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Nepal's Natural Beauty Worsened Day By Day .

If not now when- Part1

Nepal is a fairy-tale land of stunning natural beauty, with hundreds of miles of forested hiking trails and hillside villages filled with rural women who sing folk songs as they tend rice paddies. The snowy peaks of Mount Everest draw climbers from around the world. But a decade of civil war, rampant corruption and lack of consistent environmental policies has turned the serenely beautiful Kathmandu Valley into a harshly polluted one, too. The bowl-shaped valley traps the air, which turns thick from standstill traffic belching thick, black smoke. Global warming threatens the Himalayas, with scientists predicting the glaciers, which provide water to 1.3 billion people from Burma to Pakistan could disappear within 50 years. Even all those nature-loving travelers and climbers are a problem: Everest's summit is littered with soda cans, tent poles, food containers and other trash the trekkers have left behind.
With Nepal's war over and a new government in place, many here say that Nepal's newly elected officials should take the lead in educating the world about the glacier melt, telling everyone that the natural beauty that attracts so many visitors may not last.
But at times, achieving a coherent national environmental policy has been elusive. The country's forests, for example, are vanishing at the rate at 540 acres a day, according to Nepal's Department of Forests, in part because before last year's national elections, political parties promised free land and many of the landless farmers started clearing trees. There also has been widespread illegal logging because there is lack of armed forest officers and a lot of money to be made in logging expensive and hard-to-find wood, diplomats and Nepalese officials said.

"Politicians thought worrying about the environment was somehow anti-development, somehow anti-poor people. But people around the world come to Nepal, dream of Nepal, because of the natural environment," said Gagan Thapa, one of the country's youngest assembly members and an environmentalist. "Our policymakers must do more to understand this."
Thapa said that most tourists come to the busy capital and leave "with hoarse voices that sound like they smoked a pack of cigarettes every day."
"Bright, young Nepalese who go to study in the U.S. and come back, hoping to work and give back to Nepal are always shocked at how thick with pollution the air is," he said, a sentiment often discussed by Nepalese Americans on Web sites. "They say, 'I love my country. But I can't breathe here.' That is a real tragedy for Nepal. We need those educated brains to stay, they are part of the Nepalese dream to be a prosperous nation."
He's working on a new constitution, which would make it legal for individuals to file lawsuits against companies and people who violate environmental laws, from smuggling the country's rare birds to cars emitting air pollution.
The average amount of total suspended particulate, potentially harmful matter in the air, in main commercial areas of Kathmandu is more than 1,000 parts per million, according to a study by the Environment Sector Program Support, a Danish-funded study. The World Health Organization standard for total suspended particulate is 150 to 230 parts per million.
"The environment is a human right and tied deeply to everyday life. It's literally the air you breathe," Thapa said.

Source : Modified Article
By Emily WaxWashington Post Foreign Service 
Photo source :http://www.everestsummiteersassociation.org/