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World Environment Day: Australia Awards alumni contribute to Nepal’s climate change response

Posted: 5 June 2022

Nepal, Alumni, Environment, Impact,

This year’s theme for World Environment Day is #OnlyOneEarth. This campaign calls for collective, transformative action on a global scale to celebrate, protect and restore our planet.

Australia Awards alumni in Nepal have been instrumental in addressing the many challenges brought about by climate change. To mark World Environment Day, we are highlighting the important work of seven such alumni.

Earlier this year, these alumni received Australia Awards Climate Change Action Grants to support four separate projects (three delivered by individuals and one by a group of four) that each contributed to Nepal’s climate change response. These projects are profiled below.

Dr Jeet Bahadur Chand is a Senior Project Engineer (Deputy Secretary) at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development. With the support of his grant, he conducted a three-day training workshop to improve water productivity and yield in climate-smart farming.

The 10 participants (half of whom were women) were farmers from Nepal’s least-developed provinces. Through the workshop, these farmers learnt practical and innovative ideas, based on recent Australian research, about developing agricultural water management plans to contribute to food security. They also improved their knowledge about climate-smart farming to cope with the adverse effects of climate change. Furthermore, the participants practiced installing micro-irrigation systems in real fields, familiarising themselves with all the systems’ components.

Dr Jeet Bahadur Chand (far right) along with the workshop’s participants on a field visit.

Commenting on why he chose this project, Dr Chand said, “From my own practical experiences and available literature I have reviewed, the most seriously affected area by climate change globally is agriculture and water. It is imperative we address this issue in Nepal.”

Avishek Malla is an Energy Specialist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). He used his grant to conduct a two-day intensive training for 100 Kathmandu University undergraduate engineering students and two academic instructors. The training taught the participants about various renewable energy technologies and their different applications in Nepal’s geographical and socio-economic contexts. The students also learnt about climate change mitigation measures developed by ICIMOD to enable people in the mountainous region to sustain their lifestyles.

Avishek has developed a handbook on Nepal-specific implementation models for renewable energy technologies, which he shared with the students, instructors, university library and others. Following the training, the majority of the participating students expressed that they were now confident in their ability to practically implement renewable energy technology projects in the future.

Avishek Malla (far left, light blue t-shirt) sits alongside the engineering students who participated in his training sessions.

In April 2022, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that “reducing emissions in industry will involve using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products, and minimising waste”. Consistent with this, Dr Suira Joshi, Office Chief of the Ministry of Health’s District Ayurveda Health Centre in Dhading, received the grant to conduct a two-day workshop in which 32 health workers developed their knowledge and skills regarding properly managing healthcare waste. The workshop covered hospital waste management, segregation, storage, transportation and treatment; occupational health; and environmental and health impacts.

“Hospital waste management is a neglected area. Health centre of any level must be equipped to manage waste. The simple formula is to reduce, recycle and reuse,” said Dr Suira Joshi.

One of the participants remarked that the workshop changed her attitude towards handling waste both at healthcare centres and at home. For her, the workshop was an eye opener and will help improve her work efficiency and safety. Another participant said the workshop was an excellent opportunity to accentuate skills for his professional and personal safety and to meet with colleagues from various organisations for the first time in several years. The project was completed in coordination with the Department of Health, the local government and participating health centres. Following the training, one local leader expressed his commitment to work on policy and guidelines for healthcare management in the entire district.

The final grant-supported project, which is still in progress, is being implemented by a group consisting of four alumni: Dr Anusuya Joshi (pictured above) (Senior Environmental Safeguard Expert, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre), Dr Deepa Shree Rawal (Senior Scientific Officer, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology), Dr Dhiraj Pradhananga (Associate Professor, Tribhuvan University) and Dr Yadav Prasad Kandel (Forestry, REDD+, Environment and Climate Change consultant/expert). Working towards promoting an environmentally friendly domestic metallurgy industry in Lalitpur, the group has completed air quality monitoring and toxicology analysis at six metallurgical industry sites (three gold/silver making sites and three metal idol making sites). Additionally, they have raised awareness about health and safety issues related to the industry among workers and the community.

Monitor showing the air quality index reading at one of the gold/ silver ornament making workshops

Speaking on behalf of the group, Dr Anusuya Joshi said, “The traditional jewellery and metal idol making industry, located in ancient indigenous communities, involves the processes that use hazardous chemicals and releases particulate matters along with toxic gases posing harm to workers and people around. This project aims to build awareness and look for clean sustainable alternatives.”

The group is currently working on organising workshops for local government representatives and entrepreneurs in coordination with Lalitpur Metropolitan City. With local elections having recently occurred, the workshops will involve new government representatives, which the team is confident will increase the effectiveness of the activity. Furthermore, the group is working to develop a metallurgy industry health and safety guidelines framework based on the workshop outcomes.

Commenting on this year’s theme for World Environment Day, Dr Dhiraj Pradhananga said, “We only have one planet! We have already crossed the carrying capacity of Earth. We need to achieve a balance in human-environment interactions. Everyone should adopt sustainable lifestyles that make our daily routines healthier for human-beings and friendlier to the environment.”

Image of top: Australia Awards alum Dr Anusuya Joshi