Glocal Khabar invited the three intriguing personalities contributing to the degrading stigma on the environment on our second session of youth dialogue and they were –
Mr. Milan Rai (Butterfly Man, Green Spaces and Vrikshya Project), Mr. Praveen Kumar Regmi (Environmentalist) and Mr. Rajendra Ojha (Co-founder of Fireword’s media).The theme was Environment and the topic of the discussion was “Possibilities in Environmental Conservation”. The program was moderated by the Communication Officer at Glocal Pvt. Ltd –Ms. Saru Pyakurel. The main purpose of taking environmental issues in a discussion forum was to understand various ways and possibilities in the environmental conservation as this is the hot issue in the context of our country, as we have been dealing with environmental problems and we needed to find various solutions. Here are some of the highlights of the discussions:
White Butterfly project got its popularity in larger scale. We know you for the creative and artistic techniques that you bring to denote something. How did you have the insight to work for environment?
Mr. Milan Rai explained that the concept of White Butterfly does link with his initiation to work for the Environment. White Butterfly project is still ongoing and it defines art should be for all. Also, he mentioned that he is functioning to make the butterflies flourish in the environment. Likewise, he clarified that he is working to conserve the environment with the concept which includes art and this way he believes he can reach out to many people.
Environment Conservation is the need of today and is really important. How do you justify it?
Mr. Rajendra Ojha highlighted Carbon emission to be the major problem these days in our country. The presence of old vehicles, burning of fossils fuels, pollution, etc. has made the environment really pathetic. He also clarified that it’s been a month since electric vehicles are introduced to reduce smoke. Similarly, he enlightened the fact that Nepal has also signed in carbon emission trade and now the local bodies has been set up, so he believes the environmental conservation works can work more effectively when the power is decentralized within the local bodies. He said that it is a serious issue in the context of our country, but slowly and gradually the trend will change.
Mr. Praveen Kumar Regmi added, the experience of being a youth advocate, in course of launching environmental awareness programmes, being an environmentalist, working as a faculty member of the environment science subject, he has gained in depth knowledge about environmental conservation. He relates environment as the way of life. He says; from the birth, to the conception to the end, we need to interact with the environment. We tend to live life in a happy and healthy way, same goes with the environment. Other aspects come later. But environmental conservation is the most crucial thing that will make your life sustain so we need to find ways to conserve it. We have lots of ways in environmental conservation, so we need to implement it. Not just the people from environmental sector, but every individual need to have the concern because it relates life.
You have initiated Green Project, Green Spaces etc. for the environment. How are you doing this work? Are you like working individually or you work with the group of people?
Milan Rai – “This is also somehow related to my butterfly project. Many people got connected with my initiation since the butterfly project.” He insisted our city is heavily polluted and there’s no escape from Kathmandu’s choking air. But our government strategy to tackle air pollution has been too weak on all sectors. Relying on the government would be too late. So he started to plant trees on vacant lands as an important part of the solution. Planting more trees especially in urban areas can have a significant impact on pollution levels, rising temperatures while simultaneously offering other benefits, including urban green space for residents, habitat for birds and insects. It is a project that is fully engaging community participation. Youth groups, sports clubs, elderly members of the community, been consulted in the initial planning process. His followers who are concerned about environment have been supporting him.
He said during the process of initiation of the campaign, he was both alone and not alone. And while introducing his project to the governmental local bodies, he defined his project as a fun project, not the difficult project after all we needed was to work for the environment as it is a common issue and a meaningful participation was necessary.
Since you participated in Minamata Convention Programme, as the youngest citizen diplomat from Ministry of Environment in Geneva, How was the overall experience?
Mr. Ojha remembered his participation on Minnamata convention to be really informative. The Minamata Convention on Mercury was a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. According to WHO, Mercury was considered as one of the top ten chemicals of major health concern, which threatens the environment and health of millions. However, Mercury effect is not much prevalent in our country. So Nepal is in safe side.
We have a stereotype that only youth who are experts in the field of environment has to work for the environment. It’s not the concern of other’s field. So what do you want to convey to the youths?
Mr. Praveen Kumar recalled the time when the environment subject was first introduced. The people were somewhat concerned about environment and slowly it gained popularity. Many people started taking environmental science as there major subject, and lots of programmes were introduced which involved only the environmental students. But the scenario has changed. He added, not just the student from environmental background, but students from diverse background like management, social work, arts, business, engineering, medical etc. field are equally concerned and they held the hand for the environment as it is a prime issue. Mr. Praveen thinks the level of awareness and sense of ownership for the environment, and change is attitude and behavior of person can be the best way to raise voice for the environmental conservation.
We have seen you working under collaboration with local governmental bodies. What kind of response and support you get?
