Thousands of people gather every year at UN climate negotiation forums and discuss how to tackle climate change – one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century, according to scientists and leaders. It’s not a new story, as people have been debating on the issue for the last two decades globally but failed to reach a consensus on how to move forward to tackle the problem by reducing the emission of carbon dioxide gas—a major culprit for global warming.
The science of climate change says that due to the massive developmental works by the developed countries in the past one century, the emission of greenhouse gases—the gas that helps to increase the surface temperature of the earth – increased, resulting in an unusual increase of the Earth’s temperature, threatening the only habitable planet. The change in temperature changes weather patterns, rainfall patterns resulting into negative effects to agriculture and many other sectors.
But those who are at the forefronts of climate change and would be affected most are unaware of what’s happening at global and national level and the science of climate change. More than 100 people whom I interviewed while traveling in many parts of the country said they haven’t heard the word in their entire life. Those interviewed ranged from pedestrians to porters and farmers to drivers. Not only that they don’t know about climate change, almost all said they don’t know whether there is Ministry of Environment in the country or not.
The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology is the focal ministry to deal on climate change, especially at international forums and national policy level. There is the Climate Change Council headed by the Prime Minister, a separate division at the Environment Ministry to look over the issues and dozens of million-dollar projects already completed and more in the pipeline. There is no donor agency which may not have worked on climate change and hundreds of NGOs working on it. But with that influx of money on advocacy and awareness in the last one decade, the information has not reached to those who are really in the need.
Nepal has been categorized as the 4th most vulnerable country in the world due to climate change, glacier melt in unusually rapid in recent years, and rainfall pattern is said to be changing. However, most people in the country were found totally uninformed about what’s happening at the global and national level on climate change talks despite the large amounts of money spent by national and international agencies, including Nepal Government.
One cold November morning at the foothills of Shivapuri National Park on the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley, Kanchhi Tamang of Arkhauli Village in Nuwakot District was worried about some tablets of cetamol she needed for her daughter. Forget about climate change and government initiatives, she doesn’t even know that her government provides some essential drugs free of cost in the health post.
Nor does Nawaraj Adhikari of Jhor Village in the outskirts of Kathmandu Valley know what the government is doing or where international negotiations are heading to. Even people at the outskirts of the capital are unaware of one of the most debated and challenging problems of this century—climate change.
“I don’t know any activities of anybody, including the government, but there has been massive change in weather pattern, and the availability of water is declining,” said Tamang who instead asked this reporter where she can get a few tablets of cetamol as her daughter is suffering from fever.
For experts, there are too many documents to read, for government agencies and other civil society organizations, there are lots of issues to be raised at international forums, for international community there are lots of economic and political agenda on climate change. But for the people who are most vulnerable to changing climate, it is one of the many unheard or untold stories.
Nawaraj Adhikari works as a guard of the National Park in Shivapuri. He was a professional hunter for the royal family before monarchy was abolished in the country.
“My entire life remained very close to forests. What I feel is there has been significant changes in weather and the winter days are hotter than those we felt a few decades ago and summers are getting much hotter,” said he. But he doesn’t know why it’s happenng. There were others in the village who also feel the same.
Murari Lamichhane owns a motorbike workshop in Jhor Village and he also feels the same. “Our parents used to say that they had to sell oxen and buy blankets even during summer. But now children play in T-shirts in September and October,” added Lamichhane.
From the the capital city, let’s move to Sindhupalchowk, only a few hours’ drive from Kathmandu. In Melamchi, some farmers/porters were found carrying milk to the dairy. Totally soaked in sweat, they were on a short rest in the morning while heading to Melamchi Bazaar.
Dip Bahadur Thapa and Jit Bahadur Thapa are farmers from Jyamire Village in Sindhupalchowk. They collect milk from the villagers and carry it to Melamchi Bazaar everyday for which they earn Rs 200 per day.
“We don’t know anything about climate change initiatives, nor have we been informed through any means from the government or other organizations,” both said. “There’s been huge change in the weather system and we can feel that. But we don’t know why it’s happening. May be god is angry and he wants this earth to be collapsed,” Jit Bahadur said in a fading voice.
For the last two decades, the world is discussing carbon dioxide which is the major responsible gas for global warming. Scientists have confirmed and advised governments globally to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide as soon as possible to save the planet. But Melamchi folks are predicting it as god’s work.
Moving northward from Melamchi to Nepal China border in Tatopani Bazaar, Sonam Sherpa is much worried about the hassles created by the border police both in Nepal and China rather than climate change. Scientists have been reiterating that mountains with icecaps would soon turn into rocks if the temperature increases at the same trend. But the folks at the foothills are rather worried about the business.
“What is climate change? I don’t know anything,” Sherpa said. Himalayan glaciers are the mostly debated issue globally by the media and scientists. But those at the foothills, the mountain people are totally unaware of what the global community is talking about their landscapes.
From the Nepal-China border, moving downhill to the plains of the southern parts of Nepal bordering with India, the condition is the same. In Chitwan District that also borders with India, there is high flow of tourists at the entrance of the Chitwan National Park in Sauraha—one of the major touristic hubs in the country.
Hiralal Chaudhary has a cart and looks a bit happy as the tourist season has just started. “Maybe I can earn a bit more and feed my family,” said Chadhary.
During the five-kilometer drive on his cart, I asked him many questions regarding climate change, government programs, and international negotiations and about the money the country has been receiving in the name of climate change. But he said he didn’t know anything as it wasn’t his concern. “No one has told me anything about it. And why should I care?” he said.
Some US$700 million has been received by Nepal from donor agencies on climate change in the last one decade and most of the projects were focused on awareness and advocacy.
As per the report, “Future of Climate Finance in Nepal,” more than 50% of the total money invested in climate change was spent on awareness and advocacy but the real victims –the poorest in the country – are fully unaware of the money spent, or the programs launched in their names.
If you look into it, the government has already prepared a document called National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) and endorsed by the Cabinet two years ago. Climate change policy has already been approved by the government. Many other documents have been prepared for each project but people who should have received money to fight against climate change have not even received information that could help them plan to adapt in changing climate.
The writer is the Social Bureau coordinator at Republica.