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Wednesday, 5 March 2008

National Stakeholders' meeting on the Malé Declaration..., a memoir

I attended the National stakeholder meeting on the "Malé Declaration on Control and Prevention of Air Pollution and its likely Transboundary Effects for South Asia" held yesterday at the Himalayan Hotel, courtesy my involvements with the South Asian Youth Environment Network (SAYEN) and the Youth for clean Air document.
The stakeholder meeting was an impressive gathering of representatives from Government, Civil Society, Youth Groups and the private sector. The event was rather disseminatory as with most meetings; presentations from International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) about milestones achieved in the Malé project, in a decade of its implementation, were definite eyeopeners and admirable efforts in terms of the research work and policy level negotiations that have taken place.
Another notable presentation was by the VSBK (Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln) project manager from SKAT consultants who shared his thoughts on the VSBK implementation in Nepal, and shed light on the health and air benefits of switching to a cleaner and energy efficient technology. His presentation was also keen to point out that the brick industry (courtesy our Bull trench kilns and traditional kilns) contributes to around 41% of the total air pollution in Kathmandu.

The meeting was an informative one, considering my educational background and my recent associations with the Malé declaration. However, the meeting did turn out lacklustre in terms of the participation it drew; save a few active volunteers, the participants were a drowsy mix of characters and most local participants fizzled out post lunch. When the floor was finally opened for discussion, the ambience turned sombre and only a few asinine questions were raised, which indicated that mostpeople (read reps.) did not care to read the background document or at least listen to the presentations made. Guess, opting for an inclusive process does have its irks.

On the side, I also happened to meet the president of a local youth organization. Apparently, the age bar for youths is 35 inclusive and not 25 inclusive (as I previously understood it to be) which means that I will still qualify as a youth representative for the next decade. Incidentally, the president was one of the few, who cared to ask the aforementioned asinine questions. Another frequent highflyer in this category was a representative from a local federation, who admitted to being a green horn on air pollution and the Malé declaration, but did not fail to query the organizers about provisions to fund her travel to a Climate Change conference slated for April in the United States of America. I wonder what queries she might have in store, for the treehuggers in America. On failing to receive positive remarks on the query about the travel grant she put forth, she alleged acerbic remarks on the organisers' incompetence in conducting the project.

Just the nature of the participants made the meeting cumbersome, as the day grew on and I was keen to make a fresh exit prior to the closing statement.

A day well spent? Go figure!

P.S. The presiding chair, who also happens to be the current Joint secretary of the Ministry for Environment, Science and Techonology professed complete ignorance of any Climate Change conference in the offing and maintained that no correspondance of the event had been received.


Anonymous said...

I had similar experience when I was reporting for the Edwatch regional consultation. Imagine having to compile a report of discussion where basically no point was made.

Most of the local participants arrived late, and left as soon as the lunch was over. I gathered the impression that their real motive behind attending the conference was to “bunk work” but still get paid and have a good lunch at a three star hotel. I wonder how these people who call themselves part of the civil society of Nepal would ever bring positive development in any field with such attitude.

To add to the comical scene, when the local participants were asked questions on their presentations, they almost always forwarded the question to somebody else from their team as if they had no idea about what they just presented. And if somebody ever attempted to answer, the first thing they did was blame the government for everything. If the government is to blame for everything then, I wonder, what is the purpose/ meaning of their existence.

Their greed for the research grant was so obvious on their faces that I felt embarrassed on their behalf. I can still imagine the face of the guy from some research organisation, like a dog drooling in front of a meat shop, when “funding” was being discussed. I consider he was “brave” to be able to point out and make a big deal out of a trivial grammar mistake when the floor was opened for comments on presentation made by another country.

Sad thing is they didn’t realise they were missing such a good opportunity to learn from the success and failures of others and build up their network, while they were busy making irrelevant comments on what others were trying to say and focussing on what won’t work, what we can’t do.

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