Climate Change:



An Interview with Prof. Medani P. Bhandari

by Medani P. Bhandari, Ph.D.[i] and Prof. Akamai

University, Hilo, Hawaii, USA; Sumy State University, Ukraine

Bashudaiva Kutumbakkam- The entire world is our home and all living beings are our relatives; With reference to climate change and pollution problems in the Major Cities of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan”.


In this interview with, Prof. Medani P. Bhandari, directly or indirectly reveals the interconnected impact of geographical, and socio-cultural environment on personal motivation building. As such Prof. Bhandari shares a story of why and how he became interested in the conservation of nature and natural resources, what was the problems and how he overcome and continuously working on the same track with same focus in his entire life; however, it might be the story of each environmentalist who have tried to continue environment conservation action and activism and academic scholarships together. Prof. Bhandari shares the hardship and enjoy of life of togetherness, who had not seen and imagined wheels and engine until age of 13, and had to walk six hours for schooling, had to swim-cross three rivers on the way to school and back home. Prof. Bhandari thinks hardship, failing, obstacles and problems can be good lessons to the person with passion and thrive for success. Prof. Bhandari is a lifelong conservationist, expert of climate change impact, social empowerment and educationalist, who has devoted his entire life for the conservation of nature and social services. This true story tells how personal background makes people’s perceptions on nature and society and what role a spiritual / tradition, Indigenous knowledge can motivate himself or herself to devote on conservation of nature and social empowerment. Prof. Bhandari shares why he thinks “Vashudhiva Kuttumbakam” the entire planet is our home and all living beings are our relatives. He also shares the essence of education, he uses the term EDUCARE- education for life. In this interview Prof. Bhandari explains the severity of current environmental impact on human and other living beings and explicate how and why we need to worry. He shows the evidences of negative impact of climate change on cities and how dangerous is the pollution condition in major cities of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Prof. Bhandari has published over 50 papers on international journals, several monographs and reports and four books and poems volumes. A brief biography and contact details of Prof. Bhandari is included at the end of this interview. Prof. Bhandari states My intention, of life is to pay back; give or contribute to the society in fullest whatever I have, earned, or experienced.” Hopefully readers will enjoy reading and will be benefited from this true an intrinsic motivational story with the evidences of scientifically grounded facts.


Prof. Bhandari share with us about your career in environmental protection and climate change. These are obviously serious and pressing concerns for people throughout Asia, as well as around the world.


 “It is my pleasure to share knowledge and expertise on the issues of environmental protection and climate change. My family, all relatives, my network friends and colleagues, communities, and various societies (wherever I have been), including the nature and culture, traditions combined nurtured, taught me, without any expectations. My intention, of life is to pay back; give or contribute to the society in fullest whatever I have, earned, or experienced. And I have tried to answer, why I am motivated to devote myself within the domain of environmental protection and climate change. I would be more than happy, if readers find this information useful. I am open to engage in any kind of collaborative research, teaching, or any other tasks which can contribute to overcome or minimize the devastating impact of climate change.

I would like to clearly state that, most of the information, I have stated in this discussions are based on web-search, secondary sources, as well as based on my published papers or from my new book Green Web II and forthcoming books manuscripts i.e. Sustainable Development and Biodiversity Conservation", Getting the Facts Right: The IPCC and the Role of Science in Managing Climate Change, State of Environment in South Asia-A comparative study of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, with Reference of the conservation intervention. Most of the pictures, graphs, tables are taken from the websites. I have tried to provide proper sources, citations, and links of the original sources. However, if I missed to note any source, I request to forgive me and apologize in advance to the all concern authors, journalists, government agencies and any other stakeholders whom I have cited in this note”.


Keywords: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the entire world or earth is your famility); India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Asia, Government, Climate Change, Environmental Problems, Pollutions, Floods, Landslides, Earthquakes, Cyclones/Storms, Over Population, Water Crisis, Deforestation, Plantation, Mass Media, Delhi, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Karachi, Mountain Everest, Ganges, Sea level, IPCC, IUCN, United Nations, SAARC, ICIMOD.    

Thank you very much for inviting me to discuss and share my experience in this very critical issue. Environment protection and climate change is a global concern. It is established notion that major environment concern / problems are Ozone layer depletion; Global warming; and Loss of biodiversity. As such each of these problems has negative impact on life on earth. For example, Ozone layer depletion has Effects on Human and Animal Health (i.e. eye diseases, skin cancer, infectious diseases); Effects on Human and Animal Health (increases radiation could change species composition, or change in plant forms); Effects on Aquatic Ecosystems (affect the distribution of phytoplankton’s, reproduction system alteration); Effects on Bio-geo-chemical Cycles (affect terrestrial and aquatic bio-geo-chemical cycles); Effects on Air Quality (can increase both production and destruction of ozone and related oxidants such as hydrogen peroxide-which can have direct adverse effects). Similarly, another problem is global warming which more severe. Evidence shows that Global temperature increase 0.3-6 within last 100 years, and major contributor for this change are we the human. Globe is warming, and main cause is greenhouse gases (GHG) causing global warming is carbon dioxide. The evidence of global warming is Rise in global temperature and Rise in sea level which ultimately affecting ecosystems of the planet.  Documented increases in global air and sea temperatures over the last century have demonstrated unequivocally that our planet is warming. Most climatologists agree that the warming trend will continue, and at an accelerating pace unless the causes of global warming are addressed immediately. This reality, and the urgent need for action, is finally being recognized by society and governments around the world (Kleinschmit 2009:1[ii]).


There is inevitable relationship between agriculture and environment [the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates (web[iii]), it also covers, climatic condition, its pattern and change). Human existent and civilization began with the development of agriculture which fully relies on climatic variations of specific location of Earth Surface. All of us, have been witnessing the variation and change on climate one way or another. With no doubt, We, the humans are directly or indirectly responsible and have been contributing for this climate change, wherever we live or do; however, the degree of contribution and impact may vary. As a matter of fact, many initiatives and steps have been taken at the international to individual levels [various international treaties, policies, actions, etc. However, still there are unmeasured and unexplored issues on “how climate change has already impacted and will affect the lives support ecosystems”. On the other hand, there are also people, who actually do not support the statement that, “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen” (IPCC 2014:2). “Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” (IPCC 2014:4[iv]).

In my opinion, the people or group, only externally, oppose the statement “the climate change is occurring due to anthropogenic disturbance in natural environment” in the inner heart they know, the fact that, globe is warming and we human are responsible. I think, every one of us have witnessed or experienced the change in global environment or heard about the recent past and current situation of our environment.


How, I became, interested protection of environment?? This is very important question. To respond this, I need to go back to my childhood.


I born raised in the beautiful mountain in Nepal. I learn to appreciate the nature, before I learn to speak and walk. I grew in the primitive kind of environment if we compare the current developed world context. I think base of my orientation towards conservation of nature and nature, is the culture, which taught me to appreciate nature. According to Hindu mythology, each living and non-living structure are interconnected and supportive to each other. For example, there are millions of gods and goddesses and each of them have association with animal and plant.


Table 1. Relationship of deity with plant and animal

Name of God/Goddess


Vehicle / plant associated

Goddess Bagabati

goddess of power

Lion/ tiger Red flowering tree

Lord Shiva

god of law/ Protection

Bull /Poisonous plant 



god of Creation

Stroke (Garuda)/ Ficus religiosa 


Goddess of wealth

pair of Elephant/ Lotus 


Wisdom and knowledge

Swan and peacock/ Lotus



the combination of power Wealth and wisdom

Rat/ Sandilon dectilon


God of death

Wild water buffalo/ Bamboo 


Similar principle may apply with other religious mythologies (Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Daoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Islam, Shinto, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism etc.) in different form.

The first thing I learn from the childhood was the appreciation to “whatever we see, and feel, including, air, the surrounding, trees, birds, animal and structure of rock, terrain, land escape”, because they were all included in the daily morning prayers. Some of them include:


 [Om Dyauh Shantirantariksha Shantih Prithivi Shantirapah Shantiroshadhayah Shantih

Vanaspatayah Shantirvishvedevah Shantirbrahma Shantih Sarva Shantih Shantireva Shantih Sa Ma Shantiredhi]


Meaning: “May peace radiate there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere. May peace reign all over this earth, in water and in all herbs, trees and creepers. May peace flow over the whole universe. May peace be in the supreme being Brahman. And may there always exist in all peace and peace alone.”


Most probably, repetedly reciting such prayers, might have given some inner intrinsic motivation to me to devote for the conservation of nature and natural resources.


