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«His Majesty's Government Ministry of Population and Environment Kathmandu, Nepal June 2000 Ministry of Population and Environment 1 State of the ...»

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1.2 Climate Nepal lies within the subtropical monsoon climatic system. Due to its varied topography there is a wide climatic variation. With altitude being a guiding factor in climatic classification, five different types of climates are present in Nepal. They include sub-tropical m onsoon, warm and cool temperate, alpine, and tundra climate. The Terai and the Siwaliks experience subtropical climate, while the northern mountainous regions have cold, dry continental and alpine winter climate. The main source of precipitation is the summer monsoon (late June to September) of which 80 per cent falls during this period, 15 per cent during the post-monsoon (October) and premonsoon seasons (April to May), and the remaining 5 per cent during the winter (November to February) periods. The precipitation varies from place to place and ranges from 250 mm to over 5,200 mm per annum. The Lumle area (western region near Pokhara) receives about 5,000 mm, whereas Mustang, Dolpa, Manang and the intra Himalayan high basins receive less than 500 mm of precipitation a year. In general, the topographical orientation and its vertical extension largely affect the distribution of rainfall in Nepal. As one proceeds towards the northern part of the country the temperature also varies according to the physiographic zones and the temperature starts declining.

The climatic and physiographic conditions generate environmental problems such as soil erosion and landslides. Loss of nutrient rich topsoil in the uplands affects the downstream ecosystem and the farmlands, indicating a close link between the uplands and the lowlands. This problem, partly natural in character, is further accelerated by human activities. This indicates that any problem in the uplands will have cumulative effects on the people living in the plain areas. The following chapter illustrates the changes in environmental resources over a period of time in various sectors.

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Environmental challenges are emerging in an unprecedented manner with equal and ample opportunities to improve the environmental quality. This Chapter II presents the trends in changes of environmental quality over the time period.

2.1 Human Dimension 2.1.1 Population Growth and Urbanisation The Population Census was conducted for the first time in Nepal in 1911.

This census recorded a total of 5.639 million people in Nepal. Until 1930, the population was observed to be declining. From 1941 onwards, a decade-wise population census was initiated and the total population was recorded to be only 6.284 million with the annual growth rate of 1.16 per cent and a doubling time of 60 years. Statistics revealed the population growth rate from 1971 onwards to be 2.07 per cent. The present trend of annual population growth has declined from 2.66 until 1981 to 2.1 per cent in 1991. Recent population projection has estimated a total of 23.450 million people by the year 2001. With a growth rate of 2.66 per cent and

2.37 per cent, doubling time of the population will be only 26 and 29 years respectively. The population in the Terai increased from 43.6 per cent in 1981 to 47.9 per cent in 2001, while in the Mountains and the Hills the population has decreased (MOPE, 1999).

Population distribution in the physiographic zones and the development regions greatly differ. The population density was 126 people/km2 in 1991, which has been estimated to reach 159 people/km2 in 2001. The crude birth rate also dropped from 41.6 in 1991 to 37 in the period of 1994-96, with the Mountains having the highest fertility rate of 6.6 (Box 2.1). This disproportionate population distribution could be attributed to unequal distribution of resources, difficult topography, disparity in income and social development, and inadequate basic facilities.

The size of absolute population has increased considerably. If the present trend continues it is likely that natural resources will be depleted at an unprecedented rate. Population growth has both, positive and negative implications in resource conservation and it is uniformly distributed among all the regions and/or districts. The social, economic and natural conditions of districts also have a wide degree of variation. Accham, Humla and Mugu 17 Ministry of Population and Environment State of the Environment Report, 2000 districts have the lowest development indicators and are poor in terms of natural resources, women's empowerment, infrastructure development, and poverty.

Figure 1. Population Size and Growth Rate in Nepal

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Rural-urban migration has increased the urban population due to increasing economic activities in the latter. In 1961 the urban population was only 3.6 per cent of the total population, and it increased to 9.2 per Ministry of Population and Environment 18 State of the Environment Report, 2000 cent in 1991. Despite the paucity of basic urban services, it is expected to reach to 3.4 million by the turn of this century (Dangol, 1999). For instance, only about 71 per cent of urban households in Kathmandu have water supply connections. Similarly, access to water supply is approximately 39 per cent in Pokhara, 21 per cent in Biratnagar and 10 per cent in Bharatpur. Similarly, about 25 per cent of households in Kathmandu are connected to sewerage facilities, whereas in other municipalities such services are virtually absent. The National Shelter Policy of 1996 identified housing blocks in Nepal to be in vulnerable condition. There exists about 3 million residential houses (2.7 million houses in rural areas), out of which

50.5 per cent houses are Kachha (temporary), 41.2 per cent houses are semi-permanent and 8.3 per cent are permanent. Annual increment rate of houses in urban area is estimated at 5.5 per cent, while in rural area it is less than 2 per cent. At the national level, urban population growth rate increased from 3.23 per cent in 1971 to 5.89 per cent in 1991 (MHPP, 1996). As the number of municipalities has reached 58, the urban population is estimated to have reached about 14.8 per cent of the total population.

Population growth has a constant pressure on natural resource base such as forests and land. The concentration of people in the hills has increased the cultivation of marginal lands, overgrazing, and illegal collection of forest products. Meanwhile, rapidly growing urban areas are affected by the shortage of basic utility services, resulting to the degradation of environmental quality.

2.1.2 Health and Sanitation

A steady improvement in the health status of people is reflected by the steady decline in the infant mortality rate (IMR). Between 1950 and 1954, the IMR was 197 per thousand, which dropped to 156 per thousand in the 1970s and further declined to 97 per thousand by the year 1991. The latest survey indicates a further decline of IMR to 93 per thousand in 1994 (MOH, 1996). The number of hospitals, nursing homes, health centres and health posts have also increased. Progress in health status has been attributed to the joint efforts of the government and private sector. Indirect intervention programmes such as non-formal education, and income-generating activities have also played an important role in improving health conditions.

