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नेपालबाट प्लास्टिकका झोला हटाउनुपर्छ भन्ने अभियान मैले ४ वर्षदेखि सञ्चालन गर्दै आइरहेको छु। मैले स्वयम् प्लास्टिकको झोला प्रयोग नगरेको पनि करिब ४ वर्ष भई सक्यो।

म निर्धक्क मेरो जिबिका चलाउँदै आएको छु। मलाई आफ्नो झोला बोकेर किनमेल गर्न जादा गर्व लाग्छ कुनै पनि पसलमा गएर म पसलेलाई निर्धक्क भएर भन्ने गर्छु, ‘मलाई झोला पर्दैन। मसँग आफ्नै झोला छ,’ अनि पसले पनि पुलुक्क अनुहारमा हेर्दै मुस्कुराउँदै भन्छ, ‘सबैजना भाइ जस्तो भइदिए।’

अनि म सोच्छु, किन हामी सबै आफ्नो झोला आफै बोकेर समान किन्न जादैनौँ।

काठमाडौँ उपत्यकामा मात्र दैनिक ४७ लाख ९१ हजार २ सय ९० प्लास्टिक झोला प्रयोग हुन्छ।  १ सय ८० दिनमा त प्लास्टिक झोला फिजाएमा काठमाडौँ उपत्यका नै ढाकिन्छ। यो सुन्दा तपाईंलाई अचम्म लाग्छ होला तर अचम्म मान्नु पर्देन, सम्झनुहोस् त तपाईं नै पसल जाँदा निःशुल्क पाएझैँ कतिवटा प्लास्टिकका झोला थप्नुहुन्छ र तपाईंलाई थाहा पनि छैन होला।

तपाईंले निःशुल्क पाएझैँ ठानेको ती प्लास्टिक झोलाको मूल्य तपाईंहरुले नै किन्ने सामानमा जोडिएको हुन्छ।

एउटा प्लास्टिक झोलाको औसत प्रयोग १२ देखि १८ मिनेट हुने गर्छ त्यसपछि त्यो फोहोरमा परिणत हुन्छ। त्यही प्लास्टिकको झोला टुक्रिन हजारौ वर्ष लाग्ने गर्छ। प्लास्टिकका झोला पेट्रोलियम पदार्थबाट बन्ने हुनाले यसलाई जलाउदा कार्बन मोनोअक्साइड, डाइअक्सिन लगायतविभिन्न घातक ग्यास उत्सर्जन हुने गर्छ जसले क्यान्सर जस्तो भयानक रोग निम्त्याउन सक्छ।

नेपाल पहिलो देश हैन जसले प्लास्टिक झोला प्रयोगमा प्रतिबन्द लगाउदैँ छ संसारका अधिकांश थुप्रै देशहरुमा प्लास्टिकका झोला एक पछि अर्को गरि प्रतिबन्द गर्ने लहर नै चलेको छ। अमेरिकाजस्तो मुलुकले पनि आफ्नो देशको विभिन्न प्रान्तमा प्लास्टिकका झोलामा प्रतिबन्द लगाएको छ ।

एशियाकै कुरा गर्ने हो भने सन् १९९८ र १९८८ मा बंगलादेशमा आएको बाढीमा प्लास्टिकका झोलाको कारणले भएको ठुलो जनधनको क्षति पुगेको भन्दै  २००२ मा उसले प्रतिबन्ध लगायो। हङकङले पनि एक निश्चित मोटाइ अन्तर्गत खुद्रा बिक्रेताहरुलाई प्लास्टिक झोलाको प्रयोगमा मनाही गरेको छ। प्लास्टिक झोलामा लेवीको परिचय पछी हङकङ प्लास्टिक झोलाप्रयोगमा ९० प्रतिशत घटेको विभिन्न तथ्यांकले बताएको छ।

मित्रराष्ट्र चीनले पनि २००८ जुन १ देखिलागू हुने गरी पातलो प्लास्टिकमा पूर्ण प्रतिबन्द र बाक्लो झोलामा शुल्कलिने प्राबधान लगाएको छ जसकारण अहिले प्रत्येक बर्ष ४० अर्ब बचत भइरहेको उसले जनाएको छ।

तेस्तै अर्को मित्रराष्ट्र भारतले पनि आफ्नो विभिन्न प्रान्तमा प्लास्टिक झोलाको प्रयोगमा प्रतिबन्द लगाएको छ। मुम्बई सहरमा ५० माइक्रोन तल प्लास्टिक झोलामा प्रतिबन्द लगाएको छ।

