Nepali Times
Economic Sense
Sustainable development


When the Prime Minister and his jumbo Copenhagen entourage ensured that the Kathmandu airport was blocked for two hours, one imagines wasn't mulling how he was about to contribute to the nation's carbon footprint. While we love slogans on sustainability, our actions show that we are yet to give up the practices of the monarchs, and perhaps outdo them as well.

Nepalis love junkets and consultations and every new word creates new opportunities. Hundreds made it to Rio in 1992, other hundreds made to Jo'burg in 2002 and hundreds more have made it to Copenhagen. Crowding the bars in Copenhagen and discussing politics till the wee hours, however, is not going to get us solutions. We don't even know how many Nepalis are actually presenting papers, how many people are writing for international audiences, and how many are willing to practice what they preach.

Buzzwords such as sustainable development, climate change and carbon footprint need to be understood in the context they are being used in. In the recently released Superfreakonomics, the authors cite examples of how, back in the day, New York's horse carriages were considered an environmental menace because of the dung, disease and noise they produced. When fuel-fired automobiles were introduced, they were considered saviours. Today, this role has been usurped by electric and natural gas-fired vehicles.

So when we use these words in a Nepali context, we need to look at how we understand and internalise them. For instance, the green stickers we use to certify that our vehicles meet pollution standards are basically an over-the-counter purchase of a certification, like many government approvals. But as the idea was conceived and pushed by donors, we take it as something imported and have not internalised the rationale. How to make our drivers understand that they are responsible for ensuring that their vehicles pollute less is perhaps more important than filling seminar halls at five-star hotels.

Similarly, how do we ensure that the parents who look on idly as their kids litter the streets with empty noodle packets teach them that this is wrong? Look at the civic conduct of those who give lectures on environment and sustainability. How many of them know what is happening to the trash that is being generated at home, how many of them toss cigarette butts everywhere after a few drinks, and how many of them are aware of the carbon footprint of all their junkets?

Nepal's economic growth trajectory has been punctured by those who adopt words but don't internalise their meaning. Like the slogans that we used to chant for the kings not knowing why, we keep on adopting newer slogans to chant. The fact that we have not been able to internalise the words 'conflict resolution' means we have a society traumatised by violence. The fact that we have not been able to internalise the words 'labour rights' means both employees and employers are busy destroying enterprises. The fact that we have not been able to internalise 'inclusion' means we are limited to ticking boxes whenever we want participants from supposedly excluded classes. Hopefully, we will learn from our past mistakes and explore ways to actually internalise sustainable development and climate change issues, or we will simply abandon these concepts once new slogans and new junkets make themselves available.

1. Lal
They did not go there to present any papers nor participate in any discussions. They just went there for free holiday taking their families with them. I'm sure non of these politicians have any in-depth knowledge of Climate change and its impact on the flour and fauna of Nepal.

2. Sargam
Out of 193 countries, as Gordon Brown mentioned, there were a package of them over there in Copenhagen to hold ransom against the rich. Anyway, 100 billion USD per year until 2020 is quite a sum, but where would they get that sum of money as there are a bevy of climate change collateral damages to be taken care of. Himalayan and Andy's glacier meltdown will soak a negligeable sum but much will be spent on reparing the deforestation of Amazony, Africa and Indonesian and Borneo deforestation to avert the implatation of coconut trees. Will there be sufficient money for sustainable and renewable powerhouses in Solar, Wind, Hydro or other non-fossil ways and means to produce power? And to arrive at maintaining the temperature rise less than 2

3. jange
"Nepalis love junkets and consultations and every new word creates new opportunities. " As a beed, and a beed on Artha at that you should be pleased that Nepalis have been successful in any field. Junkets are an economic activity in themselves, as is the development business- new slogans, new formulas, new concepts, new marketing techniques, whatever. I am really pleased that 600 Nepalis made it to the Copenhagen climate fest. Think of the marketing skills that went into getting 600 delegates to Copenhagen!! I would not be surprised if Nepal had the highest number on a delegate per population basis. This is a tribute to the entreprenerial skills of Nepalis. You should be encouraging Nepalis to take advantage of this market. I guess this market runs in the 10s of billions of dollars. Your tone is less than enthusiastic and that is sad. I hope it is not sour grapes and that you did not make it to Copenhagen. Don't worry, I hear thre is another one coming up in New Mexico. New Mexico is better than Copenhagen in winter anyway- and those senoritas....... what can I say?

4. Naresh Neupane
Cheers for writing so plain.I know the remarks are genuine.theytalk of ours ways and cultures.But columnist better oblige that nothing is gonna be at hand simply criticizing policymakers and mollifying readers.Culture breeds habit and i could never believe we are bad cultured,short tempered and all SLOGANISTIC.This is a failed stature of common beliefs and our faded past.You dont talk so exceptionally about superfreakonomics and more so talk of our ways.This sort of fiasco to Nepali writer,aggravated with megalomaniac tone is eqal or just a less short of our leaders.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)