I. NATIONAL INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS
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C. Ministries and Departments
1. Ministry of Population and Environment
The Ministry of Population and Environment was created in September 1995 to act as the national focal point for the interrelated areas of population and environment. Its main responsibilities include: (a) the formulation and implementation of policies, plans and programmes; (b) the preparation of acts, regulations and guidelines; (c) undertaking surveys and research studies; (d) the dissemination of information; (e) the monitoring and evaluation of programmes; and (f) human resources development.
The ministry’s scope of work includes two broad categories of activities: primary and supportive. Primary functions include activities executed on the initiative of the ministry in cooperation with other agencies. Cooperation and assistance extended to other ministries and agencies in executing their own programmes and activities are considered to be the supportive functions.
The primary functions of the Ministry of Population and Environment related to the environment revolve around four aspects: environmental conservation; pollution control; enforcement and monitoring of environmental standards; and EIA. The primary and supportive functions detailed below are listed in the approved scope of work of the ministry (Ministry of Population and Environment, 1996).
The primary functions include:
- Formulating and implementing perspective and periodic plans and programmes related to population and the environment;
- Organizing meetings, seminars and workshops;
- Preparing, publishing and disseminating audio-visual and information materials aimed at raising public awareness;
- Upgrading and updating the documentation process;
- Acting as a national focal point on population and the environment for all international and bilateral donors;
- Representing the country and/or recommending other agencies or experts/persons for representation at national and international seminars, conferences and conventions on population and the environment;
- Organizing appropriate training for the implementation of programmes on population and environment;
- Functioning as the secretariat of national commissions, councils etc. on both current and future population and environment issues;
- Amending, as and where necessary, existing policies and action plans, and formulating national policy and action plans on the main aspects of environmental conservation;
- Formulating, refining and implementing EIA guidelines. This function involves three specific activities: (a) preparing, revising and refining sectoral EIA guidelines; (b) encouraging those agencies concerned to conduct EIAs as per approved guidelines before implementing any development project; and (c) examining and approving EIA reports of intersectoral and national importance;
- Studying existing laws on different aspects of environmental conservation, and amending or establishing the necessary legislative framework. This function includes: (a) the preparation of an umbrella law on environmental matters; (b) the formulation of rules, regulations and bylaws; and (c) the maintenance of a chronicle of judicial precedents on environmental matters;
- Implementing the provisions of, and obligations arising from, international agreements, treaties and Conventions on the environment, by: (a) acting as the national agency for international treaties on environment; (b) preparing a strategy to implement the provisions of international treaties; (c) taking a lead role in cooperating with other ministries in fulfilling obligations arising from international Conventions, treaties, agreements and declarations; and (d) participating in programmes conducted in pursuance of international Conventions;
- Conducting studies and research on environmental matters, and carrying out or participating in related training, involving: (a) studies and research on the environment and the conservation of resources; (b) the assessment of environmental losses resulting from disasters; and (c) the specification of minimum natural resource requirements for any specified area;
- Identifying pollution indicators and indices for the setting of standards, including: (a) research or surveys; and (b) the identification of different polluters to enable the control of pollution and fixing of ambient standards;
- Preparing an annual State of the Environment Report for disseminating information on the status of the environment in Nepal.
The supportive functions include:
- Helping other agencies, from the standpoint of population and environmental management, to develop small towns in appropriate places with economic and social infrastructures, including: (a) assistance in maintaining the environmental balance, structure and management of the population at the time of planned expansion of small towns; (b) the provision of services to the population through service centres; and (c) the relocation of industries from urban areas;
- Assisting agencies involved in forestry, agriculture, labour, industry, education, women’s development etc. in designing and implementing training programmes which include population and environmental issues, in order to integrate the population, the environment and development issues,;
- Creating awareness of population and environmental issues among community leaders and workers at district and local level government offices etc.;
- Assisting in maintaining a balance between population and the environment through policies and programmes, such as: (a) discouraging the use of fragile land for cultivation and settlement; (b) discouraging cultivation on marginal land; (c) encouraging the use of alternative energy sources in order to save forests; (d) arranging grazing land on appropriate sites; (e) encouraging the design and implementation of settlement plans, taking into consideration the different aspects of population management; (f) discouraging unplanned urbanization; and (g) controlling pollution hazardous to public health;
- Helping to develop and implement a code of conduct which will check adverse environmental impacts resulting from activities conducted by different institutions. This function includes: (a) the preparation of an environmental code of conduct for tourists, and the implementation and monitoring of that code through the Ministry of Tourism; (b) assisting the Ministry of Industry to develop environmental standards for industries and helping in their implementation; (c) assisting municipalities to preserve the urban environment; and (d) developing a code of conduct for political parties and election candidates regarding publicity and the distribution of pamphlets during elections, and the implementation of that code through the Election Commission;
- Controlling pollution through research, and encouraging recycling and appropriate disposal of waste products;
- Monitoring to ascertain whether different agencies, industries, communities and organizations are adhering to the defined environmental standards, and impose penalties on those violating the standards, including: (a) applying the "polluters pay principle" in the case of point-of-source pollution of water, air and soil; and (b) in the case of non-point source pollution, making communities responsible for finding and implementing solutions;
- Become involved in EIA of cross-sectoral projects, and organize high-level training within and outside the country to prepare expert human resources in the area of environmental management.
The above primary and supportive functions of the Ministry of Population and Environment indicates its far-reaching role and establishes the ministry as the national focal point for all population and environment-related matters. However, since it has only been established for a relatively short period, it has yet to develop its capability from the viewpoint of organizational strength, trained manpower and financial resources. Given the enormous task assigned to it, its current capability is far from adequate.