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Nepal: Waste and Transformation in the Himalayas

Nepal: Waste and Transformation in the Himalayas

Not long ago, a popular movement overthrew the 250-year-old monarchy and established the Democratic Republic of Nepal. This is a difficult transition for the Himalayas, as they continue to work hard to find a political consensus on the federal constitution. It is not easy to be surrounded by geopolitical giants such as China and India, or to become an eco-tourism destination where the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest, becomes the world's highest garbage dump.

However, among these challenges, in this land of thousands of Buddhas, there are several bright lights that show the path of economic progress and ecological justice. From replacing plastic with traditional leaf boards to installing bio-digesters in local hospitals, communities in the Himalayas are taking advantage of the unique combination of old customs and new initiatives to embark on a path of zero waste.

The staff of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) have just returned from a trip in the Himalayas, and members of the Zero Waste Himalayas Network have been organizing community-based initiatives to reduce waste, reduce plastic pollution, and improve local livelihoods. At GAIA, we believe that the world's ecological crisis is best solved through local economic solutions developed, owned and controlled by communities and workers on the front lines of these crises.

Make paper bags and build communities

At the Boudhya Zero Waste Center in Kathmandu, we joined a group of women who made bags out of old newspapers, and through our joint efforts to communicate in Hindi, sharing stories, songs and some laughter,

English and Nepali. From their organizational stories, we learned about the physical reality and economic constraints that challenge the reduction, reuse, and recycling of discarded materials in Kathmandu. Pragya Seeds, a local NGO dedicated to zero waste and environmental justice, has been organizing some such community activities.

A new generation of zero waste leader

At the Buddha Middle School, a group of 8 and 9 students have been looking for work to separate paper, plastic and organic waste for composting. When discussing their activities with us, these students cleverly connected local recycling and composting practices with global concerns about climate change, ecosystem health, and sustainable food production.

In Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, we have found a new generation of community leaders among the green youths in Lumbini-which demonstrates why the future of the well-being of the planet is clearly in the hands of young people.

The Buddha (Geotama Siddhartha) was born in 623 BC, the prince of Kapilavastu. In his later years, after giving up imperialism and the throne, the Buddha became one of the earliest and most famous supporters of the Ahimsa (non-violence) principle. If he is reborn into today's "digging, burning, dumping" society, he can also be said to be a supporter of "zero waste".

Committed to the commitment to protect everyone-"Jai Sanrakshan", the green youth with more than 500 environmental members trains young people on ecological justice issues, connects them with various movements, and empowers them to play a role In their community. Their current activities include:

"One Youth-Five Trees", a recent initiative, resulted in the planting of more than 15,000 native seedlings.

Sarus Crane Conservation: Green youth mobilizes community activists to protect these rare wetland birds through a series of interventions and methods, including: community meetings, street theaters, social media activities, training and publicity meetings with the authorities. Plastic-free Lumbini: Targeting an important festival in Buddhism, thousands of pilgrims and tourists flock to the birthplace of Buddha. The members of the Green Youth organized to replace disposable plastic cups and plates with local substitutes, such as leaf discs and earthen cups.

Zero waste medical model

Perhaps one of the most impressive zero waste programs is Bir Hospital. The Bir Hospital was founded in 1889 and is one of the oldest and busiest government hospitals in Nepal. And favorite

Here, Bill hardly has enough resources, beds and well-trained staff to meet the needs of Nepalese citizens seeking care, treatment and surgery.

In 2010, the wards and corridors of Bir Hospital looked like many other hospitals in South Asia-trash bins were full of used needles, bandages, dressings, food scraps, packaging and surgical waste, feeding swarms of rats and cockroaches. A large part of the hospital’s backyard forms a garbage dump from which workers and children in the informal sector (without any protective clothing) will pick up used syringes and other plastic waste and resell them on the black market.

What distinguishes this Kathmandu institution in recent years is the amazing zero waste program organized by the Healthcare Foundation in collaboration with international allies such as Harmless Healthcare. By combining zero waste with "mercury free" and "safe injection" programs, the HCF team turned this old, underfunded, and overcrowded hospital into the most advanced model for handling hazardous and non-hazardous medical waste.

The hospital has a clearly marked waste separation system and innovative local manufacturing equipment to ensure that all discards are safely stored, disinfected, recycled and composted. Some highlights of the project include:

Successfully replaced incineration with an environmentally friendly autoclave. By customizing sterilization equipment to meet the characteristics of medical waste such as cotton bandages and dressings, Bir has demonstrated that autoclaving can reduce the dioxin emissions associated with medical waste incineration by more than 90%. Earthworm compost-use worms to break down bandages, dressings and other biodegradable hazardous waste into compost (after autoclaving)

Successfully replace mercury-containing medical devices with safer mercury-free alternatives, such as thermometers and sphygmomanometers (sphygmomanometers).

A bio-digester was installed to treat organic waste, mainly from food waste, to produce biogas, a renewable energy source.Today, more than 50% of the waste stream is recycled, maintaining hundreds of green jobs. According to HF Director Mahesh Nakarmi, this ambitious zero waste project started with a "zero budget". Lack of funding has not stopped them from innovation, diligence or motivation.

And it doesn't stop there: check back soon for the second part of this series, where we meet the Zero Waste and Environmental Justice organizers in Darjeeling!

This article was originally published on the Zero Waste World blog

Authors: Ananda Lee Tan and Pratibha Sharma Ananda Lee Tan is GAIA’s regional coordinator for the United States and Canada. For more than two decades, Ananda has been an activist, organizer and rebel, dedicated to anti-war, forestry, agriculture, climate, energy, trade and labor justice movements around the world. Ananda works in GAIA's Berkeley office. Pratibha Sharma is the India Regional Coordinator for GAIA. She also works closely with SWaCH, a group of self-employed scavengers that provide waste collection and management services.

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