Youth Profile #4: Nepal’s youth fight to save Himalayan paradise from effects of pollution and climate change

By Tierney Smith

Nepal is on the front line of climate change.

While the country’s greenhouse gas emissions are negligible, Nepal’s various communities are already feeling the impacts of a changing climate.

Rising temperatures, flash floods, droughts, retreating glaciers and glacier lake outbursts are all increasingly dangerous occurrences.

Nepal is also one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 157 out of 187 on the UNDP’s Human Development Index. Around 40% of the country’s citizens still live in poverty.

Nepal is the fourth most climate vulnerable country in the world (Source: Amit Poudyal)

Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu sits at the foot of the Himalayas. Its one million residents and the thousands who live in the surrounding foothills are vulnerable to the mountains’ changing environment.

The majority of the population are dependent on climate sensitive sectors such as rain-fed agriculture.

As a result, the Nepalese Youth for Climate Action (NYCA) aims to mobilise young people to both put pressure on their national climate negotiators and to build resilience locally.

In the latest in our youth profiles, RTCC talks to Rajan Thapa, Network Coordinator for the NYCA about how they are tackling climate change head on.

What are your group doing and what areas do you focus on?

The Nepalese Youth for Climate Action is a youth based network and group tackling climate change – the biggest challenge of our generation. NYCA was established with the motto of “Caring for climate, caring for ourselves”.

The NYCA basically focuses on awareness, advocacy and youth empowerment, and most recently we organised a third Nepalese youth climate summit here in Nepal where almost 50 young people from diverse fields participated.

The climate summit’s aim was to promote a youth based agenda on climate change and other environmental issues. And we had youth participants from all over Nepal. At the end of the conference we nominated the three best green ideas to be implemented as part of the Green Idea Cup.

The first project will be taking place in the Kathmandu valley, where we are going to plant a thousand trees along the sides of Kathmandu roads and another one is a school-based awareness programme on solid waste management and climate change where we are going to mobilise youth and encourage them act at local levels.

What results have you seen from your work?

I am going to tell you about one real life experience of the last two years. In the year 2008, when I was a regional programme coordinator for NYCA, we organised a youth based training programme where we trained up youth and after that we mobilised those young people in a community based awareness programme.

At the end of that project, in our initiation, we planted almost 100 thousand trees in their territories and their respective communities. Now it has been four years and those groups are getting the benefits from that project and from those trees.

What are the challenges you have faced in your work? What has or hasn’t work for your group?

I am a youth and NYCA is also a group of youth and I believe that one of our biggest challenges has been to make our point to civil society. A lot of people are reluctant to believe in the youth and their work. Whatever it is that we are doing we have to try to identify with other stakeholders. They are not always easily interested in what we are doing and civil society is always hesitant to listen youth.

You see the global negotiators who are deciding your future. The negotiators from Nepal do not have a loud enough voice at the negotiations, and yet they are still not willing to trust in youth. This is very sad.

The group aims to raise awareness for the climate change impacts facing the country (Source: NYCA)

By doing our work, we can build the trust. Once we initiate a good project and implement it successfully then yes we can definitely build the trust between them and us. NYCA is always trying to take part in the decision-making. Wherever the negotiators of Nepal are situated we are always lobbying them and we always putting pressure on them, when they are not making good decisions and are not favouring the youth.

We pressurise them for proper, good decisions that will be beneficial for the environment of Nepal. We try to show that young people are also capable and can make better decisions for their generation. Moreover we are focused on the advocacy and the leadership part. For each successful campaign we make we are able to build the trust.

What support have you seen for your activities?

For every campaign or for every programme we need the support from other stakeholders. For my network and me sometimes we are able to get some funds, but there are many occasions when we have been able to organise events without funds. Because we need to do it and because we have strong youth manpower and we use that as our funds.

But at the same time it is very important for us to convince new people and new groups of youth and to build good relations with them. For many of our events we have called on celebrities of Nepal as guests and they have always been interested in what we are doing so far.

