1.As a JICA Senior Volunteer
Advocating Environmental Awareness
Dr. Hiroji Fushimi (PhD) saw Nepal for the first time in 1965. He recalls those days when the Kathmandu valley breathed fresh crisp air and the sight of towering White Mountains and lustrous green hills as well as various species of fishes in the clear Bagmati River simply took your breath away. However these days, the mountains and hills are hidden by thick pollution and choking dust and in the name of Bagmati are the waste, stench and filth. Fushimi reminds us to seriously think about the causes and dangerous effects of this environmental deterioration.
It was only towards the end of the 1980s that people started understanding the impending perils posed by the phenomenon of global warming. Dr. Hiroji Fushimi dedicated his life to studying and researching the Himalayan Glaciers. The journey started in the 1970s and despite his retirement as a University Professor of Environmental Science in Japan, he continued to pursue his interest in the glaciers until an opportunity arrived for him to come back to Nepal again. “I befriended many Nepalis during my visits to Nepal. They offered me tremendous help and hospitality and I wanted to give something back to them.” With this noble thought in his mind, he grabbed the opportunity of coming to Nepal as a Senior Volunteer through JICA and applied as a curator of International Mountain Museum (IMM) in Pokhara.
International Mountain Museum in Pokhara gets about 1-lakh visitors annually and more than 50 percent of them are students from all over Nepal. Dr. Fushimi prepared a corner section in the Museum dedicated to showing the changes of Himalayan Environment, Glacial Lakes, Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), Global Warming and the problems created out of it. He believes the neat and comprehensive pictorial display makes visitors easily understand the process and effects of global warming. Dr. Fushimi wants all the Nepalis especially the younger impressionable minds to be aware of the fact that Nepal’s environment is also changing rapidly and its effects on the future of the country. He explains, “People are exhausting natural resources, fuel produces smoke and thus pollution occurs. We cannot see the Himalayas due to our own actions. Bringing about awareness at the right time is vital for Nepal’s future.” He assures that this is not just Nepal’s but the entire world’s responsibility.
Dr. Fushimi has organized various eco-tours in Pokhara, Annapurna Base Camp, Mt. Manaslu region, Mt. Everest region, etc. Having already visited many villages in the Himalayan region, He believes that the changing nature or environment of a village can be known better by no other than the villagers themselves. He takes the example of Imja Glacial Lake in Khumbu. Claimed to be potentially dangerous, the locals had no alternatives but to build their own hospital and schools as the Government refused to distribute budget to a place that is on a Danger Risk Zone. He personally opines that the Imja Lake is not as dangerous as other glacial lakes and does not pose any immediate threat. With his years of experience, he believes that glacial lakes that cause floods have different features or characteristics. He emphasizes about the importance of locals studying the gradual changes occurring in their surroundings. He adds that they have to trust their own instinct and observations instead of relying blindly on foreign resources or surveys. Coming back to the Imja Lake, he said, “My term is almost over therefore my successor’s task will be to figure out the actual risk posed by this lake. The villagers should play a pivotal role in this as only they can give an actual data on the changes that are taking effectsthrough the years.”
Dr. Fushimi had his shares of challenges and difficulties. He said, “Nepal is constantly changing in a rapid manner. Things were calmer back in those days both in Nepal as well as in Japan. These days, people lead a very busy life, perhaps, too busy for my taste. Nepal is heavily affected by its fast developing giant neighbors. The bubble growth, fast lifestyle, and a decade long conflict-all these are changes, whether good or bad, that are occurring in Nepal.” Instead of dwelling on his individual contribution, Dr. Fushimi likes to talk about contributions made in a collective manner by the JICA volunteers. He explained, “We are sent to the rural places to offer support and share our skills. Every volunteer should have a close-knit relationship with the local people to see more substantial effects. I highly recommend the future volunteers to learn the language and mingle in with the community they are working in. I have made many valuable friends since I first came to Nepal. Some of these relationships are beyond mere friendship. It is important to have the right connection. These relationships and unforgettable treasured memories spent with them are some of the rewards I’m taking with me. I only hope for peace and prosperity for Nepal.”
Dr. Fushimi shared his future plans of wanting to make a picture database, about 120,000 massive and valuable image collections of his research, studies and trips including films. Determined and dedicated, he is planning to donate it to the museum. The Prime Minister, Mr. Madhav Kumar Nepal, shown in the above picture, invited him to the cabinet meeting discussing about the global warming issue on 11 October, 2009.