 त्यस्तै गोवा राज्यले पनि ४० माइक्रोन भन्दा कामका झोलामा प्रतिबन्द लगाएको छ। यूरोपेली संघले पनि सन् २०१३ नोवेम्बेरबाट लागू हुने गरी ५० माइक्रोन सम्मका झोलामा प्रतिबन्द लगाएको छ। प्लास्टिक झोला प्रतिबन्दमा सबै देशहरुभन्दा पृथक ढंगले कार्यान्वय गर्ने देशमा रुवान्डा पर्ने गर्छ। रुवान्डाले सन् २००८ मा देशब्यापी प्लास्टिक झोलामा प्रतिबन्द लगाएको थियो।

धेरै मुलुकले सिमित मापदण्ड निर्धारण गरेर प्लास्टिक झोला प्रयोगमा प्रतिबन्द लगाएपनि व्यवस्थापनमा थुप्रै झन्झट देखेपछि रुवान्डाले भने पूर्ण प्रतिबन्द लगाएको हो। उक्त देशमा प्लास्टिक झोलाप्रयोग गरेमा एक बर्ष सम्मको जेल सजायहुने उल्लेख गरेको छ साथै उक्त देश जाने पर्यटकलाई समेत छानबिन गर्ने र प्रयोग गरेको पाएमा सजाय हुने नियम छ।

प्लास्टिक झोलाको प्रतिबन्द संगै नेपालले बार्षिक ५.५ मिलियन मेटिक टन  कार्बोडाइ अक्साइड उत्सर्जन घटाउन सक्छ।  प्लास्टिक उद्योगको नेपालमा लगानी करिब १५ करोड ३० लाख बराबर रहेको छ नेपालमा प्लास्टिक उद्योग १ सय २ छन्।   


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When someone says ‘soup’ the image of a simple, healthy and nourishing dish comes to our mind. However, there is one different, unhealthy kind of soup called ‘plastic soup’ that nobody prefers to consume, but which is unknowingly being consumed by people in different forms. Now, this phenomenon of the ‘plastic soup’ is something most of us don’t have a clue about. Most developed countries are blamed for their environment pollution. The top carbon-dioxide emitters in the world are China (23 percent), United States (19 percent), European Union (13 percent) and India (6 percent). Low-income countries like Nepal have the smallest carbon footprints, but have to suffer a lot from different natural calamities.

Basically, plastic soups are formed in oceans—as it is the ultimate destination of all the sewage, pollution or by products of any disastrous activities we, living creatures, participate in. The oceans occupy 72 percent of earth’s surface, from where more than half the population of the world gets foods. According to Living Planet Report 2014, in around 60 years, the marine species have declined by about 40 percent. Plastic debris poses considerable threat by choking and starving wildlife, distributing non-native and potentially harmful organisms, absorbing toxic chemicals and degrading to micro-plastics that may subsequently be ingested.

The name itself suggests that the soup’s main component is a widely used plastic. It may shock you to find out that the plastic bags that we use are also one of the many vital sources that ultimately become plastic soup. The 100 days long holy Bagmati cleanup campaign was conducted almost every day, collecting tons of plastic bags from the river with a strong message to not throw any plastic materials into rivers. Bangladesh is one of the first countries in South Asia to ban the use of plastic bags. In 2002, the government revised the Environment Conservation Act to impose a nationwide ban on plastic bags.

The bill calling for ban garnered unanimous support in the parliament—a rarity in itself. The action to ban was taken after the flood of 1998 when two-thirds of the country was submerged. One of the reasons behind this flood was clogging of drains and sewer by the disposed polythene bags. Any plastic materials that we use and throw gets affected by weathering, sunlight and wave action and reduces into smaller particles that mix into soil and ultimately into the river. The plastics that we directly throw into rivers also collide millions of times with stones and soils, ultimately breaking down into smaller particles when it reaches oceans.

Plastic is made up of fossil fuels and is solid in nature. It does not decay for thousands of years. Only nine percent of plastic is being recycled in the entire world. Out of 299 million tons plastic produced worldwide in a year—it was also found that 10+ million tons of plastics end up in oceans every year.

The first plastic was invented in 1907, by Leo Handrik Baekeland, exactly 108 years ago. If Genghis Khan had thrown away plastic in his time, it would have still been with us on earth’s surface or in the ocean as a part of a soup.

