Dr. Swarnim Wagle, Honourable Member, National Planning Commission of the GoN, Mr. Rameshore Khanal, Former Finance Secretary and Chairman of President Chure-Terai Madhesh Conservation Board and Mr. Vishwa B. Amatya, Head of Programme, Energy Practical Action, South Asia Regional Office highlighted crucial sustainability issues in Nepal as they relate to infrastructure development, environmental vulnerability and energy access at a plenary session of the 29th Biannual Research and Training Workshop organized by SANDEE on the 7th of December at the Park Village Resort Hotel in Kathmandu.
In his presentation "Infrastructure to launch higher growth", Dr. Wagle highlighted the various challenges posed by the lack of investment in infrastructure in Nepal in general and in the hydro-electricity sector in particular. Infrastructure is important as electricity and roads are inputs to economic production, while they also enhance health care and education. On hydroelectric dams, Dr. Wagle pointed out several historical impediments to the realization of projects, such as instability and civil unrest and the lack of private sector capacity. In drawing out an optimistic view of the future, the speaker said that most of these impediments becoming less important, particularly due to the positive outcome of the general elections held last year and greater capacity building in the private sector. In conclusion, Dr. Wagle reiterated that Nepal must avoid the implications of the "Dutch Disease" and effectively manage the large amount of investment that will flow into the country In the future.
Mr. Rameshore Khanal portrayed the environmental impact brought about by encroachment and deforestation in the ecologically vulnerable Chure Hills region in a presentation titled "Environment and development in Nepal: The context of Chure Conservation". Mr. Khanal stated that although before 1951 the Chure Hills region was sparsely populated, several issues including malaria eradication and the construction of highways resulted in large scale migration into the area. Construction of roads and irrigation systems without adequate conservation plans have led to soil erosion, which has resulted in slope failure and floods in the monsoon months. Several conservation pathways include the promotion of eco-friendly alternative income generating activities and controlling forest fires. Mr. Khanal concluded his presentation by proposing several research questions, among which was the anomaly between reduction in farm labour and increases in forest encroachment.
The final presenter, Mr. Vishwa B. Amatya spoke briefly on "Decentralized energy system and livelihood nexus in Nepal". Mr. Amatya highlighted the technical, financial and topographical challenges of connecting remote regions of Nepal to the national grid. While highlighting the importance of decentralized electricity systems, particularly, micro-hydro projects, the presenter mentioned several problems associated with these projects, such as high financial burden and outdated technology. Mr. Amatya argued that micro-hydro projects must be perceived as a market system to ensure that sustainability issues are factored in. In his conclusion, Mr. Amatya stressed the need for more research on topics such as rural energy access planning and carbon financing.
The presentations were followed by a lively question and answer session after which the plenary session was brought to a close by concluding remarks from Prof. Haque, East West University, Bangladesh.
SANDEE's mission is to strengthen the capacity of individuals and institutions to undertake research on the inter-linkages among economic development, poverty, and environmental changeand to disseminate practical information that can be applied to development policies.
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