I, think, in the scholarly term, the home, tradition, culture and belief help to build my mindset to appreciate, protect nature and also motivate others to do the same. While, I was still in forth grade my uncle (maternal), Ram Chandra Gautam, who was a school teacher, begin to teach me about the world culture and religions and how they all have motive of public welbeing. The first profounding concept I got enternalize was “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the entire world or earth is your famility).


I think the lession and essence of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” begin to build within my inner self, on which I strongly follow and believe. This philosophy is written in Hitopadesha, 1.3.71: ‘ayam nijah paroveti ganana laghuchetasam; udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbhakam’ [Meaning: The distinction “This person is mine, and this one is not” is made only by the narrow-minded (i.e. the ignorant who are in duality). For those of noble conduct (i.e. who know the Supreme Truth) the entire world is one family (one Unit).]. Be detached, be magnanimous, lift up your mind, enjoy the fruit of …. Freedom (Maha Upanishad 6.71–75).


When I was at high school, I studied world religions and culture. I was so amazed when, I found that, the purpose of all traditions (including indigenous), cultures, religions were the same “this earth belongs to all of us and human task is to protect the mother earth and fellow living and non-living beings, who help before our birth to death and even after death”.


Here I would like to list some of important quotations from the great epics (all are cited from the Faith in conservation : new approaches to religions and the environment by Martin Palmer with Victoria Finlay published by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank, on environment conservation issues: on Christianity; Islam; Jain; Daoism; Hindu; Buddhism; Judaism; Shintoism; Sikhism; Zoroastrianism (Lord of Wisdom) (page 145) [Once again, above text are copied from the book, “Faith in conservation : new approaches to religions and the environment by Martin Palmer with Victoria Finlay published by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank, available at:


Faith in conservation clearly indicate that, all world religions appreciate nature and encourage and try to empower human to nourish or contribute to protect the mother earth. The world religions, cultures, traditions and my own surroundings were major motivators for me to devote myself for conservation of nature and natural resources formally or informally. I began to think and act on conservation of nature practically like planting trees, campaigning against hunting birds from the school time.  


[Real for me but joke for other- at the age of 13, I saw a bus for the first time in my life, I ask my father “what is it” and “how it works”. He told me “it is like a moving home”, “it keeps people inside and runs”. I did not see any long legs to run, so asked my father about the legs. He pointed black wheels and said to me “these are the wheels, operated by a machine, they roll”. I asked him how they can move, he told “they need energy to run as we need food and drink”. “Their food is oil (petrol), water to cool its body”. While we were talking, people were glaring and laughing at me. I asked my father about this odd behave. He simply, laughed and told me, “you will know by yourself, after a while”. In the meantime, I saw another huge wheel standing machine, rolling with very loud noise, discharging black smoke from its bottom. I asked about this and my father simply told me, “it is kind of male machine which carries goods from one place to another as mule or horses do in the mountain”. I was very amazed and also shocked in this new world. On the roadside, there were very high poles, each of them was connected with wires. White ball like pots were hanging in those poles. I had no clue about those, poles, wire, hanging pots etc. Most surprisingly, those wires were also connected with houses. I asked about those connections through the wires (between poles and houses) and my father simply told me that “these wires circulate Bijuli (electricity), which provide light at night”. So many new structures, some of the house’s roofs were flat, could not imagined how rain water could be drained from etc. So, crowded, noisy; cows, dogs, pigs, people, a moving house like things all in one place; I felt nothing is organized here. People were cooking in the open field, eating, drinking and even some of them were singing. I had no clue how they were such undisciplined.]


[My High School- Six hours (two-way) walk for school- Had to cross three rivers by swimming. There were two choices with me, quit the school and work as farmer boy, or join the walking group for school. Joining walker was very risky, because before I could reach to their place Ranjani, I had to walk alone about an hour, need to cross several water bodies and a river Koceni. Even more, after meeting friends in Ranjani; together we had to cross two major rivers, Cisang and Lohadra on the way to Rangeli. I decided to take a risk and asked for my father’s opinion. He knew my feeling and willingness to continue the school. He just said, be very careful and brave and do what your heart and mind guides. I got a feeling of affirmation and thought that if my parent’s blessing is with me, I can easily continue my school. I had some fear with Cobra (Snake very common), crossing several water bodies and rivers, however, I always try to remember JO DARA WO MARA (one who feels fear he is dead). Normal School day, (School hours 10.00AM-4.00PM) the a daily routine was, leave bed at 4.00AM, graze buffaloes for an hour or so, eat leftover food, get ready and start for school at 6.00AM, reach school about 9.30AM, attend school parade and prayers, attend class form 10.00AM to 4.00PM (half hour lunch break); leave school at 4.15PM, reach home around 7.00 to 7.30PM, depending on the weather condition. Once reached home, I had to do help my mother and my sister (dumb) to feed the animal and clean the dung.


No time to focus on study- Walking as tutorial time- Actually, we had no time for study and only attending school was not sufficient to pass the classes. I was very upset (actually all of us), but we were not sharing our weaknesses to each other; however, once we share the pain we got the solution-study while walking to school or back home. Get help from each other within the walker group. Our walking time turned as tutorial time (teaching verbally). As soon as we gathered, we used share what we know and what we do not know. Walking tutorials gave us a new energy. We learn trust, willingness to contribute, belonging and love within us. This walking and reading tutorial system gave us a different way in our thinking pattern “the feelings of togetherness”. We all were equal beneficiaries, the blind readers, listeners, the guide, the seniors and we juniors. During six hours walk for four years (grade seven to ten), we had to cross three major rivers, several small water strips, a bit of forest and scrub, elephant grass (tall grass), sand dome, mud land and in the rivers banks, wetlands and mostly the agricultural lands. On the way to school and home, we had also to cross several farm villages. Due to the Cobra abundance on the path, walking bare feet and legs [mostly we used to wear half-pants (some of us had sleepers to wear, was easy to walk bare feet)], was very risky particularly during hot season. During four years of school we lost about five friends due to Cobra bite and fast flood. It was also very risky to walk on the wetlands, one never knows the depth of water in the marsh. Though, we were dirty; badly smelly; unorganized; frequently late in the classes; even fall asleep during the classes; our teachers always admired and encouraged us. Teachers were aware that “the teaching is the most important contribution” to the society and the world. They always used to say your physical appearance matters a lot in the school environment; however, your mental strength matters to the society, country and the globe. Physically, six hours walk to the school was very difficult, very risky, but was one of the best times of our life “we learned to live in hardship” in fact that is not over yet. he four years of high school ended after the district level 10th grade exam. I fail two times in 10th grade (School Leaving), however, did not give up passed 3rd attempt. I also fail in college exams but failing was always learning new way to success. I had to stay empty stomach several times for my high-school, college and even at the university level. I was always happy; because I knew problems are temporary.]   


This intrinsic motivation became more visible and action oriented from 1985. During 1984-1985, I began research on indigenous knowledge and religious believe on plant conservation, particularly the Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) and Peepal (Ficus religiosa L) trees as a student of sociology & anthropology. Hindu people plant these trees on important moments in their lives, like the birth of a child or the dead of a relative. I learned a lot about the importance of trees and how local people are adjusting with nature. In the meantime, I was also fortunate to attend lecture of Indian Environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna [is a noted Garhwali environmentalist, Chipko movement leader and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of Non-violence and Satyagraha].  His topic of lecture was on how we are related to nature and why we have to protect forest. His lecture took me back to my childhood, on the essence of Bsudaiva Kutumbakam (listed above).  In the deep, inner mind, I thought, should do whatever I can. From the childhood, I started to motivate the local people to plant Banyan and Peepal trees as well as other religiously important plant species on their important event of lives. It was not very difficult task to do so, because, they already knew the importance of these trees and broadly forest itself. These species are supposed holly trees in Hindu Mythology, so normally people do not cut these plant species. However, this believe is not very powerful as it was before, but still elder people feel sin if they cut these species.


Firstly, from January 1, 1985, we started survey the marginal land and started plantation as well with available saplings of any plant species. In 1986, we stared awareness campaign on tree plantation and environment conservation. We also started the survey and monitor the forest degradation as well as recording the wild animal, birds and plant species in Jhapa, Udayapur, Dhankuta and Morang districts through interviews with local residence. We also continued to visit same place again and again to monitor the forestry encroachment by the locals illegally and ligulae. In 1987, 10 people from different village development council also joined our group. In this year, I got married to Prajita. People were increasing in the group, so Prajita Bhandari proposed to establish an official forum to work regularly and systematic way. All group members supported his new idea, said that something should be done with it. Together with my wife Prajita, we publicly announced and the decision to devote our lives for conservation of nature and natural resources. In 1988 we cofounded the APEC group (Association for the Protection of Environment & Culture-, in my leadership. Since then, I have been working in this field together with my wife Prajita. Wherever, we go, whatever, we do, our major motive of conservation has not changed and will not change.


