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Young entrepreneurs blend sustainable businesses with air pollution solutions

Mona Sharma

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ICIMOD worked with young entrepreneurs to showcase practical and sustainable solutions to mitigate air pollution impacts on the environment and society in the HKH region. (Photo: Pradeep Kumar Shakya)

Under our Air Pollution Solutions Initiative, we have initiated a campaign – the Climate Action4Clean Air (CA4CA) initiative – to help young entrepreneurs showcase practical and sustainable solutions to mitigate air pollution impacts on the environment and society in the HKH region. Our CA4CA incubation programme invited innovative ideas (technological and operational) from young entrepreneurs and startups, who explored markets that also present opportunities to reduce industry-based emissions and pollution. Our aim through this initiative is to gradually enable industry-level approaches that promote environment-friendly business solutions to mitigate air pollution.

The selection process for the incubation programme was rigorous. We selected 15 businesses each from Bhutan and Nepal, out of the 59 applications we received. The 30 finalists made pitches to a panel of financial and business specialists, following which we selected five entrepreneurs from each country. We then connected these entrepreneurs with mentors who guided them to increase their product’s adaptability, scalability, and sustainability. The business incubation and mentorship programme encouraged the entrepreneurs to develop commercially viable approaches and adopt green solutions.

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The selected entrepreneurs received mentorship on how to build sustainable businesses that also help mitigate air pollution.

On Wednesday, 6 July 2022, the entrepreneurs came together to share their experiences through a cross-learning visit, roundtable discussion, and presentations. Izabella Koziell, Deputy Director General, ICIMOD, appreciated the efforts of the awardee enterprises and shared that CA4CA shows how small steps contribute towards transboundary issues and to the wider global agenda. Narayan Prasad Sharma Duwadi, Joint Secretary, Department of Industries, Commerce and Supplies, Nepal, stated that this programme illustrates the important connections between entrepreneurship and issues around climate change and green economy. He added that initiatives such as CA4CA help build an entrepreneurial mindset for holistic business development. Indu Bikram Joshi, General Secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology, Science and Technology Division, Nepal, highlighted this initiative as a good example of how three essential pillars for business development – businesses, the government, and research institutions – can work to build a green entrepreneurial ecosystem.

South Asia, including the HKH region, is vulnerable to increasing air pollution and climate change impacts, which have accelerated in recent decades, with far-reaching consequences for environmental and human health. Contributors to poor air quality in Bhutan and Nepal include the manufacturing and construction industries, vehicle emissions, and waste burning. Seasonal variations in pollution exist, with the highest levels occurring in the dry season (December to April). The largest sources of air pollution include household emissions from cookstoves, open burning of agricultural residue and solid waste, forest fires, vehicles, brick kilns, and fossil fuel-based energy production. The problem persists, causing concern not just for the atmosphere and human health, but also affecting biodiversity, water resources, soil health, global temperatures, and climate.

ICIMOD will continue to reach out to young entrepreneurs and support innovative creative ideas across the region. Air pollution solutions require coordination, cooperation, and innovation from all sectors, especially for mobilising youth and spreading awareness. Our CA4CA campaign is a first step towards building an enabling environment and exploring practical, cost-effective pathways to mitigate air pollution through a mix of science, policy, governance, and technological solutions.


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