Learning from our ancestors how to develop “Equitable, Healthy, Resilient, and Sustainable Communities”

Guest Speaker: Shilsila Acharya, Director, Avni Centre for Sustainability

 

Director of Avni Center for Sustainability, Ms. Shilshila Acharya, graced the BBA students of King’s College on January 27, 2022 with her insights in one of the lecture sessions for the course called “Creating a Sustainable World: Technology and New Solutions”. Avni Center for Sustainability is a non-profit organization that works to reduce the climate change crisis and promote the sustainable lifestyle of individuals in Nepal by changing their mindset and creating local leadership.

We, students, had a basic understanding of what a sustainable community is but we never thought how Nepalese community had been sustainable since ages. The topic for discussion was ‘Building a Sustainable Community’. She started her presentation by explaining the term ‘community’ and further listed out the elements that will create a sustainable community. A sustainable community must be Equitable, Healthy, Resilient, and Sustainable for All. After explaining what a sustainable community requires, she further went on to connect these elements of a sustainable community in the context of Nepal.

She introduced Nepal as a country that has “less monetary resources” instead of “a poor country” which was intriguing and gave us all a moment to acknowledge the cultural and natural richness of Nepal. The presentation slide then took us to an old memory lane which wasn’t exactly a happy old memory. The 2015 earthquake of Nepal was one of the disastrous calamities faced by Nepalese. She shared a small story of the post-earthquake and an article she read about the recovery of Nepal. The article highlighted the fact that the citizens of Nepal are the key to the restoration of Nepal from all the damage caused by the earthquake. The way she connected the idea of this article with the importance of an individual Nepali in making it a sustainable country and articulated it made me realize the significance of taking accountability for our actions.

Moving forward, she stated that Nepal is home to one of the Oldest Continuous Civilizations in the world as the traditions here are full of sustainable knowledge. She mainly focused on an ancient water supply system called Hiti or DHUNGEDHARA which are widely found in Nepal and are sustainable in nature. She showed us a video that explained the working techniques of Hiti (Dhungedhara). 

Dhungedharas [Source: Pinterest]

In the ancient period, these Hitis were engineered by local citizen experts through locally available resources such as sand, soil, stones, etc., and designed by local carvers. This system of water supply works on gravity and uses live animals like a snake for drain cleaning and maintenance. These types of water supply systems are mainly constructed in a public place which makes the water accessible for all the public, has a purification and filtration tool in the design process, doesn’t require frequent maintenance, and are long-lasting. Hence, Hitis are equitable, healthy, resilient, and sustainable in nature and Nepal can take a step toward sustainability by focusing on installment Hitis in different areas. Her session further introduced us to some other sustainable practices that have been in the Nepali community for years such as Organic Terrace Farming, Community Forestry Management, Wattle & Daub Houses of Tharu Community, and Ayurveda & Yoga for healthcare. 

During the question-and-answer session, one of the students asked if returning to ancient techniques and technology for sustainability is a step backward because traditional technologies are unlikely to fit into the advanced and forward society we live in today. She appreciated the genuine curiosity and responded by noting that moving forward doesn’t always have to mean inventing a new or sophisticated technology; sometimes it’s better to explore the advantages of traditional technologies and use them for future benefits. She also added that first preserving, and then selecting a few sustainable technologies from a plethora of traditional technologies is a challenge of our generation but one that we, the younger  generation, should take on for the sake of our future generations and the Earth.

After the discussion, she then went on to explain the workings of the Avni Center for Sustainability and their actions to bring and maintain sustainability in Nepal. She shared their framework for sustainability movement: spreading knowledge, change in mindset, behavioral changes, and creating local leadership. In order to give a better insight on the role of local leadership in the promotion of sustainability, she shared an article regarding the reconstruction of destroyed monuments of Bhaktapur and highlighted the example of Local leadership shown by Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur,  has been successful in showing a successful example of locals taking initiative to restore their traditional and cultural sites destroyed during the 2015 earthquake despite  rejecting the millions of Euros of funds from Donors like Germany.. She also shared about different activities and events conducted by them to promote sustainability among the youth and how they have been engaging youths for the sustainability movements. 

She concluded her session by encouraging us to live a sustainable life and participate in sustainable movements, whether it is organized by  organizations like Avni Center for Sustainability or at the community level. Thus, there should be a right blend of traditional and modern technologies that can build a sustainable community for us to live in and we as the future of this nation should actively participate in the sustainable development of the community.

Thoughts of Audience on the session:

“The session was really informative. I loved how interactive the session was.The speaker was trying to make real life stories. It was overall an amazing session.”

“The session was insightful and enlightening, knowing that we could bring changes and achieve sustainability by small scale local initiations.”

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