The environment conservation movement, including many action projects were running with to some extend smoothly under my leadership (1985-2000). However, there was a turning point during 2000-2002. In Nepal, there were unseen problems for social activists, environmentalists, etc. (I prefer not to disclose). I felt like I needed to change my direction from core conservationist to academia.


I always feel fresh, exited, thrilled; and feel that, a new journey is just began and going on. The destination is still bit far, however, I feel I am still learning about the world. I want to contribute for the societal harmony, peace and freedom. I see several severe problems i.e. the deteriorating peace in the world due conflicts and violence; environmental degradation- climate change-loss of biodiversity and unsustainable development. Additionally, I see the poverty, and the lives in Slums in the developing world. My whole, objective of the life is not to have any prestigious or easy life but devote myself in complete to empower people who could contribute to protect the environment and contribute for the social wellbeing of South and North. I have acquired knowledge, expertise and experience, which I want to share with the young and old, or anyone who thrive for knowledge and want to use knowledge to build new world of social and environmental harmony.


Moreover, the mode if problems in the developing world and developed world seems different; however, they are omnipresent. To resolve them, both north and south needs to join hands.

I would like to assure, that these are the basis, which led me to making this the focus of my academic studies and in my long-term career. Basically, the as I said, I was, and still I am, aware of the importance of environment for human existence. I am convinced that, if I say, but not act, it does not make any sense. As a matter of fact, my motto is to continue on this work until my last breath. My request to readers, is to learn to love themselves first and think, how, we are loved by nature. If, we feel we are loved by nature (if not loved and nurtured- we were not exist), we have to love and contribute whatever we can, not for nature shake but shake of ourselves.


As a scholar of, and an advocate for, social justice, I search continuously for the links between my scholarship and the local, national, and global realities we face and with which we live. I try to bring those connections, those links between theory and real-world events with each and every day.


I go so far as to label this approach “EDUCARE”—a way to nurture constructive dialogue that cultivates the creation and recognition of a collective knowledge base even among people who may not always see eye to eye. To my mind, this is an absolutely essential aspect of living in a rapidly populating world, fraught with the dangers of viewing people who think differently as competitors or, worse, enemies. I see this approach arising naturally out of my academic interests and professional experience, which center on the intersection of identity with local, national, and global social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental change.


I strive to achieve these aims first by shaping my curriculum to enable scholarships to relate theoretical currents to their lives, for example, by having them integrate eco-friendly practices into their daily routines, such as recycling and using low-carbon transportation options. The foundation of my work is the disproportionate impact that global environmental changes are having on communities and nations that are the most vulnerable on the planet—vulnerability that has been decades, if not centuries, in the making. This vulnerability is owed to the marginalization of, if not institutionalized of, discrimination against the resident populations. I have gained field experience in Asia, Africa, the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.


At personal level, I want to devote myself to find the way to resolve these problems individually and as a group. Every problem has a solution. However, the problems of the contemporary world have very long roots; history and connections. We need to resolve these problems as they have emerged.  In reality, through the research, conferences, experiences and the ground truth, we know some cause of the problems. However, more rigorous research is needed to find the root of anthropogenic hampers in nature. It is also necessary to resolve the humanitarian crisis, and the way to minimize the gaps between north and south. These long-rooted problems cannot be resolved overnights. We need to develop a global strategy, which can be implemented within given time. There have been many international commitments to resolve the global crisis on environment, health and food crisis. However, the implementation part depends on the leadership of individual countries. The individual countries are not being able to overcome from the neighborhood blame culture (the problem created by south, they should solve, or by north they should pay for that etc.). In addition to that, at the global level there is no specific program for the citizen empowerment. Until or unless, citizens do not have any stake in resolving the crisis, we cannot imagine implementing any program at the ground level, where actual problem is situated. There is a strong need of long term commitments, devotions, and actual work at the ground level. The fact is “world always dominated by the noble and kind-hearted people”. I am optimistic, problems are everywhere, individual to community, nations and at the globe; however, they can be solved, with collective efforts.

At the personal level, as I have experienced, I am very hopeful that doors will be opened, I am just waiting for another miraculous knock (as happened, at my primary to doctoral level study), which will provide a secure work and research platform, and I will not have to shift the babies (emerging thoughts) once place to another as wild cats do. I have still passion, perseverance, hope and energy as I had in my school years. I am energizing for the next move, waiting to connect with suitable platforms (university, research institutions, international organizations or any other agencies, who are thriving to make the positive impact on social and natural environment) to begin the new journey collectively.


We know that South Asia has been an area of special expertise in your studies.  In your opinion, what are the most serious environmental issues facing India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh today? 


Yes, originally, my area of practical work and research was focused Asia, particularly in Nepal, where I born, extended to India where I got my intermediates and bachelor’s degrees. And, I was attracted and motivated explore more about Bangladesh and Pakistan who belong to similar social and environmental problems. However, I am equally concerned and working to other geographical locations like east Africa, Australia, Japan, middle east, Europe, Eurasia, post-Soviet countries and north America etc. As I noted above, one way or other, the entire world has similar problems, in terms of environmental issues, therefore, in my research, always I see the global scenario and narrow down to specific geo-locations.


Primarily, environmental issues emerged due to anthropogenic disturbances on nature and natural resources or we can state that it is human impact on the living environment (ecosystems).  Worldwide, there are many environmental problems, few of them can be listed as follows:


Table 2. Major environmental problems of South Asia

Contamination of Drinking Water

Water Pollution


Air Pollution


Wildlife Conservation and Species Extinction

Loss of Tropical Rainforests


Climate Change/Global Warming


Biological pollutants

Carbon footprint


Dams and their impact on the environment

Ecosystem destruction

Energy conservation

Fishing and its effect on marine ecosystems

Food safety

Genetic engineering

Intensive farming

Land degradation

Land use



Nanotechnology and future effects of Nano pollution/nanotoxicology

Natural disaster

Nuclear issues

Other pollution issues


Resource depletion

Soil contamination

Sustainable communities



Source: BVijayalaxmi Kinhal


Basically, these all and many more are the serious environmental issues in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh as well as to South Asia. However, Pollution; Climate Change; Global Warming; Deforestation and Overpopulation impacts are commonly known environmental issues in the region.


Environmental depend on the geo-locations. For example, degree of pollution can be reduced in short period of time if emission reduction policy implemented and used the modern tools to reduce pollutants but global warming –which is causing sea level rise, habitat change, disasters etc. are very severe also difficult issues to solve. Global warming and climate change are interconnected issues and there is no quick fix and short-term solutions. The impacts of such issues emerged due to long anthropogenic interventions in the natural environment, and as they are cumulative impacts, to overcome from such issues also need collective and continuous efforts from local to international levels. 


The impacts depend on their geographical locations, size, economic status, and coping mechanism to deal with the crisis. For example, Bangladesh and Nepal belongs same region and have almost same geographical size, however, the degree and the modality of problems are different, but interconnected. For example, one of the impact of global warming “have long lasting effects which can result in melting of glaciers, climate change, droughts, diseases and increase in hurricanes frequency” ( Here, if we examine the scenario, Nepal’s glaciers melting helping sea level rise and Bangladesh, which is belong to low land has direct effects of sea level rise. As such this interconnectedness applies to entire planet. This also brings us to the point of interdependency of chain of ecosystems. As social scientist I also see interconnections of social system and our behavior with our environment as well as to the society. As known notion, industrialization process occurred during 1760-1840 in western industrialized world and continues to date and will continue to future (modality might be different, but objectives remains the same (efficiency and production). We need to think who are the victims? We know, what is the answer; however, it is too late to blame to the past or even to present. It time to consider the fact, the entire planet is victim and only collectively we can minimize the severity of the environmental problems. 


