Localizing climate actions a way to achieve Nationally Determined Contributions
Pragya Sherchan, Programme Officer
Prakriti Resources Centre (PRC)
“The Earth should not be a worse place after my life than it was when I was born here.” – Rob Stewart, a Canadian award-winning biologist, environmentalist, conservationist, photographer and filmmaker.
I picked up the quote because it nudged me into a brief indulgence in retrospection, and made me feel somewhat nostalgic too. My own little earth or my birthplace is already no longer what it used to be when I was a kid. This very thought or a kind of my own conclusion catapulted me to a vantage point from where I am seeing the awe-inspiring beauty of mother nature fading away fast, and her divine gifts losing the vibrancy of their lives.
Photo: Traditional architectural houses of Mustang: Lupra Village
I belong to Mustang in Nepal, a beautiful mountainous region also known as the district beyond the mountains, desert of Nepal, forbidden kingdom, rain-shadow zone, etc. I grew up by playing in nature with nature. I found myself in complete harmony with the white and bright snow-capped mountains, and the snow and glacier-fed rivers and waterfalls. I’ve not yet forgotten the taste of cold and fresh natural spring water. The sprawling grassland just beneath the mountains studded with herds of yaks and sheep, the wild animals I used to frequently catch sight of, the sights and sounds of different species of birds that mesmerized me. Now I am living in Kathmandu due to my job. When I remember Mustang, memories of all these gifts of nature, which I always feel myself as a part of, immediately spring to my mind.
Having opened my mind to you about how I feel about my place of birth, it is painful for me to tell you that Mustang is no longer the Mustang of my childhood. I am observing and noticing gradual changes in my surroundings. The ever-smiling mountains have started wearing gloomy faces. Fast snow-melting is gradually turning the mountains into black rocks. We have experienced sudden avalanches and recurring flash floods. Landslides are becoming prominent in Mustang in recent years. Mustang was also known as rain-shadow zone. So, traditionally as well as because of the climate and weather it has almost all existing houses there are made of mud and stone with mud flat roofs. But of late our roofs leak when it rains. People are now building new concrete houses using corrugated sheets for roofing.
Needless to say Mustang is also famous for high-quality delicious apples, potatoes, and other vital grains and cereals. The production and qualities of these fruits and crops are declining due to new diseases, insects, unexpected and heavy rainfall and hail-storm, and less sunshine hour. Apple farming that began in 2053 BS (1996) in the villages called Lete, Taglung and Ghasa gradually expanded to other areas of Lower Mustang. But the three villages, which ushered in apple farming, do not have a single standing apple tree today. The delicious fruit is on the verge of extinction also in the lower Mustang areas. The Upper Mustang farmers are attracted towards apple farming as they are also observing good harvest and quality. In Nepal, the standard altitude for apple farming is 3,000 masl, but now it is growing even above 3,500 masl.
Photo: Apple orchard in Lower Mustang: Khanti Village
These phenomena or illustrations lead me to relate them to the growing impacts of climate change in my place. Many villages and cities across the world are witnessing similar changes and suffering differently. Climatic hazards vary with topography. Mountains and ice-lands area are facing rapid ice and snow melting triggering Glacier Lakes Outburst Floods and sea-level rise. Coastal areas are hit by cyclones, hurricanes and sea-level rise. Landslides and flash floods are common in hills and the plains. Vulnerabilities to climatic hazards on a specific location depending on multiple factors and mainly livelihood base, ecological diversity, population and level of preparedness. Climate change is a common global problem but climatic hazards and their vulnerabilities are localized and vary with locations. So, we need local solutions to the problems of climate change.
Nepal is developing policies and plans to address climate change. National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), Local Adaptation Plan for Action (LAPA), National Climate Change Policy and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are some of the key policy documents. These documents contain many good provisions that aim to build community resilience to climate change impacts. However, these policies are not rolled out fully and honestly. One of the main reasons behind their non-implementation is they are not localized yet. To begin with, localization calls for their contextualization and their integration into local government level planning and programming, effective implementation, monitoring changes, and building on experience and learning. Ironically, however, many local governments are not even familiar with these policies not to talk of their roles in addressing climate change and any initiative from their side. Localized climate actions would pave the way for identifying and applying effective and sustainable climate solutions protecting places like Mustang from falling victim to climate change, and complement the fulfillment of the country’s national and international commitments on climate change.
Having said all this, I again feel like thinking about my own place, first. I am pinning my hope on the local government in my area (Mustang) would awaken to the urgency of taking action, and together with citizens like me and others start the process of localizing the existing policies and help Mustang to return to the Mustang of my childhood. Together, we might generate a “Mustang model”!!