Yubaraj Kandel

Mr. Kadel has been working in the field of environment and development for two decades. Currently, he is a Ph.D. Scholar at LBU.

The condition of the river and the market was seen on television after the floods in Melamchi. In a televised scene, a local resident pointing to a flooded area said, "That's where we burned the bodies one decade ago." There was a large market flooded by the flood from far away from the place where the man was pointed. According to him, in the past, there was a big market on the river bank.

One can easily guess that more damage has been done to Melamchi due to the construction of a market by narrowing the river. We don't have to go to Melamchi to see the problem. After a little more rain, Nepal's big cities can be seen inundated. Such problems are exacerbated by the deterioration of our old environmental ethics of not interfering with the environment.

Environmental ethics is the behavior that society has been adopting since time immemorial to make people responsible for the conservation of natural resources and the sustainable use of resources. Since the beginning of time, people have been realizing that if there is any kind of damage to the environment, it must be the people who are affected.

Environmental morality is considered the root of every religion. The protection and preservation of the environment are integral to the culture and religion of most human communities; nature is seen as an essential part of society at large.

Hinduism teaches that the five great elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth) that constitute the environment are all derived from Prakriti, the primal energy.

A verse from the Rig-Veda states that "the sky is like father, the earth like a mother and the space as their son. The universe consisting of the three is like a family and any kind of damage done to any one of the three throws the universe out of balance".

Vedic culture and Vedic scriptures reveal a clear concept about the earth‟s ecosystems and the necessity for maintaining their balance. Another verse from Rig-Veda says “Thousands and Hundreds of years if you want to enjoy the fruits and happiness of life, then take up systematic planting of trees".

These verses carry a message to desist from inflicting any injury to the earth and embark upon constant forestation for survival or else the ecological balance of the earth would be jeopardized. Rig-Veda has dwelt upon various components of the ecosystem and their importance, "Rivers occasion widespread destruction if their coasts are damaged or destroyed and therefore trees standing on the coasts should not be cut off or uprooted”.

The Athravana Veda also mentions about the importance of air, water and green plants essential for human existence. and the human has been made aware of the problems that the world has to face when these three elements are damaged. The Yajurveda too mentions plants and animals, the harmful effects of cutting trees; and the poisoning of the atmosphere; but it also discusses energy relations of the global ecosystem.

The Upanishads emphasize the importance of maintaining a balance between human beings and other living beings. Upanishads sages perceived the existence of God in trees and other plants and those they were gifted to man as a companion for mutual survival: “The God who exists in the universe lives in the air, water, in fire and also in trees and herbs, men should have reverence for them”. 

Likewise, Taittariya Upanishad certain norms were prescribed for human beings to keep the environment clean. It says, “One should not cause urine and stool in water, should not spit in water; and should not take bath without clothes”. The Iso-Upanishad has revealed the secrets of the existence of life on earth and the importance of every organism for mutual survival, "The universe along with its creatures belongs to the Lord. No creation is superior to any other.

The Puranas, seem to prioritize the protection of animals and plants. Birds should not be killed for food (Narasimha Purana), Lord Vishnu should be happy when animals and other creatures are not harmed (Vishnu Purana).

In Varah Purana, it is mentioned, "One who plants a peepal (Ficus religiosa), one neem (Azadirachta indica), one Banyan (Ficus benghalensis), two pomegranates (Punicagrantum), two orange (Citrus reticulate), five Mango trees (Mangifera indica) and ten flowering plants or creepers shall never go the hell".

Similarly, Padma Purana warns, "A person who is engaged in killing creatures, polluting wells, and ponds and tanks, and destroying gardens, certainly goes to hell." These are an attempt to strengthen environmental ethics. People have been adopting such environmental ethics in Hinduism as an integral part of Nepali culture.

Kirats are considered to be nature worshipers and their behavior is found to be guided by Mundhum. The Mundhum gives the highest importance to the ancestors and nature. Mundum believes that the creation, construction, and destruction of the world are all governed by the laws and motions of nature.

Buddhist philosophy is considered to be nature-centered philosophy. Non-violence is the essence of this philosophy. The Buddha did not just say non-violence is not killing animals. He emphasized the need for human beings to do their work with as little damage as possible to all the animals and plants in the world, and not to allow any follower to affect the growth and development of animals and plants, and not to accumulate more resources than necessary.

