Instead of using the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to begin planning for a sustainable economy based on renewable energy, environmental activists say the government is instead pushing a regressive business-as-usual budget.
Climate Action Network South Asia – Nepal (CANSA) says the contents of the Nepal Government Policies and Programs 2077/78 and Principles and Priorities of the Appropriation Bill 2077 presented in Parliament last week do not favour long-term economic stability, sustainable use of resources and the constitutionally-guaranteed right of citizens to live in clean, unpolluted places.
The group says the policies announced in the two documents show that the upcoming budget has shortcomings in government planning and policymaking not just dealing with the fallout of the lockdown on the economy, but also in steering the country’s towards a more sustainable path.
Nepal lockdown proves air quality can be improved, Sonia Awale
Despite Nepal’s dynamic hydropower and solar power potential, it still remains heavily reliant on imported petroleum products for energy. While electricity makes up only 3% of domestic energy consumption, petroleum products constitute close to 17% — the rest is still biomass like firewood and agricultural residue.
Nepal spent Rs 215 billion last year on importing petroleum products, far greater than what is earned from all the country’s exports put together. CANSA therefore urges the government to enact policies that introduce self-sufficiency, accountability to the environment and sustainability into Nepal’s energy consumption needs.
The only way to do this, the group says, is ‘the gradual displacement of fuel-based vehicles by electric vehicles to reduce, in the long-term, the reliance on fuel’ by establishing a Renewable Energy Fund to create electric-powered public transport systems. Private vehicles owners could also be given incentives and subsidies to switch to battery-operated cars and motorcycles.
Kathmandu’s road ahead post-COVID-19, Bhushan Tuladhar
Existing petrol and diesel vehicles can also be converted to electric transmission if the government to introduced much-delayed legalisation of this process.
CANSA also advocates a change in energy consumption patterns in the home. Economical and environmentally-friendly sources such as biogas and induction stoves are cited as clean and green energy sources to replace imported LPG, especially because Nepal’s hydropower plants are generating surplus power. The biogas industry in particular has roots in Nepal, the cheap and clean production added to low wastage and longer usage making it increasingly popular among consumers.
‘These can present multiple benefits to all stakeholders involved, including the billions saved on imports which is then recycled into the economy. The strain on the environment is greatly reduced, cutting down on health costs and improving prospects for tourism,” CANSA said in a pre-budget statement.
CANSA also says there should be effective and adequate relief for those most affected by the COVID-19 lockdown – small and medium entrepreneurs already affected by climate-induced chances. It also wants the government to discourage activities that over-exploit natural resources, and industries that pollute the air and water.