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Shiva Pariyar Q&A: Supporting forest ecosystem restoration in Nepal

Posted: 3 June 2021

Nepal, COVID-19, Environment, Experience, Impact,

In preparation for World Environment Day 2021, we caught up with Australia Awards alum Shiva Pariyar, who currently works as an Assistant Forest Officer (8th level) at Nepal’s Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment in Pokhara. Shiva completed a Master of Forest Ecosystem Science at the University of Melbourne in 2016 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.

Can you tell us about your background in environmental fields?

“Throughout my career, I have focused on forest environments and the intricate relationship between people and natural resources. I have worked with the Government of Nepal since 2010, serving in different capacities and working with everyone from rural communities to central level administration.”

What do you consider your most significant environment-related contribution to date?

“As a government employee, my more than 10 years of experience in natural resource management has not only contributed to environment protection, but also supported local people, particularly those from marginalised communities, to actively engage in forest resource management. One example of my contribution is my recent work toward people’s rights in natural resource and environment issues. I assisted in formulating provincial-level policies on environment protection and forest resource management in Gandaki Province, Nepal.”

Shiva during a field monitoring visit at Panchase forest conservation area in Nepal

How did your studies in Australia contribute to the work you do?

“Studying in Australia amplified my skills, knowledge and networks. In my master’s degree course, I learnt science theory and practice, and connected with international peers. Specifically, I learnt innovative tools and techniques to manage deadly forest fires, which I apply here in Nepal in assessing forest fire severity and its control. Furthermore, my Australian study improved my social capital through my global networks with students, researchers and scholars. I now use these networks to share and exchange skills, knowledge and experiences to resolve present-day environmental problems.”

In your specific field of work, what are some of Nepal’s environment-related challenges and solutions, big or small?

“Nepal’s environmental challenges include environmental pollution, haphazard infrastructure development, unplanned urbanisation, forest fires, forest degradation, illegal felling and illegal hunting. These problems are further exacerbated by climate change’s negative impacts. Climate-induced disasters pose serious threats at unprecedented rates. However, these environmental problems can be minimised and resolved by adopting community-based approaches at various scales and stages. Mobilising the community at all stages of development enhances ownership of the program and increases collective action to resolve environmental problems. All three spheres of government are adopting this approach to address environmental problems.”

How do you assess the relationship between the current COVID-19 pandemic and environmental degradation? How would environment protection help overcome human health crises?

“The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a great threat to human health and the environment. Even though this pandemic has brought some short-term positive environmental implications, such as improved air and water quality, its negative impacts are evident worldwide. For example, it has caused an unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, including illegal logging and wildlife hunting. Because of mobility restrictions, the price of forest products, particularly timber, is increasing—while at the same time, millions of forest-dependent people face unemployment. This could further aggravate poverty and again induce environmental degradation. Providing fiscal incentives to middle- and lower-class forestry and tourism entrepreneurs and engaging local communities (with incentives) in natural resource management could help overcome the environmental crisis worldwide.”

Shiva during a tree planting drive for World Environment Day in Parbat, Nepal

Can you share any eco-friendly activities that you or your family follow at home?

“I segregate waste into decomposable and non-decomposable materials. I use organic manure from the decomposable waste to grow flowers and organic vegetables and to reduce kitchen waste.”

What is your message on World Environment Day 2021, which has ‘ecosystem restoration’ as its focus?

“Ecosystem restoration is not a one-time business. It is a continual process and demands commitment from all sectors, including state and non-state actors across the government. Collaborative and coordinated efforts from all will help to expedite ecosystem restoration and protect our environment, ensuring sustainable development.”