It is no secret that Nepal is already witnessing the effects of climate change. From prolonged droughts to depleting harvest and melting glaciers of the Himalayas, the nation is sitting on a ticking clock when it comes to global warming.
Anna-Katarina Gravgaard, recipient of Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting grant, notes the effects of climate change as seen in the mountainous Langtang region of Nepal.
“residents see the impacts of climate change all around them: in the less abundant grass, the meager snowfall and the massive gray glaciers steadily retreating up the craggy mountainside.
In June, we left Kathmandu by jeep, then spent three days hiking to find the nearest glacier. Our guide, Damondon Pyakurel, or DP, told us that the wall of ice above us had receded up to 20 meters since he first saw it 17 years ago.”
To highlight the pressure felt by the Himalayas because of climate change, the Nepalese cabinet held a meeting near Everest base camp days before Copenhagen summit. Blogger Ujjwal Acharya at The Radiant Star praised the meeting, and said that disaster is waiting to happen in the Himalayan region if things are taken care of promptly:
“The first and foremost important is it generated the awareness about melting of Himalaya. A few years back, there were a lot of concern (media coverage) about Cho Rolpa lake which was on the verge of exploding and if that had happened, there could have been a big problem in quite a large area – places on the banks of river Tamakoshi. The risk was reduced spending a good sum of money. But there are some other such lakes high on the Himalaya that could break free and flood into us.”
Unfortunately, the Nepalese cabinet was unable to keep the message of the meeting intact and show same level of urgency when they headed off to Copenhagen.
Nepali language blog MySansar says that Nepalese delegation was filled with ministers, advisers and family members of officials who had no business attending the conference as part of a nation’s official delegation.
“कोपनहेगनमा जलवायु परिवर्तनसम्बन्धी सम्मेलन के सुरु भएको थियो, नेपालका मन्त्रीहरुको भीड नै लागेको छ त्यहाँ। आठ आठ जना मन्त्रीहरु सहभागी भएर गतिलै सन्देश दिँदैछन् नेपाली जनतालाई- हेर जनता हो, हामी माननीय मन्त्री हौँ। हामीले जे गरे पनि हुन्छ। नत्र विभागीय मन्त्रीका रुपमा वातावरण मन्त्री र प्रधानमन्त्री मात्र सहभागी भए पुग्ने थियो यसमा। अरु मन्त्रीहरुको कामै छैन। तर प्रधानमन्त्री आफ्ना सल्लाहकारहरुसहित झण्डै तीन दर्जन सदस्यहरुका साथ कोपनहेगन पुग्दैछन्। पाँच जना मन्त्री भने त्यहाँ पुगिसके। त्यसमध्ये एक वनमन्त्री दीपक बोहोराले भने अति नै गरेछन्।
उनले आफ्नी श्रीमति, नाति, भान्जी अनि आफू नजिकका मान्छेलाई सेक्रेटरीका रुपमा ल्याएछन्। अहो, यस्तो मौका फेरि आउला, नआउला। यही बेला त हो नि मोज गर्ने- यस्तै त सोचेका होलान् नि बोहोराले। र त नौ नौ जना आफन्त लिएर पुगे त्यता।”
Just as climate change summit in Copenhagen has started, Nepalese ministers are rushing to the Danish capital. Eight ministers participating in the conference are sending strong message to the people-look at us, we are ministers. We can do whatever we want. Otherwise, only the Prime Minister and Minister for Environment’s participation at the conference should have sufficed. But the Prime Minister is heading off to Copenhagen with nearly three dozen participants – some are his advisers. Five minister have already reached Copenhagen. One of them, Minister for Forests Deepak Bohara is doing something more.
His wife, grandson, niece and people close to him are accompanying the minister as his secretary. One may not get opportunity like this. Bohara must have thought this is the time to relax and have fun. And that is why he is taking nine close relatives to Copenhagen.
The careless attitude of the ministers who treated the conference as an opportunity to travel abroad in tax payer’s money no doubt has hurt Nepal’s position in global climate change debate. It has also cast doubt over effectiveness of global summit like Copenhagen 2009.
Previously published at Global Voices Online, 2009