HCI's CEO and Founder Prashant Singh explains GHT-CSCT
The Kathmandu Post, February 15, 2012
Fighting for the world, not just Nepal
Dozens of houses have been badly damaged with their roofs blown off by the storm on February 8, 2012; hundreds of trees have been knocked down; electricity lines as well as mobile phone towers have been destroyed. It is for the first time in living memory that such a strong storm has hit the Everest region," reports renowned mountaineer Apa Sherpa (who has climbed Mt Everest a record 21 times), as he walks the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT). The trail will take him to the entire stretch of Nepal’s Himalayas in search of the pains and perils of the communities living in the region in the wake of climate change. Apa and his entourage are walking the 1,700 km long route in 120 days.
The journey started in Ghunsa, Taplejung on January 15. In the first month itself, the team encountered many cases of rural challenges that could be attributed to the effects of climate change. The tea farmers in Ilam, for instance, are complaining of reduced productivity. Similar woes abound in Taplejung and Sankhuwasabha with regards to cardamom and orange crops. These products are literally the life-lines of local economies; their failure would wreak havoc on the already poverty-stricken hinterlands of Nepal. In Khandbari, at the local press interaction session with Apa, a teacher gets emotional and speaks at length of the disappearance of pani makai, a species—he claims —found only in their locality.
In Nepal, the study of climate science, even at the national level, remains sketchy, which means that those trying to deny links between the above mentioned cases and climate change are at a big advantage compared to those who are trying to connect these dots to make a credible argument for assistance. It is morally wrong, and outright impracticable for the world to put the onus of scientific investigation on already-impoverished peasants and labourers suffering from various problems. Given the extreme geographical variations and the huge dependency of its people on natural resources, Nepal would continue to need the support of the wider world in investigating the impacts of, and finding solutions to, climate change.
What is ironic is that climate change has a global origin, and the people living in the villages in the Himalayas, who have hardly contributed to this problem, are found bearing the brunt of its effects. Driven by their religion, culture and social beliefs, these people go about protecting their loved ones, material belongings and livelihoods as their solemn duty just as their ancestors did years ago. The colossal magnitude of the climate change problem is still therefore not recognised to its full extent—many still attribute them to the fury of the gods and look for solutions in religious interventions. Their ignorance is serving them well in the short run as it gives them hope, but these challenges are only bound to get worse. It is for this reason that Apa and his entourage are walking the GHT, to raise awareness among the villagers about the global nature of this problem and to help prepare them for the battle ahead.
Besides the moral imperative, there is another, for the wider world to lend assistance to facilitate climate change adaptation in the Himalayas, particulalry with activities designed to help conserve water and forests. The Himalayas provide water and other environmental services to some 1.5 billion people in Asia. And itis the economic activities in Asia, that are, in many ways, sustaining the global economic growth. The people in the Himalayas continue to be stewards of these gigantic water towers. So, by offering a helping hand to these stewards, the world would be helping itself too.
Assistance can come in many forms, not just financial. Nepal, like other developing countries, lacks the technical human resources to deal with this 21st century problem. While on-site scientific investigations in agrarian Nepal, and engineering and management solutions for the glacial lakes are welcome, Nepal can also benefit from on-line collaborations. Support may come from volunteers using inexpensive technologies without having to physically travel to Nepal, provided we create such platforms.
With the 120-day long trek, four brave Nepalis—Apa Sherpa, Dawa Steven Sherpa, Saurabh Dhakal and Samir Jung Thapa—hope to attract the attention of the global elite to the problems faced by communities in the Himalayas. Their message is clear, "Listen to us, work with us, speak for us. We are not fighting for ourselves. We are fighting for you too." Walking this high-altitude trail, passing through breathtaking landscapes and ancient cultures, the group is also trying to reflect on what is at stake for humanity if we do not deal with the monster of climate change.
As global citizens, we should not want to pass around the blame for what is happening today. Together, humankind has the ability to find solutions to any problem. And it’s only this spirit of camaraderie that will see us through this volatile period. The flawed development model that measures success only by monetary achievements must take into consideration the social and environmental balance sheets of every entity—whether a company, a community or a country. That is the only guarantee to our safe and sustainable future.
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