There are many ways in which China and Nepal can sustainably co-operate and boost trade both ways. Healing herbs have always been a major export from Nepal’s mountain areas, especially the Karnali. Nepal needs to regulate the trade and give back the benefits of this trade to local communities. Right now, it requires a license to harvest the herbs. Indian businessmen who pay for the license can legally harvest while the locals can be prosecuted for picking herbs from their own forests. This system must be dismantled and greater autonomy given to locals to steward and sustainably harvest their own forest resources.
China’s traditional healing herbs and medicines are world-class, and Nepal can learn a lot from them. Our government should request the Chinese government to provide an exchange program which trains people in acupuncture techniques as well as traditional Chinese herbs so we can give low-cost traditional herbal alternatives to our people. Following a gruesome injury, I have gone to an acupuncturist and experienced first hand the wellbeing that comes from acupuncture. I have also seen people with paralysis and other life-crippling events recover in this healing center.
China and Nepal should also work on ecological tourism, in which people are taught about the benefits of maintaining wild areas and wildlife. Without our forests and animals, we will not survive for long. Nature can do without humans, but humans cannot do without nature. We need to understand this and work towards rebuilding mixed forests which give importance to old growth trees.
The trees of Kathmandu have been decimated, killing thousands of old growths in road expansion programs. We faced the consequences of those actions including an epidemic of dengue, which is spread by mosquitoes.
Everyone from the Mayor to our most valued doctor Sanduk Ruit came down with this disease. The mosquito’s natural predators, including dragonflies, birds and bats, all live in green areas, and with cement and asphalt everywhere, Kathmandu is prime “real estate” for mosquitoes to breed in. We know the wages of ecological sin is death, and in current scenario of climate change it might quickly become mass death unless the environment is given top priority.
Kathmandu needs to reforest itself quickly, and that means picking the right species of hardwood tree (not the tropical palm trees that the government quickly planted along President Xi’s route from the airport). Of course a two year old tree will never exhale the thousands of tons of oxygen a stand of century-old old growth trees give out, but at least it would be a start towards thinking about a more sustainable city.
China should think about how it could support Asian cities to re-green, not just concretize. Concrete is turning out to be an unviable material due to the way we have recklessly destroyed mountains for lime and riverbeds for sand. China should also conduct research on green building materials which are sustainable and which do not harm the environment.
The one area in which Nepal could support China is in helping it adopt its very successful community forestry model. Nepal has been in the news as one of few countries where the total landmass of forests is increasing. This is not just due to mass migration of people from villages into cities (although that is a factor), but also because of an extremely successful community forestry program that been operational since the late 1970s. Late King Birendra’s “Hariyo Ban, Nepal Ko Dhan” (Green Forests are Nepal’s Wealth) program was instrumental in this reforestation in Nepal.
As the global economy slows down due to the disruptions of climate, there has to be new ways to think about creating prosperity. The old model of relentlessly pumping out objects and materials toxic to the environment and harmful to living things has to change, if industries and economies are to survive.
China can play a key role in this moment. It has the capacity to quickly shift to new, green materials, as it has shown with its manufacture and adoption of electric vehicles which outnumber those in Western economies. China’s solar industries are the best in the world, and Nepal should also court solar power and electric vehicle support to Nepal, not just focus on stalled hydropower. We should lobby for a government exchange program in which Nepali engineers are trained in solar and EV technologies in China.
President Xi’s visit was a prestigious moment for Nepal, for whom both its giant neighbors are equally important. We were honored. Our cultural and historical ties are long, and will last through the ages. We should use this moment to think about long-term benefits for both to help the two citizens survive the turbulence of planetary and economic changes .
This is the third and concluding part of the author’s three-part article on Nepal-China ties