The Impact of Pollution on Planetary Health: Emergence of an Underappreciated Risk Factor

Pollution is a massive, overlooked cause of disease, death and environmental degradation. ……Pollution was responsible in 2015 for 9 million premature deaths – three times as many deaths as caused by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. 92% of PRD occurs in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), and in the hardest hit countries, PRD is responsible for more than 1 death in 4. Household air and water pollution, the traditional forms of pollution, are decreasing, and deaths from pneumonia and diarrhea are down. But ambient air, chemical and soil pollution are all on the rise, and non-communicable diseases (NCD) caused by these forms of pollution are increasing. Pollution and climate change are closely linked; both arise from the same sources, and both can be controlled by similar solutions. PRD causes great economic losses. These include productivity losses that reduce gross domestic product in LMICs by up to 2% per year as well as health care costs that account for 1.7% of health care spending in high-income countries and up to 7% in LMICs. Welfare losses due to pollution are estimated to amount to $4.6 trillion per year, 6.2% of global economic output.

Source: The impact of pollution on planetary health: emergence of an underappreciated risk factor: By Philip J. Landrigan, and Richard Fuller, ISSUE NO. 29: United Nations Environment Program (2018-01-08);


Going back to four Asian countries mostly, I consider ten environmental issues of Environmental Performance Measurement Index developed by Yale University (Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy) and Columbia University (Center for International Earth Science Information Network) in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission ( In the index they use ten categories (1) environmental burden of disease; (2) water resources for human health; (3) air quality for human health; (4) air quality for ecosystems; (5) water resources for ecosystems; (6) biodiversity and habitat; (7) forestry; (8) fisheries; (9) agriculture; and (10) climate change (Bhandari 2012); which I consider major environmental issues of global importance. However, I would like to restate, that Pollution; Climate Change; Global Warming; Deforestation and Overpopulation are the severe environmental issues of South Asia. The degree of problems are different in each countries. For example, Nepal’s major issues are, Deforestation (need to fulfill the demand growing population); Soil erosion (due to elevation, landslides are common); Pollution (crowding cities-air, water, soil pollutions are common); Climate change impact on glaciers and melt. Bangladesh- except glacier all applies; Pakistan: all applies and for India all above applies in full phase. However, degrees can be different. 


We would like to briefly discuss Bangladesh for a moment.  All countries in Asia and throughout the world are facing the effects of climate change and will be affected in various ways.  However, Bangladesh, with approximately 46% of its population living in areas a mere 10 meters above sea level, would seem to be one of the most vulnerable in Asia.  Can you briefly discuss how climate change will affect the lives of these 75 million people, what steps the govt. is taking to mitigate these effects, and whether you think Bangladesh is doing enough?  Can the government do enough?


We have been witnessing the effects of climate change, even in our day to day lives. As EDF notes “A warming Earth disturbs weather, people, animals and much more”. There are ample of evidences that More heat alters ice, weather and oceans (The cryosphere – the frozen water on Earth – is melting; Weather is getting more extreme; The oceans are getting hotter, expanding and becoming more acidic); Human life and prosperity suffering [(Climate change is a major threat to agriculture: Farms are more likely to face attacks from weeds, diseases and pests, which reduce yield; Warmer, polluted air affects our health; Infrastructure and transportation are at risk]; natural habitats become hostile-(The ice Arctic animals need is vanishing; Coral and shellfish are suffering; Forests are more prone to deadly infestations) (Environmental Defender Fund -2018; I am sure, we all have seen many environmental changes one way or another. We have been witnessing very frequent extreme disastrous even within decades. Such events are more severe in the climate prone country like Bangladesh.


The climatic hazards have always leaded the human casualties, poverty and extreme economic damage in Bangladesh. In 1970 about 500,000 people were killed due to cyclone alone in Bangladesh. For example, from 1971 to 2001, about 505,378 people were killed 147, 5994 were insured and 3625, 1500 people became homeless. During these 30 years about 33 million people of Bangladesh were affected directly from the climatic hazards, which damaged more than US$10 billion worth of property (Government of Bangladesh 2001:113-117)[v].


I think, most worrisome problem of Bangladesh is impact of sea level rise (which is already visible), over population (most densely populated country), and people dependency on agriculture (which is also very fragile). The following brief notes from Rezaul Karim provides a nice snap of the major problems.


Table 3. Climate change problems in Bangladesh

Climate Change & its Impacts on Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the largest deltas in the world which is highly vulnerable to Natural Disasters because of its Geographical location, Flat and low-lying landscape, Population density, Poverty, Illiteracy, Lack of Institutional setup etc. In other words, the Physical, Social as well as Economic conditions of Bangladesh are very typical to any of the most vulnerable countries to Natural Disasters in the world. The total land area is 147,570 sq. km. consists mostly of Floodplains (almost 80%) leaving major part of the country (with the exception of the north-western highlands) prone to flooding during the rainy season. Moreover, the adverse effects of Climate Change – especially High Temperature, Sea-level Rise, Cyclones and Storm Surges, Salinity Intrusion, Heavy Monsoon Downpours etc. has aggravated the overall Economic Development scenario of the country to a great extent.

Bangladesh experiences different types of Natural Disasters almost every year because of the Global Warming as well as Climate Change impacts, these are:  

Floods / Flash Floods (Almost 80% of the total area of the country is prone to flooding).

Cyclones and Storm Surges (South and South-eastern Parts of the country were hit by Tropical Cyclones during the last few years).

Salinity Intrusion (Almost the whole Coastal Belt along the Bay of Bengal is experiencing Salinity problem).

Extreme Temperature and Drought (North and North-western regions of the country are suffering because of the Extreme Temperature problem).

Notes from A.K.M. Rezaul Karim, Source:



Similarly, the IPCC in its first assessment report estimated that a 1-meter rise in sea level could inundate 17 percent of Bangladesh ….. and that this could decrease the agricultural productivity of many delta countries that can least afford losses (IPCC 1990: 6.2)[vi].  The IPCC further noted, in the case of tropical Asia that the projected climate changes … include strengthening of monsoon circulation, increases in surface temperature, and increases in the magnitude and frequency of extreme rainfall events. …These changes could result in major impacts on the region’s ecosystems and biodiversity; hydrology and water resources; agriculture, forestry, and fisheries; mountains and coastal lands; and human settlements and human health (IPCC 1998: 385)[vii]. Similarly, in the additional remarks IPCC noted that the individual countries, regions, resources, sectors, and systems will be affected by climate change not in isolation but in interaction with one another (IPCC 1998: 403). Likewise, in the third assessment report (TAR) it states that the deltas will be exposed to potential inundation both due to climate change and to human-induced stresses (IPCC 2001a: 343-380; 533-590; 843-876)[viii].

In sum-up, Bangladesh is having serious environmental problems, both natural and anthropogenic. Bangladeshi people are aware of overall climate change scenarios and severity of its impact in their day-to-day lives.  For example, according to World Bank public survey report of 2009, in reposes on seriousness of climate change as a problem, 85 percent of public reported as very serious problem and 14 percent reported as serious problem; similarly in response to the climate change as priority 54 percent reported as topmost priority and 34 percent reported and priority; in terms of urgency to address 67 percent reported that climate change impact is affecting now, followed by 26 percent reported that it will affect within 10 years (The World Bank 2009: xiii)[ix].


The government of Bangladesh is also very serious in addressing the climate change induced problems.  For example, the Government of Bangladesh report to its citizens and the global community disseminated on September 2007, states that the rapid global warming has caused fundamental changes to our (Bangladesh) climate. No country and people know this better than Bangladesh, where millions of people are already suffering. Sudden, severe and catastrophic floods have intensified and taking place more frequently owing to increased rainfall in the monsoon......Bangladesh is recognized worldwide as one of the country’s most vulnerable to the impacts of global warming and climate change.


What government is doing:

The phrase “No country and people know this better than Bangladesh” used by the government actually spell out the truth which they have been experiencing the risk, insecurity, conflicts and the severity of climate change impact, for which they say the innocent victims of global warming.


The major step began from the approval of the UNFCCC on June 09, 1992 which was ratified on April15, 1994. To fulfill the commitments to the UNFCC and other international obligations the government of Bangladesh also prepared several legal and policy instruments.

The government of Bangladesh has taken major step to cope with the national environmental crisis and shown its strong commitment by preparing and submitting the National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) (2005[x]) plan to UNFCC in 2005. The NEPA is the policy guidance which outlines the major program and plan in addressing the climate change issues in Bangladesh. This action plan was prepared as a response to the decision of the Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (NEPA 2005: xvi). With the consideration of adverse effects of climate change including variability and extreme events based on existing coping mechanisms and practices, the NEPA (2005) recommended adaptation strategies. However, the environmental risk factors are not only associated with the climate change but also associated with the deep-rooted poverty, population growth, insecurity and also the instable government and its ineffectual administrative system. So far, there are no any visible achievements, however, generally, the Government seems convinced to materialize the aim “to eradicate poverty and achieve economic and social well-being for its entire people, through a pro-poor, climate resilient and low-carbon development by adaptation to climate change, mitigation, technology transfer and adequate and timely flow of funds for investment, within a framework of food, energy, water and livelihoods security (GOB 2008:2)”. 


