Climate change has become a modern issue representing a significant concern for the governments, regional bodies and international organizations especially regarding the possibilities to manage rapidly declining and threatening trends. Overemphasis on the economic aspects of modernization and technical development in the past may have yielded certain dividends, albeit at the expense of generating environmental imbalances created by ruthless mining of natural resources (air, water, and soil) for infrastructure growth, industrialization, agricultural mechanization, and watershed restoration. Either of those entailed demographic shifts from rural to urban areas, leave fertile fields and bodies of water relatively unsecured. The rapid expansion of industrial plants to improve the economy resulted in the depletion of forests and ecosystems, the loss of biological diversity, the widespread use of fossil fuels, the emission of vast quantities of pollution and radioactive waste, and soil erosion and degradation (Zafarullah & Huque, 2018).

Environmental issues have no political boundaries; they surpass states and regions and must therefore be addressed by interregional collaboration among governments and institutions (Chasek, 2012; DeSombre, 2006; Kjellen, 2008). The article will focus on policies and strategies in selected South-Asian countries- India, Nepal, Bangladesh.

South Asia as a region represents a challenge with the harmonization of environmental policies across the region. Its main problem is the turbulent relationship between nations, which has a negative effect on all policy fields, including the environment. Some countries pursue a bilateral approach to environmental issues, avoiding SAARC – the regional platform for multilateral cooperation and diplomacy, that can play a useful role in environmental management. The Hindu Kush Himalaya region faces several serious challenges. Poverty has an effect on human and economic growth outcomes in South Asia, which has an impoverished area with an average GNI of approximately US$1,610. The region represents a hot spot of climate migration. In the case of Bangladesh, climate change has been a driving force of migration from coastal areas, impacted by high levels of sea, to the capital Dhaka that has to cope with critically high levels of density. The COVID-19 pandemic has, in the case of India, increased the urban to rural migration and increased the number of “urban poor” (Dhanasree, 2021).

The rising population density, the ecologically unfriendly industry infrastructure and the seizure of lakes, canals and land for urban development lead to natural disasters streaming into the environmental issues. During past years, the situation in the region is aggravated, resulting in heavy floods, more frequent cyclones or rising levels of sea near coastal areas (Zafarullah & Huque,2018).

Each country has a different issue and policy – Bangladesh with trade winds causing warm weather and drier circulation is considered as one of the most vulnerable to climate change. It has adopted BCCSAP- an action plan in order to lower carbon emissions but the country is unevenly developed, and some regions lag behind. India is very active in regards with its environmental policy by adopting NAPCC-National action plan on climate change in 2008 and then INDC-Intended nationally determined contribution from 2015 in order to follow a low carbon path. NAPA- Nepal National adaptation plan of action was prepared in 2010 to fight against social and economic disparities in the country, but the government soon realized they have to fight on a local level. NRREP- National rural and renewable energy program was created and by 2050 they plan to achieve 80% of the electrification through renewable energy in the country and reduce its dependency on biomass (Mukhopadhyay, 2018).

On the regional level, South-Asian countries engage themselves according to the Environment Action Plan, which was released by SAARC. The goal is to raise awareness about climate change and climate change mechanisms among different stakeholder groups and help them to efficiently implement it. However, nothing noteworthy occurred in terms of concrete intervention with a wide geographic emphasis. Internal strains caused by “geopolitical imbalances” among some member countries (India vs. Pakistan, in particular) slowed development, and it took the leaders twenty years to accept the “SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment” to address climate change issues. From 2008, the countries have accepted the vulnerability of the region to climate change. In spite of the steps taken, the lack of financial means and modern technical approach complicate further ecological development. In many South-Asian countries, environmental policies have existed before 1990’s, for instance Bangladesh has the most recent policy framed in 2012, but Nepal still follows the one it adopted in 1992. Each country has its own strategy and their goal is in most of them to reduce the level of poverty and thus to apply the environment-economic-social development nexus approach. India for instance has created an institutional mechanism “for developing and implementing policies, laws and action plans” for regional cooperation. Few South-Asian countries have made significant strides, while others have lagged. Since the impacts of climate change in South-Asian countries are transboundary, coordination and partnership are becoming more important, as are concerted efforts in developing institutional capabilities, study and dissemination of findings, and sharing information and best practices. (Ahmed & Suphachalasai, 2014).

Overall, despite SAARC, most South Asian governments‘ partnerships have not advanced to the point that shared confidence and concern are apparent. These nations differ in scale and impact, and a preference for bilateral approaches prevents all players from participating in important decisions. The aims of environmental protection and economic development remain unachieved because political and policy discourse is not transformed into practice. The main reasons are a lack of awareness and policymakers‘ failure to consider the severity of the crisis (Zafarullah & Huque, 2018).

On the international level, countries of BRICS (India from South Asia region) act according to Kyoto protocol. However, the first world countries like the USA instead of offering aid to third world countries, rather put an emphasis on cooperation between several countries to develop specific technology like in the case of India and the USA and their project on clean energy development. Countries in South Asia are also tied with the Paris agreement; however, it seems that all the policies that had been adopted focus primarily on economic protection and not on the environment. On the other hand, developing countries in South Asia are firstly speaking about the problem of development before talking about the environment. The main goal is to move more than 1000 million poor people who are using coal as the primary source of energy into the middle-income class. Regional leader- India has become a regional spokesman and got engaged in several international events from Paris-COP21-15 to Marrakech. SAARC, in addition to its regional impact, it also has international representative activity and thus represents a unified South Asia region (Mukhopadhyay, 2018).

To conclude, it seems likely that every country in South-Asia has already taken some steps in order to fight against climate change. But the level of implementation of those policies differ possibly because of its formality or lack of financial resources to efficiently implement policies. The polarization on the topic of global warming is extreme. Inconsistent opinion from the side of the South-Asian governments deepen the support of fossil fuels among its habitants. In addition, the climate change could actually bring the desired economic development. Relying on the Paris agreement in this region will not bring the suitable fruits because of its ambitious goals. The region has to adapt to more realistic goals that it can fulfill either on regional level via cooperation, with the help from SAARC or individually as states. (Mukhopadhyay, 2018)

Author: Tereza Fabuľová

Photo References: Priebe, M. & Steinle, F. (2013). Environmental issues in Southeast Asia. The Fair Observer.


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