On January 29th, 2014, the Institute of Crisis Management Studies (ICMS), Plastic Free Himalayas and International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) conducted a policy dialogue symposium on ‘Declare Nepal Himalayas Plastic Bag and Bottle-Free Zone’. The objective of this initiative was to promote a policy recommendation to manage the use of plastic bags and bottles in Nepal’s National parks and trekking areas. Chaired by Dr. Ram Thapaliya and Lt. Gen.(Retd) Bala Nanda Sharma of ICMS in two different sessions, more than 100 participants from a variety of backgrounds and concern stakeholders supported the event, with presentations and speeches.
Representatives of all stakeholders attended the symposium: government agencies by Dr. Sumitra Amitaya (Executive Director of Solid Waste Management Technical Support Centre), Mr. Govinda Prasad Kharel (Assistant Secretary for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment) ; foreign embassies with Mrs. V.Corteval (France) and Mr. S.Velichkin (Russia) ; experts such as Dr. Bernard Amadei (US Science Envoy); scholars with Prof. Surendra Kafle (Vice chancellor Nepal Academy of Science and Technology) and Mr. Ram Thapaliya (Chairman of ICMS) ; as well as representatives from the National Parks, TAAN, various NGOs and International Mountaineering Association, Mr.Ang Tsering Sherpa.
The symposium concentrated on opening the dialogue on waste management in mountain (trekking, expeditions, National Parks) areas on :“How to address waste management issue and the basic needs of local populations, while facing an increasing number of trekkers/visitors and preserving the pristine and fragile Himalayan ecosystem for the future?”
A wide consensus was reached on suggesting that a ban of any form of plastic bags and bottles in trekking areas was the only way to preserve the environment, promote sustainable tourism and development for the long term since recycling, reusing or reducing would not be feasible in remote mountain areas due to :
- absence of recycling facilities and the unavailability of such plants in a foreseeable future
- huge cost of campaigns such as Cleaning Everest
- vain initiatives like cleaning the Bagmati River as long as the problem is not addressed at the source i.e. the mountains.
Together with the ban of plastic in National Parks, recommendations were made towards :
1 – the compulsory rules for all lodges to provide filtered water to travellers within National Parks and Conservation areas.
Such filters are now available at very affordable prices in Nepal
2 – the implementation of a code of conduct for all trekkers /visitors in the National Parks
3 – Promote local initiatives such as manufacturing jute or cotton bags to be sold to visitors
4 – Initiate awareness campaigns focusing on schools, women associations, local communities
Such ban has already been done by local initiatives in some areas of Nepal Himalayas :Chhomrung to Annapurna Sanctuary, Myagdi Community lodges trek and Ilam region (for plastic bags).
Therefore the symposium concluded that the implementation of such recommendations would be a win-win situation for Nepal’s environment, sustainable tourism, local communities and the best way to enhance Nepal image abroad as a Green Destination.