Bangladesh is actively participating and with the international Treaty Obligations related to environment conservation including climate change and its initiation for the forests and environment management since 1972 clearly indicates that the country’s seriousness to address the environment issue internationally and domestically. In the Bangladesh environmental conservation history of global relations another significant milestone step was signing of the Convention on Biological Diversity, at the Earth Summit in 1992, and preparation of policy guidelines to manage the biodiversity in the country. In the Bangladesh environmental conservation history, the international organizations have been playing the major role those includes the UN agencies, multilateral donor agencies, development banks, embassies of developed world, conservation international organizations and the NGOs and general concern citizens, in the specific areas of their expertise.


On the basis of available literature, my interaction with locals, NGOs, INGOs and government official, I conclude that, most of the concerned stakeholders (general public, NGOs communities, government et.) are aware of the adverse impact of environmental change due to global warming and climate change. Particularly, the residents of coastal area are also worried, who witnessing increasing hazardous weather pattern. I find them, brave, courageous and optimistic. They have developed own way of survival. The international agencies, NGOs, national and local governments are also working hard to save this vulnerable areas’ lives, through early warning systems (cell phones, radio, TV, information stations), and by supplying the essential tools and equipment. However, in comparison to the severity and intensity problems, the available coping mechanism are too minimal. Bangladesh needs global help and resources even to minimal minimization of this problem. 


Many of our readers focus on the larger, more industrialized, wealthier, and probably more polluted countries:  China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and India.  Nepal is somewhat forgotten.  Can you tell us what major environmental issues are facing Nepal?

Nepal is not less focused or forgotten country in terms of climate change. Even in terms of pollution, Nepal’s capital Kathmandu is considered among the list of most polluted cities in the world.   


KATHMANDU: Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu has ranked 5th in Pollution Index 2017 mid-year as published by the recently. ….Kathmandu slumps two spots down to 5th with 96.57 pollution index. Numbeo said it included relevant data from World Health Organization and other institutions for the ranking. The cities were listed on the basis of air pollution and then the water pollution/accessibility followed by other pollution types.

According to the Department of Environment of Nepal, the particulate matter (PM 2.5) of Ratnapark is 107 µg/m³ marking Kathmandu as one of the unhealthy cities to live in.

PM 2.5 indicates the matter present in the air that are 2.5 microns or below. These particles include dust, coal, particles exited from power plants and home heating, car exhaust and pollen plants among others. Kathmandu’s downfall was heralded due to the snail-paced road expansion projects in the Kathmandu Valley and delay in the underground installation of Melamchi Drinking Water pipes in the city. The government’s failure to replace the old and outdated vehicles plying on the roads of the city have also added air pollution in Kathmandu. Source: The Himalayan Times (Published: July 05, 2017 10:56 pm On: Nepal)


Similarly, in recent years, dust pollution has been another big threaten and subject of major concern for the public health.


Going back to the question on major environmental problems in Nepal, they are similar to Bangladesh (except direct impact of sea level rise and coastal related problems). However, Nepal’s geographical situation is different than any country in the world, due to its altitudinal variations, which can be divided as a) Low land 60 to 900 meters from sea level; b) Midland 900 to 2500 meter from the sea level; c) Highland 2500 to 2750 meter from the sea level and d) Trans-Himalayan 2750 to 8848 meter from the sea level.


The extreme altitudinal gradient of Nepal results the occurrence of 10 bio-climatic zones from tropical to naval within a horizontal span of less than 180 km virtually making Nepal a treasure house of biological and cultural diversity.  A total of 118 ecosystems, 75 vegetation and 35 forest types have been identified. Nepal comprises seven ecological zones which occur in the following order from south to north: (a) Terai, (b) Siwalik zone, (c) Mahabharat Lekh, (d) Midlands, (e) Himalaya, (f) Inner Himalaya, and (g) Tibetan marginal mountains. The diversity, threats, strategies and action plans of Nepal have been discussed under six broad categories viz. forests, rangelands, protected areas, agro-ecosystems, wetlands, and mountain ecosystem (Lillesø; Shrestha; Dhakal; Nayaju and Shrestha 2005; Dahal 2004; Bhattarai 2005). The impact of changing environment varies; we still do not know the degree of impact and severity different ecosystems. In general, the identified (those are similar to Bangladesh, India, Pakistan) major environmental problems of Nepal can be summarized as: (1) Degradation of air quality, (2) Degradation of drinking water, (3) Degradation of natural resources, (4) Lack of solid waste management, (5) Degradation of surface water quality, (6) Diminishing of water resources, (7) Release of toxic pollutants, (8) Loss of biodiversity, (9) Impacts of climate change, and (10) Improper land use [(Environment Statistics Nepal (2015) ]


Climate change tends to hit low-lying areas, as well as naturally more arid areas, more severely.  Is climate change a threat to Nepal, and if so, how? 


The impact of climate change has been noticed globally, however, it is more visible in the climate sensitive areas such as in Himalayas or the lowland and coastal islands including countries like Nepal (high Himalaya), Bangladesh other countries located in climate prone areas. In this context Nepal belongs to the vulnerable to climate change due to its extreme elevation variations.


Its elevation increases from south to north and is accompanied by decreasing temperatures. It is the home of the 8 of the10 highest mountain peaks of the world, including Mount Everest (at 8848 m), with the lowest area of about 60 (Kechanakalan, Jhapa) meter from sea level. Nepal contains a climatic variation of tropical to arctic within the distance of about 200 kilometers south to north containing lower land Terai plain, Siwalik Hills, Middle Mountains, and High Mountains (OECD 2003[xi]; Karki 2007[xii]; Lamichhane and Awasthi 2009).    


Several international institutions, bilateral and multilateral agencies and independent authors including the government of Nepal have highlighted the impact of the climate change in Nepal; however, still it has limited information regarding the impacts of climate change in economic growth, development, resource conservation and basic livelihood (UNEP 2001; OECD 2003; Karki 2007; ADB and ICIMOD 2006; IPCC 2007a, b; Lamichhane and Awasthi 2009; USAID 2009; GON 2010[xiii]). For example, USAID in its Country Assistance Strategy Nepal for 2009-2013, highlights that Nepal is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters due to its elevation. The strategy states that Nepal has an extraordinarily high vulnerability to natural disasters – including major floods, landslides, drought and earthquakes – due to its geographic location, low levels of development, minimal infrastructure and institutional capacity, and dependence on rain-fed agriculture. Severe rural poverty causes populations to inhabit marginal lands in areas at high risk for natural disasters, which is then aggravated through unsustainable practices (deforestation, over-farming or over-grazing) …There are several critical gaps and impediments to addressing Nepal’s vulnerability to disasters. Many of the most vulnerable populations are also the most physically remote, impoverished, and the least-educated (USAID 2009:18[xiv]).

“Nepal’s diverse geography makes it vulnerable to various climatic impacts, including extreme temperatures, erratic rainfall, drought, floods, melting snow and glacier retreat. The mountain areas are also vulnerable to glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) from melting glaciers, a risk” [Source: Nepal- How the people of Nepal live with climate change and what communication can do (BBCMEDIA].


The Government of Nepal has been actively involved in mitigating the impact of climate change and trying to draw international attention and help. Nepal signed the most of international treaties, agreements and active participants, supporter of major climate change deals.


Nepal still lacks the proper instrumental arrangements in addressing the changing scenario of climate regime. However, there is new hope because, now, there is new elected body from local, federal and national level. The current government has full majorities in both houses including federal levels. Hopefully, stable government will be able to fulfill the people aspiration in addressing and minimize the impact of climate change. 


In South Asia, Pakistan and India obviously grab the most attention.  I would like to start out discussing Pakistan.  Most readers know that Pakistan faces severe energy and water shortages, which are a major concern for the Abbasi govt.  Can you briefly discuss these issues for our readers and what steps PM is taking to address these issues? Aside from energy and water, what, in your opinion, are the most pressing environment/climate change issues facing Pakistan?


