We had an intense, intellectually stimulating day at the Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI) headquarters in Baluwatar, a neat and functional 3-storey establishment in an orderly suburb near the embassy quarter.
HCI describes itself as ‘a non-profit organization founded by fourteen progressive entrepreneurs of Nepal on 1st March 2011 to help build peace in the country and help to develop the Nepali economy in climate-smart ways.’
HCI recognises that climate change threatens the abundant natural resources that underpin Nepali social harmony. So it deliberately tackles the transition to low carbon development through projects that focus on solutions and integrate social enterprise, environmental responsibility and climate resilience.
The founder, Prakanth Singh, was CEO of WWF Nepal for a decade and is clearly well-known and well respected in Nepali society. He came back from Copenhagen convinced that change has to begin from the ground up.
In the years since, he has dedicated himself to facilitating a cohort of extremely bright, able and passionate young people make a real difference to Nepal’s future through Gen-Nep – Nation First. This volunteering platform encourages Nepali youth to DO WELL in their careers and DO GOOD to their society, building thousands of young sustainable development champions across Nepal.
During the course of the day, we heard about several HCI projects – a climate adaptation project to reduce the carbon and environmental footprint of the burgeoning cement industry; a project to reduce the contribution of PET bottles to urban and rural pollution; and the quite incredible Hamri Bahini (‘our little sisters’) Green Angel project to replace plastic bags with cloth bags, which we will be volunteering with tomorrow.
After listening closely to talks, it was a joy to sit back and watch “Paradise in the Waiting”. This stunningly beautiful film was made over 99 days during 2012, when HCI experts led by Apa Sherpa and Dawa Steven Sherpa walked an inspired 1,555 km along the Great Himalayan Trail, across Nepal east to west.
Most powerful for me were the personal stories of individuals telling Apa experiences from their own villages that reveal the extent and speed of climate-related change across the country. These include increased frequency and intensity of deluges (threatening suspension bridges and fields), the increased occurrence of flowering times occurring out of season and unexpected droughts.
Apa Sherpa himself came from a family of subsistence farmers. In 1983 the entire family became beggars overnight, losing their house, fertile land, everything when a glacier lake burst free and destroyed everything in its path. Apa became a porter, then a climbing Sherpa and went on to become a legendary mountaineer. He is now an HCI ambassador and facilitates an alliance of community elders who advise HCI on measures to help mountain dwellers.
(Editor’s note: If you’ve missed the background to the Climb It for Climate campaign, there’s a great story of its remarkable genesis on the Australian Youth Climate Coalition website. Part of the purpose is to raise funds for AYCC and Nepalese activism on climate justice. You can support Philippa’s fundraising here.)