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18 Mar 2022 | News

Experts discuss policy perspectives on air pollution solutions with young business entrepreneurs from Bhutan and Nepal

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On 4 February 2022, as part our Climate Action4Clean Air (CA4CA) programme, our partners Antarprerana Pvt. Ltd. and Institute for Learning Solutions (ILS) organized a virtual interaction programme, ‘Policy perspectives on air pollution mitigating solutions in Bhutan and Nepal’. The CA4CA incubation and mentorship programme, under our Atmosphere Initiative, engages youth and start-ups in developing viable solutions to combat the negative impacts of air pollution in the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

The interaction programme consisted of a panel discussion on clean energy, sustainability, and environment. The experts on the panel included Indu Bikram Joshi, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Forests and Environment, Nepal and Sangay Dorji, former civil servant, and expert in sustainable development, environmental compliance, environmental issues, feasibility studies, and carbon management. Anu Joshi Shrestha, Rural Enterprise, and Value Chain Specialist – Livelihoods and the lead for the CA4CA programme moderated the event. The participants included entrepreneurs who submitted the ten winning air pollution business solutions from Nepal and Bhutan in response to the CA4CA call.

The session enabled the entrepreneurs to understand the prospects of starting a new business that focuses on cleaning the environment and the government’s outlook towards startups. The entrepreneurs shared their experiences, issues, and problems with the experts, who advised them on potential solutions and provided the contact details of key officials in the respective government departments.

Indu Bikram Joshi shared that for countries like Bhutan and Nepal, two main factors – technology and psychology – affect the motivation of startups. Joshi highlighted that Nepal and Bhutan both lack the required infrastructure and technology and are missing out on the huge potential to recycle waste materials. Hence, every year the million-dollar business ends up going to neighbouring country, India. Joshi emphasized that Nepal lacks the technology to recycle iron and plastic – the most profitable sectors in the recycling business. Other waste materials like biogas, textile, and furniture waste can create profitable recycling business, which can be a great platform for Nepalese entrepreneurs. Joshi informed that for such initiatives the Government of Nepal (GoN) is ready to provide support to startups for such businesses through subsidies and tax incentives.

Joshi invited the entrepreneurs to visit his office and pitch ideas on green business solutions and encouraged them to talk to technical personnel at the Department of Environment, GoN. The government currently does not have any written procedure for adopting startup solutions, but they could call for open tenders if the ideas or prototype solutions are deemed helpful for the environment and people. Joshi also stated that the government has been working towards an action plan regarding the use of plastic bags, and waste regeneration and recovery. On the Department of Environment’s part, they have prepared a draft plan to adopt startup solutions, which has been put forth to the concerned authorities for feedback.

Sangay Dorji cited a World Bank report to highlight that globally air pollution causes an estimated USD 5 trillion in losses due to lost livelihoods and disease, which in turn creates a loss of USD 225 billion in income. Echoing Joshi, Dorji stated that Bhutan faces two constraints – enabling policy regarding startups and access to finance, as private banks charge high interest rates. However, despite the challenges for startups, Bhutanese youth are enthusiastic and express concern about the environment. Each day, Bhutan produces young entrepreneurs with creative ideas and green solutions to mitigate pollution even though the country lacks research and development, which makes it very challenging for business to start, survive, and serve the people.

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