taking care of nature is good business
Every entrepreneur must realize and internalize the fact that seven billion people only have one planet. The day we find a spare “earth”, we will not have to care because we can all make enough money and just move to the new planet.
In recent times, there have been many events, books, movies that have spoken of the end of the earth due to external and internal forces. The ending of the Aztec calendar in 2012 was one such event that brought fear to some. Other moviemakers have helped visualize what could happen if the impact of global warming reaches huge proportions. Others have the theme of the impact of air borne viruses and the release of the plague from labs in rogue states. All of them help us to understand how vulnerable humans really are.
Limits to growth
The people of Kathmandu valley have become aware, the hard way, that water and air are both limited resources. As these resources become scarce, people are willing to pay for tankers or bottled water and also are forced to pay for medicine and hospital bills when they have respiratory problems. Obviously we need to begin to build “green cities” that do not have a negative impact on our planet. We need to grow more food and also grow the energy needed to cook the food and keep us warm. Homes will have to capture every bit of energy from the sun each day. Currently over 90 million tons of carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere each day globally. This has accumulated 387 ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere. We need to bring it down to 350ppm. A good example of what can and needs to be done is the success of the Shivapuri Watershed Management north of the Kathmandu Valley. Forty percent of Kathmandu’s water comes from Shivapuri, it houses 1200 species of plants, 300 species of birds, brings 12000 foreign and domestic visitors each year for recreation and religious purposes. We need many Shivapuris all over Nepal.
Jobless growth is a term that is common in the more developed economies. The issue is that peace is not the absence of conflict but also an enabling environment where the young people have jobs/work. In caring for nature, there is a real opportunity to create green jobs. Clean and renewable energy based on growing biomass and tapping solar, wind and water resources can create thousands of jobs across Nepal. Clean public transport and more cycles can create a whole new economy including the making of cycles and building public buses. Some have already begun to build the three-wheeler electric transport vehicles in Kathmandu.
Good food, water and energy
Everyone wants to eat healthy food and drink the best quality water. People want their phones, laptops, transport, all to be powered by clean energy. We shall also have to secure sufficient quantities of each to meet all our needs 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. This is a huge business opportunity. Growing fruits, tea and coffee and green vegetables will all be part of the business. Chilling plants will be needed and cable cars and mechanized cables to transport them. Trainings, supply of seeds, food processing, storage, and post harvest processing are going to be new and lucrative businesses and jobs all over Nepal. 26.6 million mouths to feed is a huge business in itself. The growing demand for aromatic oils, fibers and herbs make it even more attractive.
Nature is fun
Beyond the traditional trekking and mountain climbing, many Nepali enterprises are also dedicated to making Nepal a destination for adventure sports. From paragliding in Pokhara to white water rafting down the raging Bhote Koshi River, everyone comes out thrilled by the experience. Elephant safaris and dug out boat rides in the jungle are part of all visitors’ list of things to do in Nepal. We need to develop a lot more products around our natural resources. It is wonderful to see all the mountain bikes everywhere we go. The mountain flights are as popular as ever. The Sagarmatha Marathon and the elephant polo in Chitwan seem to draw a select but good group of visitors to Nepal to have fun in nature. When our natural resources are degraded or polluted, all these activities will stop. Nepal has invested a huge amount of resources with the help of the international community to preserve these sites; the private entrepreneurs must now earn and pay for their upkeep. The hard work has been done.
The Pharaohs of Egypt said, “Build it and they shall come”. Nepal is building the Great Himalayan Trail (GHT). Once enough people know about it, they will come. In the meantime, there are huge investment opportunities on the GHT. Lodges, telecom services, health posts, helipads and trail bridges have to be built. The private entrepreneur will do well to look at these and begin to invest. The earlier you enter this market, the better. Things do tend to get crowded very quickly. Energy demand is going to go up which is another opportunity.
Plan A was to take anything you wanted from the earth, monetize it and sell it to make money. Now all over the world, people have begun to realize that money does not really help you beyond a certain limit. And hence Plan B that requires that we look a bit closer at what is known as the triple bottom line- profit, people and the planet. In Korea, every power utility is required to generate a percentage of the electricity from urban waste and hence there is no more waste on the streets and at landfill sites. In London, 66 megawatts of power is generated from waste, enough to power 60 thousand households. The plants being designed and built will require 600 thousand tons of urban waste a year. This is the kind of business we need in Kathmandu. We need entrepreneurs who see waste as a resource to solve the power crisis not something to turn away from.