Population and Environment Issues in Nepal and the Need for Community Development Policy
Dahal, Govinda Prasad, Contributions to Nepalese Studies
It is widely recognised that environment, economy and social well-being are inextricably linked (Ness and Golay 1997; UNCED 1992). In Nepal, the livelihood of the rapidly growing population and the national economy mainly rely on forests and agriculture [United Nations Development Programme Nepal (UNDP/Nepal)] 1997; Central Bureau of Statistics/Nepal (CBS/Nepal) 1995). Concomitant with population growth, governmental initiatives for a faster development of infrastructure base such as construction of roads, irrigation dams, hydroelectric projects, and housing exert pressure on the country's forest and agricultural land (Pant and Acharya 1988; Soussan et al. 1995) which is increasingly associated with long-term environmental degradation (UNCED 1992).
Progress in preventing long-term degradation requires effective policies (World Bank 1997: 1). The government of Nepal has expressed growing commitment to combating the population and environmental problems in the country. It has established national institutions such as the Ministry of Population and Environment, formulated and revised laws regarding forest resource management and adopted an antinatalist population policy [National Planning Commission (NPC) 1997]. However, despite the government's effort the achievements have so far remained well below expectations (Gonzalez 1990; Subedi 1995). One major reason for this failure is the lack of effective community empowerment policy (World Bank 1997: 1; McNicoll 1975: 1).
The analytical framework given below presents the population and environment relationships in the form of a flow diagram (Diagram 1). It identifies four factors influencing land use change. Population dynamics and economic and infrastructure development activities are major causes of change in land use pattern. The policy of central government and the response of local community groups are also directly associated with the change in the pattern.
The changing land use pattern is in turn associated with environmental degradation. The framework attempts to depict linkages between population dynamics, economic and infrastructure development activities and land use, which are influenced by policies and regulations of the Central government and by the activities of local community groups. The resulting intended and unintended ecological consequences, in turn, would affect the land use pattern, population dynamics and central government policy.
The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to describe the changing relationships between population and environment in Nepal in terms of the changing pattern of land use, because land use change is often a precursor to degradation (UNCED 1992). The paper also aims to analyse the changing pattern of land use in terms of population pressure, socio-economic development and government policies and to discuss the environmental consequences of the changing pattern of land use. The paper also draws out the population and environment policy implications of the above analysis and makes some recommendations with regard to community development policy. The paper begins with a comment on available data on land use, then outlines changing patterns of land use, its causes and ecological consequences. It then reviews and comments on the government's population and environmental policies in the past and considers the potential value of a community empowerment policy for achieving ecologically sustainable land use practices.
Date on Land Use
The discussion of changing population and environment relations with regard to land use in Nepal is hampered because detailed and comprehensive data are unavailable (UNCED 1992). The survey of the Land Resource Mapping Project (LRMP) of the Water and Energy Commission which provides data for 1978/79 undertaken by LRMP (1986), still provides the latest land use information (Table 1). However, this survey alone cannot provide all land use information. …