Dhammapada says, "just as bees collect flower sap without harming the flower and help pollinate, so people should use natural resources". According to Vanaropa sutta, man can enter heaven if he grows trees, dug wells, and bridges. In Kutadanta sutta Buddha has emphasized the king should play a key role in protecting animals and plants.

Vinay Pitak in particular has a lot to say about environmental ethics and parables can also be found in various Jataka stories. Based on the principles of Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path and Panchshila, there is a high display of environmental ethics in Buddhist society.

Kirats are considered to be nature worshipers and their behavior is found to be guided by Mundhum. The Mundhum gives the highest importance to the ancestors and nature. Mundum believes that the creation, construction, and destruction of the world are all governed by the laws and motions of nature. The history of the origin of animals, the origin of plants, the origin of rocks, the origin of human beings, or the origin of the bird world is found in Mundum.

The Kirat community has the knowledge that every creature of nature should be properly respected and protected as human beings have to suffer damage in case of damage to nature. Since society has accepted such environmental virtues and ethics in Hindu, Buddhist, and Mundhum philosophy as an integral part of the culture rather than environmental law, it seems that the environment is being protected spontaneously.

As people abandon and erode traditional cultures and traditions in the name of modernity, there is a direct decline in environmental ethics. Ignoring the fact that dumping garbage in water sources is unhealthy, the work of dumping garbage in water sources and mixing sewage is going on without any hesitation.

Encroachment and deforestation in the catchment area, diversion of river flow, and construction of physical infrastructure are going on uncontrollably. People are rejecting the traditional belief that rivers should not be blocked, river banks should not be mowed and trees and plants should not be cut down. Due to such actions, problems like floods, landslides, drinking water crises are increasing every year.

The consciousness about the environment existed in our ancestors thousands of years ago. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors had the idea of planting trees along the road to keep human settlements green and healthy.

The consciousness about the environment existed in our ancestor's thousands of years ago. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors had the idea of planting trees along the road to keep human settlements green and healthy. So, they used to plant trees along the roadsides, make Chautari, gardens, water pond/tap, and religious ashrams.

At present, there is no hesitation in destroying cultural identities.  Roadside greenery and trees are disappearing in the name of building wind, building houses, extending power lines. Old Pastures and gardens have been encroached upon, either under the pretext of building community buildings and schools or other similar structures.

Human-wildlife conflicts have been on the rise in recent times. The main reason for this is the increase in human intervention in wildlife habitats. Due to deforestation, forest areas are getting thinner and thinner, which is causing wildlife problems. In traditional houses, the birds could easily find a place to live, but in modern houses, the birds do not have that opportunity.

Rejecting the philosophy of non-violence that animals should not be killed, the tendency to hunt wild animals, kill animals by applying electricity, and using poison are undermining our fundamental beliefs. Birds and insects are affected due to lack of greenery, electric wire network, radiation, and so on. All such actions clearly show the state of our environmental ethics.

The state has the biggest role in the conservation and management of natural resources. State policy programs and practices should therefore have high environmental ethics. Religious philosophy related to the state and Article 51 (g) of the Constitution of Nepal mentions the issues of environmental ethics for the state under the state policies. Arrangements like Ramshah's arrangement (Ram shahako thiti), Prithvi Narayan Shah's Divyopadesh, 1885's forest, and border Order, Ujirsingha Thapa's settlement, Civil Criminal Code 2074, etc have been made to make the state environmentally ethical.

The state seems to have given importance to the laws and policies related to the conservation and sustainable use of all kinds of natural resources, including environmental resources in Nepal. But in practice, the state is breaking such moral obligations.

Various activities like diverting rivers, filling ponds and lakes, allowing individuals and groups to use forests, rivers, religious sites for commercial purposes, selling community-protected religious lands, pastures, are being carried out under the auspices of state power and political parties. The state's support for the destruction of natural resources shows the extent to which the state's environmental ethics are deteriorating.

If people do not follow traditional and cultural values ​​and practices related to nature and are not responsible for the environment, then nature can never be protected and the environment can be balanced.

Many laws are implemented regarding environmental protection and the use of natural resources. No matter how many laws are made, environmental destruction is increasing instead of decreasing. If people do not follow traditional and cultural values ​​and practices related to nature and are not responsible for the environment, then nature can never be protected and the environment can be balanced. To do these things, each individual, community, and state must demonstrate high environmental ethics.

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