Closer to disasterUnchecked exploitation of nature is certain to open the floodgates of large-scale climate conflicts.
It is incomprehensible what supernatural forces hypnotise Nepal’s policymakers into making one climate unfriendly policy after another, but the consequences of their stupidity are not difficult to comprehend. There seems to be no end to how low they can go to sabotage the future even as they collude with profit seekers. Each time they come up with new environmental policy, they open more ways for inviting doom upon ourselves. They allow even more encroachment of jungles, exploitation of rivers, and crushing of every other natural resource possible. And when the encroachment, the exploitation, and the crushing invite disaster, they call it "natural".
There is no naturalness in the disaster we invite upon ourselves in our incessant quest for capital accumulation and development. Profit seekers and rent seekers have captured natural resources without little ethical considerations or legal repercussions. And in doing so, they have ruptured the common wo(man)’s relationship with nature. And helping them like dutiful servants are the policymakers who have no concern for the environment whatsoever, as is evident in the recently amended provisions on the standards for extraction, management and sales of stones, pebbles and sand from environmentally sensitive zones.
As the Post reported on Tuesday, the amended standards allow crusher plants to be set up even closer to sensitive sites such as forests, human settlements, rivers, highways, transmission lines, and religious, cultural and archaeological sites than before, especially in the hill regions. As per the new standards, the distance to be maintained between the crusher plants and jungles, riverbanks, right-of-way of highways, and other such sensitive sites in the hills is just 200 metres, against the 500 metres in the previous policy. As if the unrestrained extraction of natural resources from such sensitive sites was not enough, the new provisions, clearly influenced by the will to benefit a lobby of the mining industry, are a death knell for Nepal’s hills and mountains that are already too fragile to be exploited.
The monsoon is at our doors, and we should prepare ourselves—physically and psychologically—for several disasters to occur this time as well, perhaps on a bigger scale than the previous one. We should be prepared to witness a potentially greater number of disaster victims this year. Climate disaster, conflict, migration and refugeehood are the inevitable results of the blindfold to which we have subjected ourselves. Climate migration is already a reality in many parts of the world, including in Nepal. In a 2018 study, the World Bank estimated that more than 140 million people will become climate migrants by 2050 in three regions of the world alone—if current emission and warming trends continue.
Sadly, each last estimate is proving to be a conservative estimate, as each new climate report projects a greater doom for the future considering how precious little is being done to remedy the wrongs we have committed. And if this madness is not checked in time, it is certain to open the way for large-scale climate conflicts. If we do not change ourselves, nature is certain to change the way we exist.