VII. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
C. Institutional measures
Although EPC was conceived and established long before the Ministry of Population and Environment, its continuity is recognized by the Environment Protection Act, 1997. In the first place, environmental issues cut across a number of sectors and agencies. The Ministry of Population and Environment, as one among many such agencies concerned with environmental issues, cannot function as a super agency while dealing with other agencies of equal standing. In order to bring all the concerned agencies into line with the broader national environmental policies, only a higher level agency can undertake such interagency coordination. Second, since the Prime Minister chairs EPC, intersectoral issues or interagency differences can be resolved expeditiously. Third, environmental policies can only be integrated into the overall national development policy by such a high level institution. Finally, it would be much easier for the Ministry of Population and Environment to function as a "focal point" in the area f environment since it also serves as the EPC secretariat. Integration, coordination and facilitation involve a great deal of detail, while also needing adequate exercise and homework, regular and frequent discussions and interactions with adequate experience, knowledge, expertise and, above all, adequate time. All that is possible only at the highest level of bureaucracy, and not at the political level which is preoccupied with multiple issues beyond the environment. After all, in practice it is a strong and capable bureaucracy, and a mutual understanding within that bureaucracy, that determine the effectiveness of policy implementation.
As the highest body responsible the formulation of periodic plans and annual programmes, NPC has the most vital role to play in the integration of environmental policy into the development policies of the government. Every development programme/project which is likely to have an environmental impact should contain an environmental component as a precondition for its consideration and approval. Likewise, during the four-monthly progress review meetings at the NPC level, it is necessary to report the progress on environmental aspects of projects. It is therefore necessary to set up a separate and strong Division of Environment in the NPC secretariat that is staffed with trained manpower. At present, the Environment Division of the NPC secretariat remains paralyzed by a lack of the necessary manpower.
3. Ministry of Population and Environment
As a relatively new addition to the government structure, the Ministry of Population and Environment should expand and improve its technical and analytical capabilities with emphasis being placed on manpower training in specific areas related to the environment. It should recruit trained and experienced personnel who are at present misplaced, underutilized or unemployed.
It may be more effective in functioning as a central government agency, rather than an executing and implementing agency, that would: (a) explain national policy on environmental protection and preservation; (b) integrate the environmental policy into the overall development policy and processes; (c) coordinate the various agencies of the government concerned with the environment; (d) facilitate the effective implementation and enforcement of environmental policy and measures; (e) generate the necessary information through research and databases; (f) evaluate the overall environmental situation through regular monitoring; and (g) disseminate information and create public awareness.
With decentralization rather than concentration as the guiding principle, the Ministry of Population and Environment should continue to limit itself to the integration, coordination and facilitation of policies and measures, with executing and implementation authority and responsibilities related to the environment being left to the line ministries and departments concerned as is the case at present. Those ministries and departments already have the necessary experience and expertise, and such a strategy will not only minimize confusion, dislocation and jurisdictional issues in the overall system of government, but will also ensure efficiency, coordination and cooperation within the government. The effectiveness of the Ministry of Population and Environment will depend less on programme articulation and implementation, which normally cut across more than one sector/ministry, and more on its ability to bring together the various government agencies, the private sector, local agencies and NGOs which are involved in work related to the environment and to have them act together on the overall environmental policy of the government.
For any negotiation of external resources in the area of the environment, the Ministry of Population and Environment should be the focal point, although the implementing agency will likely be some other ministry. In other words, the Ministry of Population and Environment and the executing ministry should jointly, together with the Ministry of Finance and NPC, negotiate with donor agencies for the provision of external resources.
4. Line Ministries and Departments
As executing and implementation agencies, those environmentally-related ministries and departments that have not yet done so should each establish a separate Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Environment Division, manned by the best available personnel with appropriate skills and expertise. Such a division should be capable of functioning as the principal "technical wing" of the ministry or department concerned.
5. Local agencies and NGOs
As the government is committed to a policy of decentralization, more authority and more responsibilities will be devolved to VDCs and DDCs, which can have a great deal of positive and negative impacts on the environment. So, in undertaking their development works, the committees should be guided by certain simple, feasible and enforceable standards and norms, and regular and periodic monitoring and evaluation mechanisms should be obligatory along the lines suggested above.
Likewise, NGOs now active in diverse works in rural areas should also be bound by certain environmental guidelines.