Natural Resource Governance

A Brief Introduction

The World Bank defines natural resources as “materials that occur in nature and are essential or useful to humans such as air, water, land, forests, fish and wildlife, topsoil and minerals”. More often they are found in finite quantities and their values increase as supplies decrease and a nation’s access to them contributes to its wealth and status in a global economic system. Hence, effective governance is a crucial factor that determines social equity, optimization and sustainable use and conservations of natural resources. Experts state that natural resource governance refers to norms, institutions and processes that determine exercise of power and responsibilities over natural resources, decision making, and participation of citizens, including women, men, youth, Indigenous Peoples and local communities and the benefits they receive from the management of natural resources. And conflicts arise when these integral components are not in harmony with each other.

Nepal is one such country that richly inhabits natural resources, unique ecological systems, diverse biodiversity, topography and climatic conditions upon which, millions of Nepalis are depended for their livelihoods, socio-cultural systems like rituals and rites, etc. This dependency immensely stresses the importance of sustainable use and conservation of natural resources for benefit of both people, nature and development of the nation as a whole.

Natural Resources conflicts and existing laws and policies

Amid the prevalence of policies, laws, mechanisms and institutions, natural resource governance in a young federal nation like Nepal needs constant monitoring and deeper assessment. Especially, the channels and processes of resource and budget distribution overseeing governance of natural resources in a fairly new adopted governance model have greater potentials of causing conflicts.

At present, following the governing bodies responsible in decision making and policy making processes relevant to use, distributions, conservations and protection of natural resources in Nepal:

Ministry of Forests and Environment Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission
Department of Forest and Soil Conservation
Department of Electricity Development
Natural Resources Operations and Royalty Bond Fund Division
Department of Plant Resources
Department of Water Resources and Irrigation
Policy Analysis and Management Division
Forest research and Training Centre
Department of Hydrology and Meteorology
Financial Management Division
Department of National Parks and Wildlife Centre
Department of Environment
REDD Implementation Centre

Table 1. Natural Resources governing bodies in Nepal

Following are the major national policies relevant to natural resources in Nepal:

Ministry of Forests and Environment
Nepal’s long-term strategy for net-zero emission (2020-2030), 2021
Reforms in Environmental Protection Rules, 2020
Gender and Social Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan on Climate Change (2020-2030), 2020
National Climate Change Policy, 2019
Environment Protection Act, 2019
National Agroforestry Policy, 2019
CITES Agreement, 2018
National Forest Policy, 2018
Wildlife Damage Relief Guideline, 2017
Soil Conservation and Watershed Conservation Act, 1983
Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation
National Water Resources Policy, 2020
National Energy Efficiency Strategy, 2018
Electricity Regulation Commission Act, 2017
Water Generated Disaster Management Policy, 2015
Irrigation Policy, 2013
National Water Plan, 2005
Water Resources Strategy, 2002
Hydropower Development Policy, 2001
Irrigation Rules, 2000
Water Resources Rules, 1993
Water Resources Act, 1992

Table 2: Natural Resources governance related polices in Nepal

Way Forward

Policies and mechanisms as stated already are prevalent in Nepal, however, feeble implementation and monitoring to restrict overharvesting and exploitation of natural resources, illegal activities like poaching, hunting, illegal logging and timber trafficking fueled by systematic corruption, unfavorable political conditions for conservation, lack of coordination between the governing bodies and actual need of the locals and simply, poor governance have imposed hindrances in conservation and management of natural resources in Nepal. Additionally, plethora of instances related to violation of land rights, human rights and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples who are fundamentally depended on natural resources show a greater need for their protection and representation in governance and decision making processes.

Hence, an in-depth understanding of the present context of governance conflicts affecting natural resources and Indigenous Peoples is necessary to draw evidence-based interventions that foster effective laws and policies and precise implementation of roles and responsibilities.