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22 Apr, 2019

Bringing the youth close-up with some of the nation's prominent conservation and development-related personalities, a half-day panel discussion session was organized today at NTNC-Central Zoo on the occasion of the Earth Day 2019. The event was jointly organized by NTNC and UNDP Nepal as part of the global day celebrated under this year's theme 'Protect Our Species'.

Programme panelists—Mr. Man Bahadur Khadka from the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), Mr. Vijay Singh from UNDP, Mr. Shambu Prasad Dangal from the National Trust for Nature Conservation, and Ms. Sanjeevani Yonjan Shrestha from Wildlife Conservation Society—took to address some 140 graduate and post-graduate-level students on an overarching range of issues, initiatives and perspectives in environment- and conservation-related matters. Other notable personalities along with the panelists included the Mayor of Lalitpur Municipality Mr. Chiri Babu Maharjan and Miss Earth Nepal 2018 Ms. Priya Sigdel.

As part of the programme, each of panelists were given about 20-25 minutes each to address the audience about current insights and interventions being made for strengthening biodiversity conservation at various levels, this along with highlighting on some recent accomplishments and future potentials, including challenges and shortcomings. Each of the panelist's talks kept focus to bring to light specific initiatives being made through their respective organizations, from policy to research, community, education and livelihood.

Dr. Manish Raj Pandey from NTNC moderated the panel discussion beginning with Mr. Man Bahadur Khadka from DNPWC who shared about Nepal's leadership in wildlife conservation internationally and the tremendous potential of the country's natural resource systems, including discussing policy level Acts, Plans, species-level Action Plans, Policies and Regulations that are strategically guiding Nepal's positive contribution to the overall earth's biodiversity. Ms. Sanjeevani Yonjan Shrestha from WCN focused her talk on rebooting and intensifying environment education in Nepal, by developing more creative instead of compulsive learning methods, stressing about education as being a very long and arduous process, but one that is absolutely critical for driving a positive behavior toward the planet. 

Mr. Vijay Singh from UNDP spoke about the changing global dynamics induced by global warming and the need to keep Nepal's development priorities as conservation focused and climate change centric, elaborating also on aspects related to bio-financing, and the important role of informal groups to make a difference for the cause of mother earth. Mr. Shambu Dangal's address pointed about some of NTNC's nation-level contributions through its wildlife research capacities, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation initiatives, human-wildlife conflict management strategies, and its proven success in driving community engagement toward conservation.

Audience discussions with panelists covered a range of topics related to: potential threats of large infrastructure development projects on the conservation achievements of the country; the need for initiative to prioritize conservation of less iconic species and not just big mammals; about some of the recent challenges in wildlife conservation, including clarifications of higher rhino deaths than usual this year, along with the growing challenges of human-wildlife conflict management; environmental pressures brought about by growing populations; haphazard infrastructure in towns and urban centers; challenges in waste-management; the growing need for individual responsibility for the environment; organizational opportunities for youth to make a difference, whether through projects or as volunteers, among others.

After the panel discussion, prizes were distributed to eight Earth Day 2019 Quiz winners by the Mayor of Lalitpur and Miss Earth 2018, both of whom have been key public figures in championing conservation and environment even at a personal level. Last week UNDP Nepal together with NTNC conducted four rounds of wildlife-related questions on social media, offering prizes for two winners for each question, with phenomenal responses.

Throughout the day, besides the main panel discussion session, there were also face paintings and other interactive sessions featured in the 'Earth Booth' set up inside the zoo. Differently abled children were also facilitated to learn about different species and their conservation. Other entertainment activities included a flash mob dance by UN Trainees highlighting the urgency to protect and promote the cause of the planet's endangered species.