SISTEER Study Group Session 6

This week’s reading session is centred on Environmental Conservation in Nepal, led by Mr Lim! Nepal is still an emerging market that struggles to balance between the need for economic growth and environmental conservation. Our reading assignments this week are A review of hydropower projects in Nepal and Role of ecotourism in environmental conservation and socioeconomic development in Annapurna conservation area, Nepal. The articles introduced the concept of Hydropower and Ecotourism in Nepal’s context and how they could be a potential middle ground between the two conflicting goals.

Ecotourism is the balance of biodiversity, nature conservation and economy stimulation. Tourists’ dollars earned from their interaction with the environment are usually channeled right back to sustainable practices and environmental conservation. Some key benefits of ecotourism are employment generation, specifically in guided services, vehicular transport, sales of souvenirs, food and accommodation. In the long run, indirect socioeconomic developments soon appear, and the locals enjoy higher standards of living such as better education and healthcare.

Yet what most people fail to see is the more insidious side of ecotourism – the environmental degradation that tourists leave behind. As human density around natural spaces increase, the demand for resources skyrockets. Firewood is usually the main source of fuel in Nepal, and as millions of tourists stream into the country, forests in protected areas are cut down. The widespread deforestation has a cascade effect on the rest of the environment as landslides and soil erosion becomes more rampant. In addition, tourists and hikers are leaving behind a trash trail on the mountains, especially on popular trails.

Hydropower in Nepal is relatively an underdeveloped source of electricity. Nepal has naturally steep terrain and extensive river systems that are geographical advantages for hydropower to be harnessed. Electricity generated from hydropower are cheap, renewable and most importantly, clean! However, only 3% of Nepal’s electricity comes from hydropower and much could be developed in this area of clean energy. In addition, the government will also have to consider about the environmental impact and ways to mitigate issues such as cross-riparian conflict.

Finally, Benson and Donovan shared their Recce Trip with us at the end of the session. It was exciting to get a sneak peak of what we will be expecting when we finally head over to Nepal in May. The mountains, the roads, the view, I can already imagine myself looking over the treetops to witness the amazing sunset… Sigh, all of us were already in a dreamy state after their presentation. Well, just 2 more monthes till we bid Singapore farewell and say Hello to Nepal!

Written by Sin Yeou