Print Edition - 2015-05-24  |  Free the Words

Nature and us

  • Post-quake development must include a Nepali understanding of our place in nature
- BINAYAK BASNYAT
Nature and us

May 23, 2015-

A unified global voice over the coexistence of nature and humans has been significantly heard over the last several decades. The volume increases every time a natural catastrophe hits. This time, the screams echo from the roof of the world, slammed between two continental plates.

More than 8,000 lives have been lost since a mega-quake hit Nepal on April 25 and the death toll is only expected to rise. Millions of people have been affected by the quake, thousands have been displaced and are in search of a new beginning. Still, a strong sense of terror persists.

Recovery projections haven’t been all that optimistic either, with most predictions outlining a long arduous future. However, the primary question is not ‘how long’, but ‘how’ will Nepalis rebuild their country and what lessons learned will they incorporate in the process.

Nepali definitions

Many young students at the Nepal Public Administration Campus argue that most definitions that Nepal uses for ‘development’ are not always the most suitable for the country, given our unique blend of culture, geopolitics, and geographical structure. A team of researchers working on post-2015 quake projections claim that it is necessary to align the various aspects of development along a Nepali understand from now on. These researchers advocate for an inclusion of the ‘I in nature’—that it is vital for definitions of development to correspond with Nepali aspirations in terms of our place in nature, rather than its opposite. This process can be as simple as reminiscing about the thoughts that occurred to all of us on April 25.

It would be a mistake for Nepal to only try to meet ‘global standards’, without some standards of its own.

If, for example, the standard of a country is measured in terms of its purchasing power, which determines the buying strength of the economy, and the potential of its military power, how significant will these measurements be for a country which has long sought a place alongside nature as a self-sustaining entity, especially when even its military and security forces are largely focussed on disaster management, rather than outward force.

Therefore, it is important for Nepalis to come up with our own national standards, based on Nepali understandings and aspirations, which should be inclined more towards nature than ever before.

Food security standards

After a comparatively successful search and rescue, thanks to Nepal’s security forces and their international partners, it is now extremely important to provide effective relief to those still suffering with an understanding of, and high regard to, assistance that is geared towards nurturing self-sustainability.

Here, the Nepali people, the government, and other concerned organisations, private and non-governmental too, should initiate programmes that will help quake-affected Nepalis to stand on their feet again. The following Nepali month of Asaar is when the seasonal paddy plantation takes and right now, Nepali farmers would usually be working to prepare seedlings. But the quake has disrupted the planting season for thousands of farmers, which is certain to impact their livelihoods and our economy in the near future. Therefore, it is important for us to work towards ensuring food security in the country. That said, we must work on sustainable means, not deepening our dependency on short-term food aid from outside.

Food security should include all its cluster components. Rather than just an adequate supply of food, food security should also embrace the cycle of plant and tree usage for added purposes, including energy production. Scientific methods for hectare clearance and replantation would comprise embedding those plants that serve many purposes.

Infrastructure standards

Similarly, infrastructure development standards don’t necessarily have to resemble global standards either. While the need to develop a decent understanding of the infrastructure requirements of people forms the base, transforming villages to sub-metropolitan and metropolitan cities might not always be the most suitable solution for Nepal. Nepali villages should be developed into ‘better villages’, not necessarily cities.

Another central establishment that has been hit hard by the enduring consequences by the earthquake has been the health institution. It has been reported that over 260 health facilities were destroyed in the mega-quake. Here, it is not only essential to prioritise rebuilding medical facilities but also building the foundation of its Nepali definition, researching the potential of medical development in the country. Breakthroughs in Yarsagumba supplies for medicinal use, popular local remedies like Tulsi leaves, and significant developing interest in traditional Ayurveda could contribute not only to Nepal’s medical development, but could also be a good source of revenue and recognition for the country.

Disaster management standards

Given Nepal’s geological structure, its elevation, and the increasing effects of global climate change, the country is more vulnerable to all kinds of natural disasters than ever before. Though the government has been much criticised for its lethargy in the aftermath of the earthquake, the men and women of the Nepal Army, Nepal Police, and the Armed Police Force have put duty and national interest in front of their own suffering, despite being equally affected by the quake. They are part of the government too. Following the impressive role of these security forces, it is necessary to supplement the equipment and deployment capability of these forces to take the lead during times of national crisis, as they did immediately following the quake. This needs to be done regardless of whether the government decides to form a separate authority to focus solely on natural disaster response.

To come back to finding our own place in nature, we must understand that earthquakes, monsoon floods, and even glacier outbursts, are all naturally-triggered disasters and that they aren’t really getting in our way. We are, in fact, in theirs.

Just as camouflage blends into nature, if we are truly in search of an ‘I in nature’, we must come to the realisation that amongst the prioritisation of guidelines to manage most man-made things, we have yet to prioritise and manage our coexistence with nature.

Basnyat holds a Masters in Diplomacy and International Studies and is currently affiliated with the Saarc Secretariat

Published: 24-05-2015 06:56

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