The ‘Make Nepal Green’ conference highlights the importance of self-reliance and renewable energy development.
Chinese solar entrepreneur, Huang Min. Pic: Gopen Rai
It was always important for Nepal to have environmentally-sustainable development, but there is an added sense of urgency because of the earthquake and blockade as the country rebuilds.
Which is why self-reliance and renewable energy development were key themes of the ‘Make Nepal Green’ conference in Kathmandu this week.
The conference piggybacks on a reunion of recipients of the The Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize) that recognises individuals who have pioneered groundbreaking solutions to national problems. It was first presented in Sweden in 1980, with subsequent awardees in fields such as environmental protection, human rights, sustainable development, education and health.
Shrikrishna Upadhyay, himself the first Nepali recipient of the award in 2010, hosted the event. He was honoured for a lifetime of work on micro-credit and rural development through his NGO, Support Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal (SAPPROS).
Shrikrishna Upadhyay (left) with Chinese entrepreneur Huang Ming. Pic: Kunda Dixit
“It is a great honour for us to be holding this conference, and our Kathmandu Declaration will send out a strong message that being green is not an alternative anymore, it is a mainstream concept,” Upadhyay said.
Also present was noted Chinese solar entrepreneur, Huang Ming (pic, above) who won the Right Livelihood Award in 2011. Recipients like the Ladakh Ecological Development Group and the Seikatsu Club Consumer’s Cooperative of Japan were also represented.
“If China develops with the same energy-intensive economic model as the West, we would need the natural resources of five planets to sustain it,” Huang told Nepali Times in an interview at the sidelines of the conference. “The future is in decentralised solar systems that address wastage of energy as well as renewable energy generation.”
Huang Ming’s Hi-min Company manufactures and promotes stand-alone solar systems for homes, hotels, businesses with the motto ‘Blue Sky for Our Children’. He is worried about deteriorating air quality in cities across Asia, including Kathmandu and says this calls for a paradigm shift in government policy for economic growth.
“Energy saving is not about saving money, it is about saving lives,” Huang Ming said.
Also attending the conference was Monica Griefahn, former member of the German parliament from the Green Party and currently Chair of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. She said she was very happy to bring Right Livelihood laureates to Kathmandu. “The key to self-reliance is participation of people in decision-making in a democracy,” Griefahn said, “and that can only happen when the public puts pressure on government and parliament to implement green policies that benefit communities in the longterm.”
Monica Griefahn, former member of the German parliament from the Green Party and currently Chair of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. Pic: Yu Wei Liew
The conference also heard success stories of community-based efforts, like those introduced by SAPPROS in Nepal, to achieve sustainable infrastructure development, employment, income generation and public awareness, keeping hundreds of thousands of people in rural Nepal gainfully employed.
On the second day of the conference, Huang revealed upcoming plans for solar projects in Nepal. The entrepreneur, who showcased innovative solar products during the seminar, said the plans would serve the needs of the rural poor and social entrepreneurs.
No alternative to alternative energy, Bhrikuti Rai
Budgeting for energy self-reliance, Sujit Acharya
The sun is free for everyone but not for Nepalis, Adam Friedsohn