Mr. Rai explained, he was literally prepared to keep his words in front of the authority. He visited the Lalitpur Municipality wearing a gas mask with the formal documents. He didn’t expect them to listen to him at first place. He wanted to hear them first before making them aware of his projects. Being a common citizen, He realized we have already lost the citizen’s credibility during his visit to the local bodies. And it’s not just the fault of the authority, but all citizens are to be blamed for this because we lack the culture of arising questions to the government regarding out dissatisfactions. He found the authorities were simply disinterested and uninformed about the benefits that his environmental initiations can bring into the city. But he was always dedicated upon his interest to create a beautiful country. He tried to meet the mayor, had to wait for hours but during that coarse of time, he could interact with the people there working in cleanliness field namely sweepers, gardeners, and understand their intensions. He said patience to listen to the authority was something which added the value to his work because change is not easy. We needed to work really hard. It’s good if we listen to the authority because it can develop trust and slowly the connection was made. And now he is supported for his wonderful environmental projects, to bring back the greenery of our country especially in urban lifestyle. We always search outcomes, but miss the process. But the learning’s all lies in the process of work we do, so he has been learning a lot.
And this process based approach lead to VRIKSHYA project. He defines VRIKSHYA as the foundation for all the trees he planted. And a lot of youth are connected for this initiation and he feels really happy about the support he is receiving without asking. Lots of tree plantation has been successfully done and they have been able to develop sense of ownership within the community for the protection of plants.
Working for the signatory campaign of reducing black polythene bags, what were the challenges you faced? What were the learnings?
Mr. Ojha explains the campaign to ban black polythene bags took lots of efforts as the polythene bags were cheap and easily accessible. The people knew the consequences it brings to the environment, some were unaware too, and however he could see the ignorance of people. He initiated it from a local community which became a campaign itself. Mr. Ojha launched an awareness campaign in different parts of the country highlighting the health consequences of the polythene bags, plastics and also raised awareness against the use of it. Nowadays, we don’t see the black polythene bags accessible and this makes him happy. However, we haven’t been able to beat plastic pollution at cent percent, but we surely can use the concept of recycling to minimize its use.
Mr. Rai used the Gas Mask as a creative way to raise awareness against air pollution. As per Mr. Rai, It is the symbolical way to show how much it is affecting us and what threat are we in. Common person cannot relate the data which comes in a unit of pollution measure. But the simple art and simple way of presenting you work can connect much audience. So it is necessary during any social works.
There are many students who take environmental subjects, not just for the study. But to bring the real impact in the environmental issues of our country. What kind of knowledge is needed to them, how to make them involved for the environmental conservation?
Mr. Regmi is also the faculty member at Tri-Chandra Campus. He believes practical education is really necessary in the course of understanding environment. Anyone can read environmental books and pass the exams, but the real exam of life which connects environmental conservation is not that easy. It needs a lot of effort. He said he encourage the students to attend many different environmental seminars and conferences to widen their knowledge. Likewise, he also involve them in real practices of solid waste management, Vermicomposting, use of instruments, recycling methods, conservation methods and so on. He also remembers taking the students to visit Khalisisi, where they are earning money out of the wastes. So, small initiatives add a lot in the environmental conservation. It’s a way to environmental sustainability.
As a youth, what can we do for the environmental conservation? What can be the effective measures to implement?
Mr. Regmi says change in behaviors is really necessary. Big approach and works are on one side; on the other hand we can just give a small initiation for our environment. We can reduce, reuse and recycle the wastes. We can clean our surrounding ourselves. We also can Use the waste for Vermi-composting and make organic manure. Apart from that we also can help the government and other organizations for the environmental campaigns and programmes. Moreover, we also can raise awareness in the community regarding environmental conservation. He believes nothing is impossible if we are dedicated to bring the change.
Mr. Ojha said Environment conservation process can be effective if we can reduce the plastic completely. It is the major reason of the pollution and since plastics can last for long, it degrades the quality of the environment we are living in and also the biodiversity is affected. We can discourage the use of plastic if we really are concerned about the environment. The change may be small, but eventually it is towards conserving the environment and protecting the mother Earth.
Mr. Rai thinks the power of art is strong and this initiation towards the environmental conservation is supported by youth and the local authorities which is a really good thing for sustainability of the project. Plantation on barren land is both conservation and activism within the context of art that focuses on transforming the unmanaged lands of the city into green spaces. These ways we can contribute towards environmental conservation.
Therefore, Environment as a whole is a broad subject. There can be lots of possibilities in environmental conservation. We discussed some possibilities above. Moreover, we need to identify the best possible ways and act towards making our country beautiful. We need to bring our city Kathmandu out from the list of most polluted cities of the world. So whatever it takes, let’s give the effort after all it’s our environment and our life.