Sustainable Development: Nepal

What is sustainable development?

Sustainable development “meets the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Report, World Commission on Environment and Development). This definition does not include another key aspect of sustainable development and that is the environment. The environment should be respected in development and not destroyed. It is easier to relate sustainable development to it’s objectives:

1.       Improvement of the quality of life – Allowing people to become more content with their way of life and the environment.

2.       Improving the standard of living – to enable them, future generations and their country to develop economically.

3.       The above but with minimum disruption to the surrounding environment.

How can sustainable be achieved?

The basic objectives of sustainable development have been outlined but how can they be achieved.

·           Encouraging economic development – this must be done at a pace that a country can both afford and manage to avoid the country falling into worse debt.

·           Appropriate technology – any technology brought to the area must be appropriate to the wealth, skills and needs of the area. Any skills developed from the technology may be passed down to future generations therefore sustaining the development of that area.

·           Appropriate use of natural resources without spoiling the environment – this could be done introducing technology that will use fewer resources, renewable resources and produce materials that last for long periods of time in the surrounding environment. However the resources must be ideally renewed, recycled or replaced.

The problem in Nepal

Text Box: Picture of a traditional ghatta Nepal is one of the worlds 10 poorest countries and 90% of it’s population earn their living from subsistence farming (Waugh, 2000). Nepal has on huge resource, water, from the thousands of streams draining the mountains. The Nepalese have used the water to harness power for centuries but on a small scale with traditional water mills or ghattas. The ghattas worked like water mills by water filling paddles on a wheel which in turn made the wheel turn. The ghattas used to grind corn by this method. The wheel was attached to 2 grinding stones which ground the corn which was feed from above by a grain hopper. These machines worked but had disadvantages:

·       They only allowed subsistence farming – this meant that the country could not grow crops to export and so would stay as an LEDC and one of the poorest countries in the world.

Their use was limited – in relation to the vast resource of water the water was not being used anywhere close to its potential. The ghattas were not very powerful and had only one use to grind corn.

The solution

At the start of the 1970’s, 2 local engineering workshops started to build small, steel hydro power schemes for villages. These new mills would have to advantages over the traditional ghattas:

1.       More power – this would mean the village would produce more energy and so could develop technologically at least and each job would be done faster compared to the traditional ghattas.

2.    A range of agricultural processes could be done by the new machinery compared to only being able to grind by the traditional ghattas.

The local workshops asked for help from ITDG (Intermediate Technology Development Group) in developing their micro-hydro schemes to generate electricity. This lead to the development of an efficient water turbine which was much more efficient than the traditional ghatta and could perform many new jobs.

To try and ensure that the villagers didn’t rely on outside help for maintaining their water turbines (i.e. sustainable development) in the mid-1980’s ITDG ran 2 training courses that improved the technical ability of the 9 new water turbine manufacturers that had been established. ITDG was then asked by the Agricultural Development Bank (the agency that funds the nepalese water turbines) to help in further development of the micro-hydro power systems in rural areas.

The Benefits of the new water turbines

·         Women are released from many labour-intensive and time consuming tasks due to the supplay of power. This is due to mechanisation of many processes, for example, 3days worth of corn took 4hrs by ghatta and 15hrs by hand to grind but only takes 15mins with the new turbine.

·         Electric cookers or bijuili dekchis are used in kitchens – this reduces lung related disease as less smoke is prduced in the kitchen than by using an open fire to cook from. The bijuli dekhis heats water during off-peak times to be used in cooking later on and the heat storage cooker stores energy available at off-peak times and releases it at mealtimes for cooking. This reduces fuelwood and deforestation.

·         Electric lighting – Electirc light replaces the expensive and hard to get to kerosene lamps (the kerosene fuel is several days walk away in town). The electric light enables children and adults to improe their education by reading and working under the electric light. Electric light is cheaper, cleaner and brighter than kerosene.


Geography: An Intergrated Approach - David Waugh 2000

People and the Environment – Witherwick

Collins Gem Basic Facts Geography

Oxford Study Dictionary