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Sujata Koirala: A staunch supporter of sustainability

Sujata Koirala: A staunch supporter of sustainability

Creasion Nepal, a prominent environmental organization in Nepal, was founded in 2005 by Anand Mishra with the vision of providing opportunities to the youth. He wanted to deter them from seeking opportunities abroad. The organization revamped in 2015 shifting its focus toward environmental issues. Today, Creasion Nepal works on climate change, disaster relief, and plastic recycling among others. It’s also planning to work on air pollution. 

Sujata Koirala joined Creasion in 2019 as a junior associate. True to its mission of empowering youth, the organization entrusted Koirala with a significant project just seven months into her contract.

“I lead the entire environmental portfolio at Creasion Nepal. I’m young but the organization trusted me and I’m grateful for that,” says Koirala. She holds the position of general secretary on Creasion’s board, making her the youngest board member.

Koirala, who hails from Chitwan, pursued a degree in Environmental Science partly to avoid studying medicine. Like other youths, Koirala also wanted to go abroad. However, after completing her bachelor’s degree, she noticed a significant gap in addressing environmental issues. She realized that problems like road pollution and solid waste management have persisted since the 1980s and 90s, despite Nepal receiving considerable development aid. This led her to question whether the root cause was the people or the nature of the development aid itself.

“I started to wonder if we were doing enough to protect our environment,” she says. “Despite all our efforts and development aid, why weren’t we seeing the necessary impact? This curiosity marked the beginning of my journey into understanding and tackling these persistent environmental challenges.”

Following this realization, she moved to Kathmandu to pursue her master’s degree, which completely transformed her perspective. Like many others her age, she initially sought a well-paying job. However, she soon delved into researching environmental science issues, exploring available technologies, and considering practical solutions. Her journey took her to Dailekh where she studied water poverty. Despite significant development aid allocated to address water poverty, she found that the funds were not being utilized effectively.

“If we want to make a difference for the environment, we need to identify the root cause of the issue and figure out how to address it,” she says.

Through various environmental research projects and studies on how to make them successful, Koirala eventually found her way to Creasion Nepal. At just 24 years old, she took on a significant project aimed at combating plastic pollution. This marked the beginning of Koirala’s dedicated journey toward environmental conservation.

She realized that impactful work at the grassroots level could make a significant difference even with a limited budget. “We don’t need millions of dollars to see a positive impact on the environment,” she says, adding what is needed is the right approach.

As the general secretary of Creasion and with a background in environment, Koirala strives to develop a strategic vision to guide the organization. She evaluates which projects to undertake, the strategies to implement, and the areas of impact to focus on, creating a comprehensive roadmap.

Koirala also takes on significant responsibility of overseeing all projects. She has developed logical frameworks to assess the impact at various levels and ensure that research strategies are effectively executed. Overall, she is responsible for the operations of Creasion’s projects, as well as the organization’s strategy and vision.

Promoting environmental sustainability in Nepal presents unique challenges. While the country has recently increased its focus on environmental preservation, many obstacles remain. “The main problem is people’s mindsets,” says Koirala. “People often resist advice, such as using sustainable containers instead of plastic bottles, questioning why they should give up the convenience of plastic now that it’s widely available.”

“In Nepal, policies need strengthening. Despite extensive discussions about sustainability in areas like climate change, disaster relief, and waste management, the responsibility mainly falls on local governments, which lack the necessary infrastructure and resources. Without proper capacity building by those in charge, the challenges of promoting environmental sustainability will persist.”

Koirala herself incorporates sustainability into her daily life, illustrating how small actions can lead to significant changes. She highlights practices like carrying reusable bags for groceries, avoiding the purchase of plastic bottles, and segregating waste at home. Additionally, she emphasizes the importance of reducing carbon emissions by avoiding the use of personal vehicles. These individual efforts can collectively lead to larger changes, encouraging people to be mindful and conscious of their actions.

Koirala manages numerous projects at Creasion, yet many people fail to grasp the significance of her work, often dismissing it as a mere project and asking if she plans to go abroad after its completion. Women’s leadership is a crucial issue that needs to be highlighted. Koirala points out that, in Nepal, women’s leadership is often given little importance, often being showcased merely for tokenism, especially in the development sectors and during panel sessions where female representation is needed.

Despite her remarkable credentials, Koirala herself is sometimes invited to fill a seat on panels solely because of the need for a female participant. She declines these offers, insisting on participating only when she can contribute meaningfully, speaking about her profession and her visions.

In an era where young people are more inclined to work for multinational companies than to engage in environmental protection campaigns, it’s crucial for the youth in Nepal to take action for the environment. “While environmental issues may seem uninteresting to many, it’s vital for them to grasp the significance of these matters,” says Koirala.

Amidst the trend of many young people seeking better opportunities abroad, Koirala emphasizes that organizations in Nepal, such as Creasion, offer significant opportunities for those who seek them. She cites her own experience of finding opportunities at a young age and achieving her dreams in Nepal. It’s crucial for young people to recognize the opportunities available within the country. They need to present their ideas and not leave everything to the older generation, who often rehash the same ideas.