The Islamic Republic of Pakistan shares its boundary with India to the east, Iran and Afghanistan to the west, and China to the north. The country lies between 24°N to 37°N Latitude and 61°E to 75.5°E Longitude. Pakistan has a land area of 880,000 square kilometer including Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and the Northern Areas (without AJK 796,095 square kilometers) that, along with the coastline along with the Arabian Sea about 1,046 kilometers long, and 22,820 square kilometers of territorial waters and an Exclusive Economic Zone covering about 196,000 square kilometers in the Arabian Sea (borders with Afghanistan 2,430 kilometers; China 523 kilometers; India 2,912 kilometers; and Iran 909 kilometers). Pakistan’s dominant geomorphic features include the Indus River and its drainage basin. From the mouths of Indus near the Tropic of Cancer, Pakistan extends about 1,700 km to the river’s sources in the Himalayan, Hindu Kush, and Karakorum mountains, where several peaks exceed 8,000 meters in height (ADB 2008)[xv].


Pakistan has varieties climatic variation due to its unique location. It constitutes a broad latitudinal spread, and immense altitudinal range, and number of the world’s broad ecological regions, as defined by various classification systems. It contains areas that fall under three of the world’s eight biogeography “realms” (Indo-Malayan, Pale arctic, and Afro-tropical); four of the world’s ten “biomes” (desert, temperate grassland, tropical seasonal forest, and mountain); and three of the world’s four “domains” (polar or mountain, humid-temperate, and dry). The great variety of landscapes, including rangeland, forest, wetland, and other wildlife habitats has generated a rich diversity of life forms. However, among the south Asian countries Pakistan holds the least varieties of biodiversity (ADB 2008:13-14; UNEP 1995[xvi]; Government of Pakistan 2000:8[xvii]; ADB 2008:14; Government of Pakistan 2009).


As it has verities of climatic zones, Pakistan faces severe energy and water shortages as well as various climatic hazards throughout the history (Iqbal 2009)[xviii]. It is highly vulnerable to disasters caused by Climate Change, and especially prone to floods and droughts. Sandstorms, dust storms, micro-cloudbursts, cyclones and tsunamis are additional threats (IUCN and Government of Pakistan 2009:4)[xix] . The major climatic hazards in Pakistan can be listed as.


Table 4. Climatic Hazards in Pakistan

Natural Hazards 

Human Induced Hazards 


Transport accidents 


Oil spills 


Urban fires 


Civil conflicts 


International displacements 


Radiological (CNR) 

Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) 



River erosion 

Pest attacks 

Source: IUCN and Government of Pakistan (2009:4)


Pakistan has been facing severe problem due to the climatic extreme events such as Earthquakes, Floods, Landslides, Cyclones/Storms, Droughts, River erosion, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) etc. and experiencing human causality, displacement and loss of property. For example, in July and August 2010 due to extreme flood more than 1600 people were killed and 14 million became homeless and 170 million people were affected, destroyed 1,226,678 houses (National Disaster Management Authority 2010) and damaged about a trillion-dollar worth of property and infrastructures of the country (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs-OCHA 2010). This flood has been considered one of the worst natural disasters of Pakistani history which affected to entire nation. As published in various news sources: The United Nations has rated the floods in Pakistan as the greatest humanitarian crisis in recent history with more people affected than the South-East Asian tsunami and the recent earthquakes in Kashmir and Haiti combined. Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said: This disaster is worse than the tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake (Tweedie 2010[xx]; BBC 2010[xxi]; OCHA 2010).  According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)[xxii], the affected area covers 132,421 km, including 1.4 million acres of cropped land (The Current Affairs 2010)[xxiii].


As other Asian countries, Pakistan is facing similar environmental problems such as deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, climate change, pesticide misuse, soil erosion, natural disasters and desertification. However, noticeable problems are waste management and water crisis. The few pictures (from various news sources) show the reality of the fact.


Government of Pakistan has been taking climate change issue seriously. In its report to the UNFCC in 2001 and taskforce report of 2010, it repeats that, because climate change is posing a direct threat to its water security, food security and energy security (Government of Pakistan 2001; 2010:1)[xxiv]. There are several national level policy commitments in addressing the degrading environmental situation of the country. Pakistan has been a party to various Environmental Conventions and Protocols. To evaluate the climate change issue regularly the Government of Pakistan launched a comprehensive program called “ SMART” (self-Monitoring and Reporting Tool) with the help of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), which was founded by the government to address the issues of sustainable development, environment and climate change, which helps to monitor release of effluents and emissions from the Industries initially with 50 industrial Units later expending to 200 and 400 Industrial Units all across the country under phase-I program (SDPI 2006; Khan 2009)[xxv]. There have been several projects running in Pakistan to address the climate change issue in the country with the financial and technical support of various international organizations i.e. the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, GTZ, DFID, UN agencies, the IUCN, the WWF etc. (Khan 2009; World Bank 2006; SDPI 2006)[xxvi].  In addition to Government’s plan, policies and projects, the government established institutions, agencies as well as international organizations also have been working to address the climate change issues in Pakistan.


The scenario, clearly indicates that the government of Pakistan is serious in addressing the degrading environmental situation and impact of climate change, through its national and international commitments. The following section elaborates on Pakistan’s involvement on international treaties, convention and conferences including climate change. However, the global context, Pakistan has signed only about 16 percent of bounding treaties related to environment and climate change. In addition to showing its commitments in the international and national policy instruments, the government of Pakistan has been maintaining it memberships with the numerous of International Organizations.


We can’t discuss South Asia without talking about India.  It’s the largest, wealthiest, most industrialized nation in South Asia.  Yet, it does have severe problems.  Smog blankets most cities, sporadic electricity, troubles with its rail network and mass transit, the list is almost endless.  In your opinion, what are the most serious issues facing India today, and what steps is the Modi government taking to address these issues?


As I noted, in the first section of this interview, India holds second largest population in the world and seventh largest in terms of geographical territory. Yes, India has ample of opportunities and threats. I think, the geographical wealth and abundance and its large population is also opportunity, strength and key of innovation, for industrialization and growth. It is established notion that, there is negative side effects of over population and industrialization. The pollution, waste, increase of environmental health risk, transit and traffic issues can be count few examples of such side effects.  However, it has long history to tackle issues, which still remain strongly influential in Indian rich culture and traditions.


“India has a civilizational legacy which treats Nature as a source of nurture and not as a dark force to be conquered and harnessed to human Endeavour. There is a high value placed in our culture to the concept of living in harmony with Nature, recognizing the delicate threads of common destiny that hold our universe together. The time has come for us to draw deep from this tradition and launch India and its billion people on a path of ecologically sustainable development” (Dr. Manamohan Singh. Prime Minister of India, June 30, 2009)[xxvii].

"India is the cradle of human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only! “Mark Twain (1835-1910).


India holds the most influential role in South Asia: it has the oldest and most extensive history of civilization, colonization, and struggle for independence, as well as an extended democratic system and the second largest population on the globe. Pakistan and Bangladesh were part of India until they became independent; therefore, these two countries have been following a similar tradition of conservation bureaucracy as India. India’s influence in modern Nepal is even stronger than in Pakistan and Bangladesh because India and Nepal share an open border and citizens of both countries do not require work permits. Similarly, Nepal and India have the largest Hindu population and therefore have strong cultural ties. Because of these facts, to some extent an understanding of India in general reflects an understanding of the other three nations.

As India has all kind of ecosystems and diversities, it has also verities of environmental problems, the following table, (from Mahesh Chandra, 2015) nicely summarizes.


Some of the major environmental concerns confronting India include:

·        Air pollution from industrial effluents and vehicle emissions;

·        Energy-related environmental problems such as, chemical & oil pollution and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions (Greenstone and Hanna, 2014);

·        Water pollution from raw sewage, the lack of adequate sanitation, and nonpotable water throughout the country;

·        Municipal solid waste management (MSWM) remains a challenge for India due to the rising population and the resultant infrastructural needs (Dube, Nandan, and Dua, 2014);

·        Over-population and its strain on natural resources; and

·        Agricultural factors such as, runoff of agricultural pesticides, overgrazing, short cultivation cycles, slash and burn practices, destructive logging practices, and deforestation of timber reserves for fuel, all contribute conjointly to the decimation of the subcontinent's environmental system.

Source: (Chandra, Mahesh (2015) "Environmental Concerns in India: Problems and Solutions," Journal of International Business and Law: Vol. 15: Iss. 1, Article 1. Available at:


There are area specific problems in terms of pollution, waste, sewages, over population, poverty. The following few pictures (published in various newspaper illustrate few examples).