Life expectancy has significantly increased from 27.1 and 28.5 for male and female respectively in 1954 to 55.0 and 53.5 in 1993 (MOPE, 1997).

This is due particularly to the increased health service facility, preventive methods such as child and mother immunisation activities, and use of oral rehydration therapy.

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Prevalence of stunted growth is very high, as stunting has been seen in 48 per cent of children under the age of five, with 20 per cent being severely stunted (MOH, 1996). The prevalence rate of stunting rises as high as 64 per cent among children between 24 and 35 months. A national level maternal nutrition survey reported 25 per cent of mothers facing chronic energy deficiency based on the Body Mass Index (BMI) of assessment (MOH, 1996). The nutritional level and prevalence of diarrhoea are associated with sanitary conditions of individuals, families and communities. The state of sanitary facilities in Nepal is presented in Table 2.1.1. Nepal Multiple Indicator Surveillance (CBS, 1996) reported that 41 per cent of the community members perceived no problem related to water supply, 27 per cent perceived distance as a problem, while 19 per cent perceived the problem of pollution of the water sources.

In spite of various efforts for development of health and sanitation facilities, a number of people are suffering from different types of diseases. Cases of gastro-enteritis, hepatitis, dysentery, respiratory diseases, and healthrelated problems are on the increase, indicating inadequate implementation of environmental pollution control measures. However, the number of death due to water-borne infections has comparatively declined over the years. For example, about 6,000 cases were registered and the death of 157 patients were recorded in 1988/89, whereas in 1995/96, the number of cases reached to 6,682 and the recorded death declined to 105 (CBS, 1997).

According to the Living Standards Survey - 1996, nearly 41 per cent households in the country are within 30 minutes walk's reach of the nearest health agency. HMG/N is committed to establish a sub-health post in each VDC, and thus almost 3,200 sub-health posts have so far been established. However, people are still prone to malaria, kalazar and encephalitis in 64 districts. Under the polio eradication scheme, approximately 3.3 million children under the age of five have been vaccinated.

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2.1.3 Poverty Implications Population growth and decline in farm production has intensified land use change in the country. Conversion of marginal land to cultivated land is on the increase. High human fertility, high mortality rate and high agricultural disguised labour force prevail in the rural areas. These, added with inadequate employment opportunities are likely to have an increasing negative effect on poverty.

The Human Development Index (HDI) value for Nepal is 0.463 on an international scaling. This is based on the life expectancy, access to heath services, food and nutrition, education, income, status of children and women, and out of 175 countries Nepal is listed 144th (UNDP, 1997). The report further revealed a wide difference in income distribution. The per Ministry of Population and Environment 21 State of the Environment Report, 2000 capita real GDP based on purchasing power parity (PPP) for the year 1994 was US$ 1,090 with the difference between the GDP and HDI rank for Nepal being 11 at international scaling.

There is also close inter-linkage between population growth, resource depletion, environmental degradation, and low level of social development.

The cumulative effect is the increasing extent of poverty which is both a cause and effect of environmental degradation (EPC, 1993). Poverty alleviation was one of the major objectives of the Eighth Plan and was targeted at reducing the population below poverty line, from 49 per cent to 42 per cent by the end of Plan period. The poverty situation over the past two decades is indicated in box-figure (CBS, 1998). On the other hand, average GDP growth indicates a steadily increasing trend since the 1960s (Table 2.1.4). Estimated per capita GDP for the year 1998/99 is US$ 222 only (CBS, 1999).

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Various policies have been enunciated to reduce population growth, increase agriculture productivity, and expand off-farm employment opportunities. However, poverty alleviation efforts have not changed the situation and there is an increasing trend of poverty.

Table 2.1.

4 Average Annual Growth of GDP in Different Plans

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2.1.4 Social Services Management of natural and man-made resources also depends on mobilisation of the social sector. Improvement of social facilities would contribute towards minimising environmental damage. Towards this 23 Ministry of Population and Environment State of the Environment Report, 2000 endeavour, policy and legal measures are focused upon environmental education, sanitation and health. However, this sector can not be developed without effective participation of the local people, i.e., the beneficiaries and victims of the environmental conditions. With this realisation, HMG formulated several policies and environmental instruments to facilitate the participation of different stakeholders, including the civil societies, in the development of the social sector.

Following the restoration of democracy in 1990, several non-governmental organisations have been established with the objective of implementing environmental activities. Most of these NGOs can be categorised as professional, social and indigenous organisations, while others are community-based organisations (CBOs). These NGOs are registered in the Chief District Office (CDO) under the Association Registration Act of 1978 and later with the Social Welfare Council. By 1996 the number of NGOs had crossed over 20,000. About 800 NGOs have also shown keen interest to collaborate with the Ministry of Population and Environment for the implementation of environmental activities, individually or jointly. Nongovernmental organisations are also providing employment opportunities to people for initiating developmental and social welfare activities. CBOs have also gathered experiences in environment and development activities by involving in rehabilitation ponds, guthi operations for renovation of temples, etc. (Box 2.2).

Box 2.2 Chhatis Mauja Kulo of Bhairhawa (Western Development Region) provides an example of indigenous management of a scheme for irrigation facility effectively. Such management schemes in rural areas lead to the recognition and promotion of Farmers Managed Irrigation Schemes (FMIS) all over the country. The local people contribute financially towards repair and maintenance through their own efforts. Similarly, CBOs are also involved in the management of the natural resources such as forests, ponds and micro-watersheds.

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