Ironically, Nepal, a country with an appreciative role in the clean energy revolution and negligible share in global GHG emission, is motherland to citizens most victimized by human induced pollution.
Moving towards Clean energy
While cutting down coal consumption is the highly hyped topic in Asia, Nepal has maintained least of coal consumption from the very beginning. The closest neighbor India, for instance, ranks itself 3rd amidst top coal producers of the world, with 80 % of total electricity based on coal. While on the contrary, Nepal boasts the fact that coal contributes 0 % to the electricity generation of the country.
Favored by almost 6,000 small and big rivers, Nepal has hydroelectricity potential of 84000 MW, of which 43000 MW is economically viable. Such anticipation inspired Government of Nepal to declare 2016-026 as ‘national energy crisis reduction and electricity development decade’ and hence, experts say, with such concerns, Nepal is sure to experience hydro electricity production more than ever within few years. In addition, Government has the vision to produce 10,000 MW to 25,000 MW hydroelectricity in next 10 to 20 years; where actual production was just 753 MW in 2015 before few large and small scale hydro power stations were established in the country.
Along with optimism towards large scale hydropower, Government has its special focus on possible small scales; basically for remote hills of Nepal. Reasonable subsidy from Government of Nepal has been booming micro hydro powers in the country, with some 33,000 micro hydro powers already electrifying the villages. Micro-hydropower has dual advantages; electrification of remote Nepal and appropriate environment to invest in their own country. While Government is responsible for less than 40 % investment, rest is covered by local themselves, which has ultimately developed a sense of ownership among less aware rural dwellers, consequently building rigidity to the expectations of sustainability of the projects.
Installation of biogas plants solidifies the hope of clean energy revolution for Nepal. With a generous subsidy from the government, various small and big bio gas plants are mushrooming in the country. According to AEPC, existing 320,000 biogas plants in Nepal is saving about 400,000 trees annually; which is equivalent to cutting off GHGs emission by more than one million tons a year. It is estimated that the existing number of animals can produce 14.9 million tons of animal dung, all of which if converted into biogas, is enough to meet 40 % of total energy requirement of the country. Apart from animal dung, fifty-eight municipalities in Nepal produce 670 metric tons of wastage, of which, most of them are biodegradable and holds a high potential for producing biogas.
Solar and wind energy
Besides, Nepal is endowed with high potential for the wind and solar energy. A mountainous country, where the wind blows in an average of 18 hours per day, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) estimates that wind energy can generate 3000 MW electricity in Nepal; of which two remote districts Manang and Mustang have a potential of 2500 MW. Along with power harnessed from some of the already installed wind stations, Nepal is likely to establish more such stations in the future.
Besides, the class focused subsidy for solar powers, has revolutionized the energy sector in the rural part of the country. Basically, in remote hills with scattered settlements and no access to hydroelectricity, solar panels have been substituting the traditional biomass based energy system of the region.
In 2010, before the earthquake hit the nation, 185017 solar powers were already installed in the country. After the earthquake of April 25th, 2015, which killed 9000 people and brought severe economic loss to the country, installation of solar energy soared up with the support of government and other organizations. In those regions where the earthquake has already damaged hydropower stations and where hydro electricity is not feasible, which includes most of the mid and high hills of Nepal; solar power is the most recommended energy system. AEPC has estimated that with the average solar radiation varying from 3.6-6.2 KWh/m2/day and the sunshine of about 300 days a year, Nepal has a potential of producing 2100 MW of solar energy.
Jay Shankar Sharma, who is the inhabitant of Sinja, the remote part of Jumla, said “Almost every house in Sinja has rooftop solar panels, which has helped a lot in lighting, charging and radio operation.”, He added, “installation of solar powers in Jumla has been replacing firewood consumption in the district, subsequently protecting the forest.”
While solar powers are the important source of energy in the hills, Terai dwellers are as well hopeful of its penetration in their areas. Nepal is an agrarian country with 65 % of people involved in farming, where most of them are small land holders. In a country with just 30 % land irrigated and rest of farm exclusively dependent on rainfall, installation of the solar pump has elevated the expectation of better irrigation in farms of the country.
Albeit Nepal’s varied topography, it has been exploring best-suited alternative energy in every possible region and if this continues, GHG emission is sure to not be an issue for the country in the near future.
While the country is taking huge leaps towards clean energy revolution, its citizens are still the victims of human induced emission.
Rampant migration of Nepalese towards foreign land has left the country to suffer huge economic loss, at the same time, pushing unskilled manpower to work in pathetic condition. In the fiscal year 2014/015, more than 418,713 permits were issued to Nepali for the foreign job, which has contributed a quarter of Nepal’s total GDP; ranking the country 3rd in receiving the highest proportion of remittance in terms of GDP. However, this figure does not include a major destination of Nepalese; India. The neighboring country, India, needs no visa permits for a Nepalese and hence, countless Nepali workers are employed there. For some of the Terai district bordered by India, working in India has been a part of their annual job, which generally starts after the onset of monsoon when Nepalese are done cultivating paddy in their fields.
“I worked in a coal mine in India a few years ago, but returned Nepal as I could not maintain my health condition in that pollution”, said Haris Dhami, an inhabitant of Kailali, Nepal “There are many Nepalese workers in coal mines and coal powered industries of India”, he further added.
Not only the willing labors, there are many children, some as young as five, trafficked to work in such coal mines of India in a pitiful situation.
Apart from India, Nepalese migrant has high outflow towards Gulf countries; among which Malaysia ranks first followed by Qatar. Some of them work in a hostile situation and return with health complications to their motherland. While every year thousands of Nepalese workers die in foreign lands, there are countless citizens who return their home due to health related complexities.
Nepal, a country with a negligible share of 0.002 % of global GHG emission, has given paramount importance to renewable energy resources. While the country is advancing towards healthier environment options, it is also equally crucial in creating a scenario where its citizens can reap the intended benefits. It is vital to create job opportunities within the country itself and bring back the citizens who are long lost in pollution induced complications in foreign lands.
Sameer Pokhrel is a student of Agriculture Science at Agriculture and Forestry University, Nepal. He is interested in food security, climate change, and climate smart agricultural technologies.
He tweets at sameerpokhrel5.