The key environmental challenges facing India today include (i) air pollution; (ii) poor management of waste; (iii) growing water scarcity; (iv) declining levels of groundwater; (v) water pollution; (vi) forest preservation and quality; (vii) loss of biodiversity; (viii) land and soil degradation; and (ix) increasing frequency of natural disasters, including droughts and floods. Coupled with the demands of India's increasing population, these challenges place mounting pressure on India’s environmental resources. Growth of India’s economy will place further pressures on India’s natural resource base, and reinforce the need to sustainably exploit and manage these resources. This is particularly important because India’s poor suffer most from declining natural resource productivity. Source: ADB-


As there are countless many problems, however, as its culture and tradition indicates, there are numerous efforts are also taking place to overcome from such problems. For example, India is signatory of most of the environment related treaties and conventions. India’s Constitution, Article 51(c), sets the directive principle requiring the State to foster respect for International law and treaty obligations (Divan, 2002)[xxviii]. India first accepted the impact of climate change after the 1947 publication of Sisir Kumar Mitra’s book titled The Upper Atmosphere, published by Calcutta, Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. “He considered, for the first time, the atmospheric environment as a whole-neutral and ionized - its thermal structure and distribution of constituents, its motions, the interaction of the solar radiation and the particle streams from the sun with these constituents. He also considered the atmosphere from the surface to the fringe of the upper atmosphere” (Indian National Science Academy, 2001:144[xxix]).


As guided and accepted by the constitution of India, there are many initiates, government of India and even general public have been working to minimize the impact of environmental change, throughout the history, with some disputes on natural resource management. 

Nature-based conflicts have increased in frequency and intensity in India. They revolve around competing claims over forests, land, water and fisheries, and have generated a new movement struggling for the rights of victims of ecological degradation. The environmental movement has added a new dimension to Indian democracy and civil society. It also poses an ideological challenge to the dominant notions of the meaning, content and patterns of development” (Gadgil and Guha1994:100)[xxx].


However, together with government, general public are looking options to overcome with the increasing problems due to environment degradation.


Government has Taken Series of Steps to Address Pollution-Related Issues: Environment Minister

Pollution is a matter of concern in cities and towns and is caused due to introduction of contaminants into the environment viz. air, water and soil that may cause adverse change in ambient conditions. The Government has taken a series of steps to address issues related to water pollution, air & vehicular pollution, industrial pollution, improper waste disposal etc. in cities, towns and metropolises.

The major steps being taken by the Government to control pollution inter alia include the following:-

(i) Notification of National Ambient Air Quality Standards;

(ii) Formulation of environmental regulations / statutes;

(iii) Setting up of monitoring network for assessment of ambient air quality;

(iv) Introduction of cleaner / alternate fuels like gaseous fuel (CNG, LPG etc.), ethanol blend etc.;

(v) Promotion of cleaner production processes.

(vi) Launching of National Air Quality index by the Prime Minister in April, 2015;

(vii) Implementation of Bharat Stage IV (BS-IV) norms in 63 selected cities and universalization of BS-IV by 2017; .........

(xix) Implementation of National River Conservation Plan for abatement of pollution in identified stretches of various rivers and undertaking conservation activities...

Source; Business Standard- Delhi Last Updated at July 20, 2016 00:21 IST


The listed text gives some general outlines of what government is doing to address the severity of the environment induced problems in India. There may be less practical work, than, whatever is advertised in the government publications or in the newspapers to support or oppose the government; however, it clearly indicates that, the government and other concerned stakeholders are aware of the severity of the problems and t[xxxi]rying their best to overcome, / minimize the problems.


Theoretically, and in practice to some extent, India is committed to environment conservation, which includes addressing climate change issues, and has been working to develop collaborative plans and projects with the Multilateral Donor Agencies, Development Agencies, Civil Societies and the private sector. India has also shown its firm commitment both domestically and internationally by signing and ratifying the major conventions and treaties related to the environment and climate change, most of which were from the first United Nations Conference on Environment in Stockholm in 1972 (Kishwan, Panday, Goyal and Gupta, 2007)[xxxii]. Since the Conference, India has prepared and implemented approximately 40 Acts and Policies. Consequently, India has also established close working networks with the International Network Organization, which includes: The United Nations, IUCN, WWF, Winrock International and climate change[xxxiii]. In addition, India is enforcing the establishment of institutional capacity to incorporate the new policies and acts as needed to address the seriousness of the global environment crisis, which is activating the role of local agencies with the recognition of their contributions.


All governments face difficult policy choices, having to balance environmental/health issues versus national development.  This is not unique to Asia.  But these policy choices are probably felt more acutely in Asia as the “west” has already achieved a certain level of national development that most nations in Asia are still trying to achieve.  How do you feel about the policy choices being made in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India?  Are these the optimal choices?  Are they the only choices?  Or do you think that the governments of South Asia can do better?  


As I noted in the earlier sections; the major environmental problems in the region include, land degradation & desertification loss of biodiversity; fresh water depletion & degradation; solid waste management; degradation of air quality; environmental health issues; degradation and depletion of coastal and marine resources; and natural disasters and their consequences (SACEP 2010). Specifically, they can be summarized as:


Table 5. Key environmental issues and causes 

Common problems

Climate change and associated Natural disasters; Increasing population pressures; Pollution due to land-based activities; Intensive agriculture development; Coral mining and Increased pressure from tourism

Country Specific Problems


 Key Issues 

 Key Causes 


Marginalized populations forced to live on and cultivate flood-prone land; loss of biodiversity; limited access to potable water; water-borne diseases prevalent; water pollution, especially of fishing areas; arsenic pollution of drinking water; urban air pollution; soil degradation; deforestation; severe overpopulation: natural disasters (especially floods and cyclones which kill thousands of people and causes heavy economic losses every year); food security risks; industrial pollution; import of hazardous waste. 

High population density and urban primacy; reliance on private transport; urbanization and deficits in urban infrastructure (including one of the world’s 30 largest cities – Dhaka); increases in unmanaged marine-based tourism; green revolution/agrochemicals and run-off; high demand for bio-fuels; lack of controls on industrial effluent; over exploitation and/or pollution of groundwater. 


Deforestation; soil erosion; overgrazing; desertification; loss of biodiversity; air pollution; water pollution; huge population base and large growth rate is overstraining natural resources; natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and landslides are common; high death rates and ailments associated with indoor air pollution. 

High rates of urbanization and deficits in urban infrastructure (including in four of world’s 30 largest cities); reliance on private transport; industrial effluents and vehicle emissions; increases in unmanaged marine- based tourism; green revolution/ agrochemicals and run-off; reliance on bio-fuels. 


Deforestation; soil erosion and degradation; loss of biodiversity; water pollution; natural disasters such as floods and landslides in rural areas; food security risks

High rates of urbanization; reliance on private transport; increased demands for timber; increased population density and cultivation of marginal lands. 


Water pollution; seasonal limitations on the availability of natural freshwater resources; majority of the population lacks access to potable water; deforestation; soil erosion; coastal habitat loss and degradation of marine environment; desertification; loss of biodiversity: natural disasters, mainly due to floods. 

High rates of urbanization and deficits in urban infrastructure; industrial wastes; population increases in coastal areas and rise in tourism; depletion of mangroves for aquaculture; overfishing; increased demands for timber/bio-fuels; hunting/ poaching; green revolution/agrochemicals and run-off. 

Source: ESCAP 2000:345.


Most of the issues and causes noted in the table are related to the depletion of forest canopy. The major underlying cause is deforestation, which is associated with the public dependency on natural resources for the livelihood. There are also increasing trend of environmental hazards related human health. The environmental health problems can either be due to the lack of access to essential environmental resources (clean air, water, shelter adequate food etc.,) and due to unhealthy and unsafe work environments. Health issues in the form of premature death, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory symptoms are high in several metropolitan centers in the region (SAARC 2010:2 website). The Asian countries are aware on the issues and have kept on the high priority to address them, by principle and practice.

Table 6. National Priorities on the environmental issues in South Asia

Land degradation and desertification









Water erosion





Water logging










Loss of Biodiversity










Water scarcity





Water Pollution





Need for Water supply & sanitation





Solid & liquid waste Management in urban centers





Degradation of Air quality

Vehicular emission in urban centers





Industrial emission





Domestic cooking





Environmental Health issues





Depletion and degradation of Coastal & Marine Environment





Natural disasters






Floods & Land slides





Earth Quakes





Sea level rise





Source: ESCAP 2000; UNEP 2001; SAARC 2010


In Summary, each of the four countries has given high priority for the overall conservation of natural resources, including wetlands and introduced or being prepared the strong policies and programs to stop further degradation of nature. Among them, India has the established system of conservation mechanism; however, in terms of policy implementation and conservation, Nepal has shown the exemplary cases of natural resource management with the application of the public participation machineries. Bangladesh and Pakistan performance in conservation is relatively weak, even having very strong involvement of international organization to improve their situation.  In addressing the conservation problems, there have been some efforts in the region, coordinated by various organizations such as The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC- Sub Regional mechanism for selected South-South East Asian Member Countries Member Countries: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal), Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), IUCN regional office, UN Agency Regional Office, and several other international organization. Among them SAARC’s initiatives is very important to address the conservation problems which hold the regional issues particularly, water resources and climate change.