As a result of the breakdown and fragmentation of plastic into smaller pieces, ocean has almost turned into the soup of infinite pieces of plastic. The plastic soup not only stays still in the form of plastic, toxins released from the plastic are very dangerous to marine species. Marine species mistakenly take in plastic debris as their food and absorb such toxins, and ultimately, when we consume marine species as food, we too, are consumers of this plastic soup.

In various parts of the world, there has been a phase where countries are opting out of lightweight plastic bags—Nepal is a recent example. Nepal recently banned the production, use, and store of single use plastic bags making it effective from April 14, 2015. After the declaration most of the shopping malls inside Kathmandu Valley have stopped using plastic bags. Ministry of Science, Environment and Technology (MoSET), Environment Division of Nepal has stated that the use of plastic bags has decreased up to almost 69 percent after promulgation of the new law.

Developing alternatives of plastic are a key challenge of global companies today. A company like Coca-Cola, that consumes thousands of tons of plastic, has recently launched its new initiative Plant Bottle, launched in 2009 and has since distributed more than 15 billion of the bottles in 25 countries. The company is aiming to replace its traditional plastic bottle made of up PET with plant bottle throughout the world by 2020.

To replace plastic problem bio plastics are taken as an alternative. Bio plastics are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, cornstarch, or micro biota. Bio plastic can be made from agricultural byproducts and also from used plastic bottles and other containers using microorganisms.

Every living/nonliving creature is sharing this earth we are living in. When we harm the environment in any part of the world, it affects globally. It is time to accept that the environment is degrading and mother Earth is asking us to take urgent steps to go green.

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A large number of young Nepalis live in other countries. Digital volunteerism can be a significant way to retain their expertise in different aspects of the country’s development

We are now in the era of digital age.Thanks to innovation and technology the growth of digitalization is faster than ever.

Statista, the leading statistics company on the internet, has published that the number of mobile users in the year 2015 was 4.43 billion and it predicts that the ratio will be 4.93 billion in the year 2018.

In the context of Nepal, the latest Management Information System (MIS) report of Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has published that the mobile service users rate have crossed 105.15 per cent of the population.

This is a huge leapfrog for Nepal.

The spontaneous engagement of Nepalis on volunteering activities after the devastating earthquake on April 25, 2015 shows how much they are embedded with the essence of volunteerism to help those in need.

If we also turn back to the culture of east, then we can perceive lots of voluntary activities continued from generations ago.

The way of volunteerism in our current practice is making donations, providing relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, and it indeed was a need of the time and this generation seems to be upgrading towards digital volunteerism to help fellow citizen in need.

The volunteers who have technical skills and can solve the societal problems with the use of digital tools and techniques are considered to be digital volunteers. The practice of digital volunteerism began by providing volunteers electronic versions of work in the public domain during the 1970s from the project Gutenberg.

Later in the year 2000, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) launched a web-based digital volunteering platform targeting non-government organizations, and government agencies to become online volunteers in various projects.

In the context of the recent Nepal earthquakes, labs have given a great lesson for the need of digital volunteerism in Nepal. The basic goal of the crisis map was to match the needs of quake affected people by connecting the relief efforts being conducted by various agencies during the catastrophe.

Reports show that in the recent time, there has been excessive use of tech tools for the preparedness and post disaster response of disasters and emergency events.

The use of mobile technology in recent time has acted as the fastest and reliable means of communication to get timely updates. Use of social media has been another big platform to obtain necessary information.

There is an initiative called Tweak the Tweet (TtT) – an idea for utilizing the twitter platform for crowd sourcing information during disasters and emergency events.

With the use of the hashtag, the user can collect necessary information and take action promptly.

Science and technology today has contributed tremendously towards the improvement in strategic interventions by introducing different ways of early warning systems and with the introduction of it, things are in control and the number of human death has decreased notably.

This practice has not been noticeable in the context of Nepal, as it has recently purposed an Early Warning System (EWS) framework to take control of disasters.

To get the most of such system, the local people should know how to use such technology and its significance. Thus, a group of trained digital volunteers will have to be there to operate and let others know the use and significance of it at the local level.

Nepal brought out its first IT policy in 2000 then in 2003 a High Level Commission for IT (HLCIT) has been formed and in 2007 AD, the Right to Information Act has been made and in 2010 an Information Technology Policy was brought up.

Promoting IT professionals with conducive environment and promoting the concept of digital volunteerism can bring significant changes in a short time.

A large number of young Nepalis live in other countries. Digital volunteerism can be a significant way to retain their expertise in different aspects of the country’s development. Branding different places of Nepal and promoting it globally as a tourism destination can play a significant role to promote tourism.

