Environmental issues in Nepal

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Environmental issues in Nepal are numerous environmental problems.

Sedimentation and discharge of industrial effluents are prominent sources of water pollution, and the burning of wood for fuel is a significant source of indoor air pollution and respiratory problems. Vehicular and industrial emissions increasingly have contributed to air pollution in urban areas.

Deforestation and land degradation appear to affect a far greater proportion of the population and have the worst consequences for economic growth and individuals’ livelihoods. Forest loss has contributed to floods, soil erosion, and stagnant agricultural output. Estimates suggest that from 1966 to 2000 forest cover declined from 45 to 29 percent of the total land area. Often cited causes of deforestation include population growth, high fuelwood consumption, infrastructure projects, and conversion of forests into grazing- and cropland. According to government estimates, 1.5 million tons of soil nutrients are lost annually, and by 2002 approximately 5 percent of agricultural holdings had been rendered uncultivable as a result of soil erosion and flooding.

Land degradation is attributed to population growth, improper use of agro-chemicals, and overly intensive use of landholdings that are too small to provide most households with sufficient food. Since the late 1980s, government policies have attempted to address these numerous and related problems, but policies often are hampered by lack of funding, insufficient understanding of Nepal’s mountain ecosystems, bureaucratic inefficiency, and sometimes contentious relations between the central government and local communities. Main Threats and Development Pressures There are several threats and development pressures to the biodiversity of Nepal, caused by the cumulative effects of socio-economic status, ecological degradation and political instability (MFSC, 2000). A major threat factor is represented by the Nepalese human population. According to the 1991 population census, the total population of Nepal was around 18.5 million and the population in the year 2000 was estimated at 22 million (MFSC, 2000). More than half (53 per cent) of this population lies under the absolute poverty line and is about to double in the next 26 years (MoPE (a), 2000). Poverty has causal effects on population and vice versa, which contributes to environmental deterioration. Fast growth of the population caused an increase in demand for fuel wood, timber, fodder and land to grow more food (MFSC, 2000). Non-timber forest products are threatened by deforestation, habitat degradation and unsustainable harvesting. Major threats to some protected areas are grazing all year around, poaching for high value products, illegal timber harvesting and unsustainable tourism. Rangelands are suffering from an enormous grazing pressure and wetland biodiversity is threatened by encroachment of wetland habitat, unsustainable harvesting of wetland resources, industrial pollution, agricultural run-off, the introduction of exotic and invasive species into wetland ecosystems, and siltation. Mountain biodiversity is suffering due to ecological fragility and instability of high mountain environments, deforestation, poor management of natural resources, and inappropriate farming practices (MFSC, 2000). Agrobiodiversity is under threat due to use of high yielding varieties, destruction of natural habitat, overgrazing, land fragmentation, commercialisation of agriculture and the extension of modern highyielding varieties, indiscriminate use of pesticides, population growth and urbanisation, and changes in farmer’s priorities (MFSC, 2000). More factors for loss of biodiversity include landslide and soil erosion, pollution, fire, overgrazing, introduction of alien species, illegal trade, hunting and smuggling.

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 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.