It is my pleasure to share knowledge and expertise As I noted, earlier, my family, communities, and various societies (wherever I have been), including the nature and culture, traditions combined nurtured me, without any expectations. My intention, of life is to give or contribute to the society in fullest whatever I have. I would be more than happy, if readers find this information useful. I am open to engage in any kind of collaborative research, teaching, or any other tasks which can contribute to overcome or minimize the devastating impact of climate change.


I would like to clearly state that, most of the information, I have noted in this interview are based on web-search as well as taken from my forth coming books manuscripts:

·        Green Web II (2018), River Publishers, Denmark / the Netherlands

·        Getting the Facts Right: The IPCC and the Role of Science in Managing Climate Change, (under contract) River Publishers, Denmark / the Netherlands

·        State of Environment in South Asia-A comparative study of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, with Reference of the conservation intervention

·        India: Oldest Civilizations, Oldest Conservation History- and the Mutuality with the International Organizations

·        Bangladesh: The Country of over Population and UN’s Role to Address the Vulnerable Environment

·        IUCNs’ the Pioneer for Environment conservation efforts in The Country of Geological Variation and Conflict-Nepal

·        The IUCN as Organization of Knowledge- the Roles of Policy formation in the Country of Unrest - Pakistan


Most of the pictures, graphs, tables are taken from the websites. I have tried to provide proper sources, citations, and links of the original sources. However, if I missed to note any source, I apologize in advance to the all concern authors, journalists, government agencies and any other stakeholders whom I have cited in this note.


Reference and footnote:

Bhandari, Medani P. (2018). Green Web-II: Standards and Perspectives from the IUCN, Published, sold and distributed by: River Publishers, Denmark / the Netherlands ISBN:  978-87-70220-12-5 (Hardback) 978-87-70220-11-8 (eBook).

Bhandari, Medani P. (2018). “Climate Change Impacts on Food Security, a Brief Comparative Case Study of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan". Acta Scientific Agriculture 2.8 (2018): 136-140.

Bhandari, Medani P. (2018). The Problems and Consequences of the Biodiversity Conservation: A Case Study from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.SocioEconomic Challenges, 2(1), 6-20.



[ii] Kleinschmit, Jim (2009). Agriculture and Climate—The Critical Connection, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Copenhagen.

[iii] (access on 2/3/2018)

[iv] IPCC (2014) Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pp.

[v] Government of Bangladesh (2001) State Of Environment Bangladesh 2001, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of Bangladesh, Dhaka (Accessed on 07/28/2018)

[vi] IPCC (1990) Climate Change, the IPCC Impacts Assessment (Geneva: WMO; UNEP; IPCC).

[vii] IPCC (1998) The Regional Impacts of Climate Change. An Assessment of Vulnerability, Cambridge University Press, NY

[viii] IPPC (2001) Climate Change 2001, the Scientific Basis, Cambridge University Press, NY

IPPC (2001a) Climate Change 2001, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability and Mitigation, Cambridge University Press

[ix] The World Bank (2009) The World Bank World Development Report 2010, “Public Attitudes toward Climate Change: Findings from A multi-Country Poll”; (15 countries released 12-3-09), The World Bank, Washington, DC.  (The poll was carried out by , a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland)  (accessed on 07/18/2018)

[x] Government of Bangladesh (2005) National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) Final Report November 2005, Ministry of Environment and Forest Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (accessed on 07/29/2018)

[xi] OECD (2003) Development and Climate Change in Nepal: Focus on Water Resources and Hydropower, Environment Directorate, Working Party on Global and Structural Policies, Working Party on Development Co-operation and Environment, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Publications Service, OECD, Paris, France (by Agrawala, Shardul; Raksakulthai, Vivian; Aalst, Maarten van; Larsen, Peter; Smith; Joel and Reynolds, John 2003) (accessed on 10/31/2018)

[xii] Karki, M.B. (2007) Nepal’s Experience in Climate Change Issues, Fourteenth Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change, Sydney, Australia. Available at: www.apnet.

org/docs/14th_seminar/karki.pdf. (accessed on 10/31/2018)

[xiii] Government of Nepal –GoN (2010) The Future of Nepal's Forests Outlook for 2020 (Asia Forestry Outlook Study 2020: Country Report Nepal), Submitted By: Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MOFSC), Singh Durbar, Kathmandu, Submitted to: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand (accessed on 10/19/2018)

[xiv] USAID (2009) Country Assistance Strategy Nepal (2009 - 2013) U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Mission to Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal (accessed on 10/31/2018)

[xv] The Asian Development Bank-ADB (2008) Islamic Republic Of Pakistan: Country Environment Analysis, ADB, Manila.  (accessed on 05/10/2018)

[xvi] United Nations Environment Program-UNEP (1995) Global Biodiversity Assessment, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[xvii] Government of Pakistan (2000) (with the collaboration of IUCN and WWF) Biodiversity Action Plan for Pakistan, A framework For Conserving Our Natural Wealth, Government of Pakistan, World Wide Fund for Nature, Pakistan and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Pakistan.

[xviii] Iqbal, M. Mohsin (2009) Vulnerability of Pakistan to Climate Change Hazards, Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) Islamabad, National Disaster Awareness Day -2009” presentation, at Convention Centre, Islamabad (on October 08, 2018) (accessed on 08/20/2010)

[xix] IUCN and Government of Pakistan (2009) Climate Change Disaster Management in Pakistan, IUCN Pakistan Country Office, Karachi 75530, Pakistan and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Government of Pakistan, Prime Ministers Secretariat, Islamabad, Pakistan (accessed on 08/20/2018)

[xx] Tweedie, Neil (2010) Pakistan floods: disaster is the worst in the UN's history, The Telegraph UK, (Neil Tweedie in Charsadda-Published: 6:07PM BST 09 Aug 2018) (accessed on 08/21/2010)

[xxi] BBC (2010) Pakistan flood aid not getting through – UN (accessed on 08/20/2018)

BBC (2010) BBC News South Asia August 17, 2018 last updated at 11:56 ET (accessed on 08/20/2018)

[xxii] National Disaster Management Authority (2010) News Update of current flooding, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Government of Pakistan

[xxiii] The Current Affairs (2010) Pakistan Floods 2010, Floods in Pakistan, Pakistan Floods Donating and Organizational Relief Campaign Information, The Current Affairs, Pakistan (By admin at August17, 2010, 12:22 pm) (accessed on 08/21/2018)

[xxiv] Planning Commission, Government of Pakistan (2010) Final Report of the Task Force on Climate Change, Planning Commission, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad (accessed on 06/03/2018)

Ministry of Environment, Local Government and Rural Development (2001) National Report of Pakistan on the Implementation of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Government of Pakistan, Islamabad (accessed on 06/03/2018)

[xxv] SDPI (2006) Sustainable Industrial Development / National Environmental Quality Standards, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad (accessed on 06/03/2018)

Khan, Javed Ali (2009) Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA’s) Ministry of Environment, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad.  (accessed on 06/03/2018)

Jawed Ali Khan is the Director of Pakistan Environmental Protection Council (PEPC).

[xxvi] The World Bank (2006) Pakistan Strategic Country Environmental Assessment South Asia Environment and Social Development Unit, Document of the World Bank, World Bank Office Islamabad and Washington, DC.

[xxvii] Downloaded on January 3, 2019.

[xxviii] Divan, Shyam (2002) International Environmental Law (On line publication on July, 12th, 2002) (accessed on 05/01/2018).

[xxix] Indian National Science Academy (2001) Pursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience, Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi.  (accessed on 05/02/2018)

[xxx] Gadgil, Madhav and Guha, Ramchandra (1994) Ecological conflicts and the environmental movement in India, Development and Change Vol. 25: 101-136.


[xxxii] Kishwan, Jagadish; Panday, Devendra; Goyal, AK and Gupta AK (2007) India’s Forests, Government of India, Ministry of Environment and forest, New Delhi.

[xxxiii] India's major donors and collaborative partners in addressing the Environment and Climate change issues (resources found at)  (accessed on 05/02/2018).


Copyright © Medani Bhandari




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