Fights Pollution In
north from the ghats of the Pashupatinath Temple, across the sacred
Baghmati River up into Himalayan Cherry groves and terraced millet
fields, through reforested spruce pine foothills of the Kathmandu
Valley, a Hindu can see three out of ten of the tallest mountain
skyscrapers on Earth. Nepal cradles seven such great peaks in
its northern side. State gray with an emerald cast, their diamond
snow peaks thrust through clouds that shape-shift into devas and
demons. Granite, frozen, Earth homes to the Hindu Gods whose bodies
of light know no solid matter, feel no pain and exist everywhere.
have hiked from Kathmanduís floor at about 4,400 elevation to
the alpine foothills of 12,000 feet. The transition is breathtaking
and in one way, saddening. Itís hard not to hear the rhythmic
sound of axes felling trees for the valleyís main fuel, firewood.
The forest groves of chestnut, oak and birch are almost decimated,
spindly signposts of plentiful and profligate days when Kathmandu
was a crossroads of India/Chinese trade. Erosion gullies scar
the hillsides while newly planted pines of reforestation programs
cling to precious soil. Out of 120,000 acres of forest cleared
each year, only 17,000 are replanted. The Nepali sherpa mountaineers
used to protect their forests like temple guards, but it is now
more profitable to sell wood for Nepalís 200,000 yearly tourists
then to farm. Firewood poachers stealthily gather wood at night
for sale in the morning. One good plan is to lease land to tree
farmers, planting and harvesting trees at the same rate.
our vantage, in the far distance stands sacred Sagarmatha the
highest point of Earthís crust, what the West knows as Mt. Everest.
Sagarmathaís lower forests are virtually gone, and mountaineering
trash litters the slopes. It is cleaved down the middle by a national
boundary that snakes through the Himalayas dividing Nepal from
Tibet, an annex of China. It divides a small Hindu monarchy nation
of 17 million from a former Buddhist theocracy tied in recent
historical karma to a vast, atheistic, communist country of one
billion. Sagarmatha has now become the hub for a proposed international
nature preserve project between Nepal and China that will rival
the Serengeti Reserve in Africa.
the banner, ďHeart of the Himalayas Conservation Programme,Ē the
Woodlands Mountain Institute of Virginia, U.S.A., worked with
Nepalese and Chinese officials to carve out a protected preserve
that totals over 7,500 square miles. Itís like a tiny Hindu/Buddhist
ahimsa nation for animals, trees and plants. After touring Americaís
national parks, the project overseers met in mile-high Denver,
Colorado, and announced their proposal, each side independently
establishing its contiguous preserves. Endangered animals, such
as the snow leopard and lesser panda, rare flora and horribly
thinned pine forests would all come under joint protection. The
Nepali side, working under the Harvard-educated guidance of His
Majesty King Birendra, is expanding the existing Sagarmatha National
Park by 1,200 square miles. The Chinese are creating the Qomolangma
Nature Preserve stretching through 5,000 square miles of Tibet.
of the Tibetan and Nepali sides of the preserves are valuable
not only for their unique ecological and geological features,
but for their religious presence. The region is studded with sacred
shrines, holy rivers, caves of yogic recluses and isolated monastery
precincts. It is a high land infused with deep spiritual power.
back down towards the valley, among the greens and yellows of
undulating terraced fields are huge smoke-belching brickyards.
They are a dragon symbol of development, Nepalís simultaneous
boon and nemesis. A 1986 study warned that by the year 2020, 60%
of Nepalís rich farmland would be urbanized at its present development
pace. The countryís population is expected to double by the year
2,000. Nowhere is the stark reality of urban density more apparent
then at the famous Pashupatinath Temple on the outskirts of Kathmandu
are some days in winter when the brickyard and cooking-fire smoke
mixed with auto exhaust create a smog so thick itís hard to see
the top pagodas of the Pashupatinath Temple from blocks away.
Air pollution is a major Kathmandu concern. Water pollution is
severe and the holy Bhagmati River, a tributary of the Ganges
that flows by the temple, is suffering, often turning dark and
foamy. Trash and filth litter the grounds and some devotees to
the temple are so callous as to wear their sandals right inside
the temple halls.
1986 His Majesty King Birendra established the Pashupati Area
Development Trust (PADT) to counteract the pollution. Her Majesty
Queen Aishwarya is the chairperson of PADT. On November 7th, 1987,
a three-day seminar was convened to find solutions. It was the
first such meeting to focus on the Pashupati area.
cooperation with the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology,
the conference hosted a number of Hindu scientists. Their approach
was exploratory. Dr. S.P. Dhaubadel stated that the air, water
and soil pollution needs to be jointly controlled. One of the
first steps is to differentiate the organic and inorganic pollution
in Bhagmati River. Dr. R.S. Rana emphasized that the conclusions
of the seminar would help concerned agencies to adopt appropriate
measures to remove pollution. Eleven papers were presented covering
pollution, land management and vegetation.
on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Pashupatinath Temple is a unique
treasure for Hindus. As our Nepal correspondent concludes: ďThe
delegates and participants of the seminar were hopeful that it
would help the Nepalese to become responsibly conscious of human
pollution and keep Pashupati clean.