Nepal's hydropower threat to conservation

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Nepal's hydropower threat to conservation

The Nepali government's recent approval of allowing large-scale hydropower plants within protected areas has ignited controversy, drawing sharp criticism from conservationists. Published in January, the policy relaxes regulations for hydropower developers, raising concerns about its environmental impact and potential harm to biodiversity. Despite objections from conservationists, authorities proceeded with the policy, prompting fears of heightened hydropower development and undermining decades of conservation efforts. The decision underscores the delicate balance between economic interests and environmental preservation, emphasizing the need for ongoing scrutiny and advocacy for sustainable conservation practices.

Original article written by : Abhaya Raj Joshi 

The Nepali government's decision to greenlight the construction of large-scale hydropower plants within protected areas has triggered significant backlash from conservationists, who view it as a major setback for environmental protection efforts. This controversial proposal, formally announced on January 4th and published in the national gazette, grants hydropower developers permission to establish projects entirely within these protected zones. The policy also includes provisions that ease water release requirements during dry seasons and streamline the process of acquiring land for power projects within these areas. This move has raised concerns about the potential negative impacts on biodiversity, water resources, and the overall integrity of the protected areas, prompting conservationists to voice their opposition and advocate for stricter conservation measures.

Critics, including leading conservationists, lawyers, and Indigenous communities, fear that this move will unleash a wave of hydropower development, undermining decades of conservation efforts and exacerbating the impacts of climate change. Despite feedback from over two dozen conservationists urging against the proposal, authorities proceeded without significant alterations, prompting considerations of legal challenges.

Nepal's rich biodiversity spans national parks, wildlife reserves, and conservation areas, covering a substantial portion of the country's land. The new policy raises concerns about conflicting interests, favoring large infrastructure companies over local communities and potentially harming aquatic species downstream with reduced water flow. Despite criticisms, authorities maintain their decision-making authority, highlighting the need for continued scrutiny and advocacy for balanced conservation practices.