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  • Writer's pictureAdhish Gurung

Reflecting on National Conservation Day

Nepal's Federal government decided to go ahead with its plan to construct one of the largest international airports in Nijgadh, Bara recently. The plan was initially explored back in the 1990s but remained unfulfilled and shelved for many years. Now the plan's details are public and has outraged many environmental activists, citizens, as well as NGOs and INGOs. The projected 8000 hectare airport will destroy 2.4 million trees, not to mention many more smaller trees and habitat for a plethora of mammals and birds. A dubious Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was challenged by People's Alliance for Nature Nepal (PANNEPAL), where I volunteer, and the Supreme Court issued a stay-order on cutting any trees in the intended area. This was a small victory for our environmental alliance, but the duration of this stay-order is still uncertain.

As a strategist and communicator for PANNEPAL, I frequently share our activities with our community, build alliances with other environmental groups, and gain supporters to raise questions about potentially harmful infrastructure projects in Nepal. I hope that through these alliances, we can make enough noise that signals to our government that its citizens are concerned and will not rollover in the face of expedited and destructive projects.

In early 2021, I visited Chitwan National Park and was greeted emphatically by a former colleague of my father, Dr. Chandra Gurung. He was a trained ranger and currently managed a hotel in Sauraha. What struck me was that when he talked about how Chitwan National Park came into being, he mentioned how a handful of people like my father (foresters, conservationists) were enough to convince the then Royal family to establish a National Park. Today, a Nepal without Chitwan National Park is unthinkable, but back then, the fate of this small piece of earth was decided by a Royal family swayed by a handful of conservationists. I do not know how much of this recap is actually fact, but the story itself was enough to galvanize me. This is how I choose to remember my father, so that I too can continue in the path of environmental conservation and hopefully sway a few people in keeping Nijgadh forest just the way it is.

(Chandra Gurung [left] with his friend and fellow conservationist Karna Sakya)

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