ELAW Partner in Nepal Wins 25 Year Fight for Nature

Prakash Mani Sharma is a tireless environmental advocate for communities in Nepal. Prakash and his organization, the Forum for Protection of Public Interest (Pro Public) have fought for decades to protect Nepal’s unique landscapes, including the glaciers of Mount Everest, the sacred Bagmati River, and Kathmandu’s Balkhu — one of the few public parks in the densely populated capital city.
Mount Everest at sunset. Prakash has fought to protect glaciers on the world’s highest peak. (PHOTO: Ashley White)
For 25 years, Prakash led a determined campaign to protect the Phulchowki Hills from the harmful impacts of marble mining. In addition to providing fresh water for communities, the Phulchowki Hills are an important part of the country’s ecological heritage, home to hundreds of diverse bird, butterfly, and plant species. However, smoke and dust from one of the world’s largest marble mines devastated the region’s rich biodiversity, and communities suffered from contaminated water and blasting at the mine site.
In 1992, Prakash filed a case in the Supreme Court of Nepal to close the marble mine. Though the Court determined that Nepal’s constitutional right to life included the right to a healthy environment, the Court did not stop mining. In 2001, Prakash initiated a new case against the government to shut down the mine, a struggle that would carry out in Nepal’s courts for the next 15 years.
On April 16, 2015, the Supreme Court of Nepal rewarded Prakash for his perseverance by cancelling the mining lease and ordering the government to suspend marble mining in the Phulchowki Hills. The Court’s decision marks one of Nepal’s most significant victories for the environment.
Throughout the 25 year fight, ELAW provided Prakash with legal and scientific support to help protect the Phulchowki Hills. “Prakash’s tenacious pursuit of this amazing victory for wildlife and communities in the Kathmandu Valley is an inspiring example of what can be accomplished through devotion and hard work for the environment,” says ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik.
But celebration of Prakash’s victory was short-lived. On April 25, 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocked Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, leaving thousands dead and impacting millions. After tense days awaiting news, we learned that all of ELAW’s partners in Nepal survived the earthquake. In a twist of fate, in the days immediately following the disaster, Prakash and his family joined thousands of Nepalese seeking refuge in Balkhu – the same park Pro Public helped preserve nearly twenty years ago.
As the country reels from the impacts of earthquakes, we will keep you updated on ELAW partners’ efforts to rebuild the country. Though it may take years, dedicated citizens like Prakash and his colleagues at Pro Public bring hope for recovery in Nepal.
Ashley White
Director of China Program
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide
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