Every human being has a responsibility toward nature as we exist only due to the gifts that nature has bestowed on us
Every human being strives for development. But some development initiatives in Nepal have impacted nature conservation. Care should, therefore, be taken to ensure that nature does not suffer as we continue with development process.
We all take pride in Nepal’s bio-diversity. It’s true that such diverse ecosystem from tropical forest to alpine meadows exists in a stretch of 200 kilometers distance in Nepal. This is rarely found elsewhere. We, however, haven’t succeeded in preserving such a gem of nature as is seen in continual deforestation and gradual disappearance of endangered species. This is especially true in southern border that is aligned alongside India where various projects like East-West highway, railway lines, postal-highway and construction of transmission lines have been proposed. The conservation areas at stake are Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, Bardia National Park, Banke National Park, Chitwan National Park and Parsa Wildlife Reserve. All of the abovementioned construction projects run through one or more of these conserved areas.
The voices have been raised from almost all sectors to join in this feast of development. But the voice of nature has been silent in the labyrinth of concrete jungle that we have set ourselves up. No one has asked what will happen to the myriad of plants and animals that have their homes in those parts where we are changing the nature forever. This is not a single cause and effect scenario. Once we build a highway across a conserved area or where we divide a habitat corridor by a political boundary thus setting up a check-post or any other anthropogenic activity, we entice a cascade of factors that wreck havoc in the flora and fauna of that region.
Once we stop animal migration from one cluster to another in different ecological niches, we disturb its flow of genes. This reduction in genetic diversity will have serious implications in the current and future generations of animal population. The case of in-breeding that is the immediate outcome of this means there will be fewer genes for natural selection to work upon and ultimately it produces feeble offspring and various genetic mutations. Besides, the encroachment of wild habitat means more competition for food and shelter, the irregular growth of one organism against the collapse of its predator and thus an unhealthy ecosystem.
This dreadful scenario can and should be avoided with proper precaution and preventive measures. First and foremost, we need to analyze the impact of any developmental work on the natural habitat and it should be done with proper care. As a rule, all projects of roads and hydropower should conduct Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) but as we have seen, these are a mere formality and nobody takes this issue seriously. The EIA study is a life-line of the wild nature of the area and thus should be very rigorous and useful. All recommendations of EIA should be properly implemented during the project construction.
There has been remarkable progress in the area of mitigation of human-wildlife conflict especially against the backdrop of big developmental projects. Now we have a number of alternatives to choose from for the welfare of animals and plants. For example, when we are building a highway close to a national park, let us ensure free passage of animals. Besides we can set areas for habitat corridors for the seasonal migration of wild animals. This will ensure a proper gene flow and a high degree of genetic diversity.
Every human being has a responsibility toward nature as we exist only due to the gifts that nature has bestowed on us. This responsibility will add up especially for the denizens of developing country like ours where tourism plays a significant role in national economy. Nature can boost a significant digit of GDP if managed properly as we have seen from the cases of countries like Kenya and Thailand. There is still an untapped sector of eco-tourism in our nation. We should go for it.
The notion that development cannot be realized without causing harms to nature is flawed. We need to change that notion.
The author is a wildlife biologist involved in research of snow leopards