In the years 2009, 2010 and 2011 we successfully organised an Eco-football event between two teams, celebrities and environmentalists.

At that time celebrities were highly in favour of us and they always encourage our network to do the same kind of campaigns and events that raise awareness of environmental conservation in Nepal.

Yes we need to have funds but even without it we can sustain ourselves.

What are the impacts you are seeing in your country and locally from climate change?

I think it is important to know that Nepal is the 4th most vulnerable country in the world because of climate change and according to UNEP we are only responsible for 0.025% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

In Nepal the majority of people are dependent on climate sensitive areas for their livelihood. Nepal is a mountainous country; melting ice and glacier lakes are the major impacts of climate change.

Nepal has a nature-based livelihood, dramatic topographic, climatic variation and fragile ecosystems. Thus, we are vulnerable. When climate change hits in these areas the irregularity of rain may cause droughts and the ultimate effects are seen in the agricultural sector.

If we look back five years, we were able to predict the weather patterns of Nepal and say that it was going to either be rain or it was going to be dry. But now it is the opposite. Decreases in production rates, loss of biodiversity and water scarcity have really changed the lifestyles of the people in Nepal.

Life in Nepal is increasingly unpredictable because of climate change (Source: NYCA)

What would be your vision for 2050? How do we get there?

Youth can play a pivotal role in guiding society towards a clean future and this must include the young people in the decision making process. We have a common goal in Nepal with Nepali people trying to deal with the effects of climate change and advocating for politicians to take action on climate change.

A changing climate will be very difficult to handle and it will take a significantly long time for people to deal with. It will be very difficult for the upcoming generation to survive. If the process of change in climate and greenhouse emissions continues we could not say whether there will be [snow on] Mount Everest or not in Nepal.

We need to build climate resilience in Nepal by leading adaptation efforts and by mitigating greenhouse gases emissions.

What would help your group move forward in their work?

Definitely we need the support of funds to organise the types of projects and the types of events we would like. But even without funds we can carry on, because we have active group of young people and we can draw on resources from them and can still work at empowering youth.

But it’s more difficult without funding. Because we are a youth organisation and we rely on young people, and relying on volunteers is very challenging without support from other organisations.

It will be difficult without funds and for that reason we are focusing building good network relations with other stakeholders in Nepal and on building more motivational or inspiring projects for youth.

Why did you get involved in the group? What do you think youth group’s role is in the climate/environmental movement?

NYCA run school-based programmes to promote advocacy (Source: NYCA)

I am an environmental activist and am always eager to learn new things, methods and procedures that can be implemented here in Nepal. I saw the impacts of climate change in my community and I thought that I need to work for my community and I need to do something in my community.

From 2006/7-2008 I worked within my local community. But then I began to think that we need to unite, between different communities. Youth have the power and the knowledge. If you train them in a good way they will have a positive impact and act in a positive way. If you train them in a bad way they will mobilise in a bad way. I am very proud what I have gained from my network so far. I feel that on daily basis, I have had the opportunity to learn and grow and make a valuable contribution to different communities in Nepal.

Youth have both special concern and responsibilities in relation to the environment and young people will be compelled to engage in the new form of action and activism aimed at conserving our environment.

Last but not least, youth or young people have to live longer with the consequences of current environmental decisions for longer than their elders. That is why youth groups have to play a very important role in the climate movement.


17/07/2012 – Canada’s climate coalition on taking on the Tar Sands lobby and fighting for Kyoto 

10/07/2012 – How PIDES are working on practical solutions to climate change in Mexico 

05/07/2012 – How Nigerian Climate Coalition are building green bridges ahead of COP18 

More articles from Nepal

10/04/2012 – (Video) Exploiting natural resources for Nepal’s energy supply 

13/04/2012 – Satellite Photo – Mount Everest’s shrinking glaciers 

11/11/2011 – Climate adaptation policies crucial for Himalayan communities

Read more on: Living | | | |