Mapping different places of the country through the online platform like Open Street Map (OSM) can be another significant way of engagement of nation development work.

In recent time, raising fund from the crowd sourcing platform is taken as a meaningful way of uniting together to help any person in need. Social, environmental and political campaign can be initiated from the social platforms through different activities like signing petitions and trending in twitter, Facebook and other social medias.

Initiatives like, Telemedicine Service through the use of telecommunication and information technology can provide clinical health care from a distance.

Digital volunteerism is not a new platform as various organizations around the world are doing significant works to promote its essence. Humanity Road that delivers disaster preparedness and response information to the global mobile public before, during and after a disaster is a digital volunteer promoting platform.

Standby Task Force (SBTF) organizes digital volunteers into a flexible, trained and prepared network ready to be deployed in crisis.

The time has come when the humans and computers should work together to bring digital revolution through digital volunteerism.
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Everyday we are contributing towards the process of data generation through the digital technologies we use in our daily life. Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated through the Internet, so much so that 90 per cent of all data has been generated in the past two years alone. This is due to the increasing use of social media, online platforms and rapid urbanization. Use of social media has increased so much that there are more than 901 million active Facebook users around the world. Every second 4,000 tweets are generated and 10,000 payment card transactions are made globally. But, all this data and information being generated is worth very little unless translated into insights.

Researchers believe that the contribution and use of data and information are more from cities where there is reach of digital technologies the most. The challenge is to harness such data and information generated for the development of future cities. Use of data and information generated requires intense processing such as cleaning, analysis, visualization and interpretation.

A United Nations study of urban population in the 1950s shows that 30 per cent of the total population of the world live in urban areas. But, in recent times the population has increased so fast that it is expected to be 66 per cent by 2050. Today, the growth of urban population is a major concern for policy makers as the responsibility is added to improve the lives of billions. The rise of urban areas comes with the technological advancement and maximum use of data and information. The challenge is to improve quality of data and information that are being generated and make use of acquired data in city planning, among other things.

There has been no significant transition in Nepal from agriculture towards information and technology sectors which results in the drifting of the major population of the country from rural to urban areas.This lag has also largely fueled international migration. A study of urban cities in 2013 by the World Bank shows that Kathmandu Valley is one of the rapidly growing urban areas in South Asia with 2.5 million people and growth rates of 4 per cent a year.The century-old framework and inexperience of bureaucrats to deal with data driven technology has left Nepal behind other countries. This has affected citizens of Nepal from enjoying the opportunities coming from digital technology.

According to the 2011 census, 17.2 per cent of Nepal’s population currently have access to the Internet which is a huge increase from 1995 when there were less than 50 users nationwide. According to Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA), the users of mobile phones have reached 27.07 million which is almost the country’s entire population.

In recent days, the government of Nepal has initiated a few leads to address some of the civil problems with the use of digital technology. The Government launched a taxi receipt system in Kathmandu Valley to address the existing problem of overcharging and fraud. Likewise, in December, 2016, Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City introduced a mobile app called ‘Hamro Lalitpur’ to help citizens track the location of garbage collecting vehicles.

Since today’s social, economic and environmental challenges require a strong understanding of data and technology, the government’s new initiatives will have to engage people, the public and private institutions in every possible field for making it reactive, cost effective and transparent.

The initiative like Hello Sarkar is a benchmark to address citizen’s query using crowd-sourced data. However, there should be an integrated plan in various levels of government to study the frustrations and suggestions of the public through digital technology.

The use of the crowd-sourced open data after the 2015 Nepal earthquake was highly successful. The open data compiled by ‘digital humanitarians’ through various digital platforms was transferred to volunteers and government agencies working on the ground, responding to the needs of earthquake victims. Many of the rescue, damage assessment, relief distribution tracking, and reconstruction monitoring projects were made possible with the use of open source data.

The advancement of digital technology has created a huge gap between the common citizens and bureaucrats. The level of understanding of digital technology among the common people is improving day by day, whereas the bureaucrats are still working with traditional approach of governance. The young generation are coming up with innovation and new experiments which has already created tremendous pressure on the government to switch their out-dated practices into digital practices. Ever-growing urban problems, such as traffic congestion, unplanned urban settlement and pollution are exacerbated by outdated government monitoring systems which fail to implement data driven solutions. With more data being generated it is the right time to debate and put forward a plan for data driven development. The time to bring all civic actors and the government together to solve existing and future problems through advancing digital technology has come.
Khatiwada is working at Kathmandu Living Labs

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