years. “It’s not as simple as saying lose the environment; the impacts on people are immense.
Shrestha agrees that when discussions take place for conserving Chure for its biodiversity and resources, the people who depend on the area should be at the center.
“While we are discussing the degradation of Chure and the potential damage from mining construction materials, no one is talking about what could be alternative building materials instead of sand and stone,” says Shrestha. “We are seeing the same kind of houses being built across the country with cement, which also have environmental impacts. “
Another problem, according to Shrestha, is that everyone is talking but no one is listening.
“Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. It’s not just about sand and stones, ”says Shrestha. “There are hardly any studies on how much deposits of these materials we have and how much we need for our future development aspirations, such as the construction of highways, hydroelectricity and airports. There is no broader discussion of how we can make development sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Environmentalists are unanimous that the country’s natural resources and environment have been hit hard by short-sighted decisions for decades and collusion between politicians and interest groups, who enjoy easy access to the corridors of power.
“There is a huge connection – a union – of people… of entrepreneurs, bureaucrats and politicians and sometimes also some who claim to represent the local media,” says Chandrakishore. “This group of people is reaping the benefits of Chure’s degradation, while endangering not only today’s generation but future generations as well.”
According to Chandrakishore, the exploitation of Chure for personal gain has only worsened over the past 10 to 15 years, although it has long been degraded.
“The Panchayat system destroyed the forests of Charkoshe jhadi while the massive exploitation of the Chure range began after the restoration of the multi-party system in 1990,” explains Chandrakishore. “However, the looting of Chure in an organized and unionized fashion began about a decade ago. Even today, Chure is treated simply as a natural resource site while ignoring its important role in the lives of people and generations.
And now the state is determined to sell it, he says.
“You can make a lot of money by investing little in the extraction of Chure. In addition, loans for the purchase of trucks and excavators are readily available, ”said Chandrakishore. “These sand and aggregate contractors also won the elections and reached the decision-making levels of government. “
Danuwar also believes that the rampant exploitation of natural resources, as seen in the Chure Belt or elsewhere, is happening under political patronage, be it at the local or central level.
After all, politicians and political parties need election funds, Danuwar says.
The power of these groups involved in extracting materials from the riverbeds can be understood by the fact that no one can enter their area, he said.
“Politicians and entrepreneurs have been working together to exploit Chure and other areas for decades,” he says. Entrepreneurs are so powerful that they can change district leaders, ministers, and even police personnel. How is this possible without the support of some powerful politicians?