Nepal will join in Earth Hour Saturday night to mark concern about climate change. For most Nepalis, however, the participation will be involuntary.
Despite having the planet’s second-largest potential for electricity generation – Brazil is number one – Nepal suffers from severe power shortages and rotating blackouts, called load-shedding here. See Nepal’s Electricity Woes.
Earth Hour is sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, which started the program in Australia in 2007. The movement has grown steadily since then, with 87 countries participating last year and about 120 countries expected to join in this year.
There will be a formal Earth Hour in Nepal too, with the WWF sponsoring a candlelight vigil at Boudhanath Stupa, a fifth-century Buddhist religious monument and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The event will be low-key though, since about 70 percent of the country will be without power Saturday evening anyway.
Public awareness of energy conservation is high in Nepal due to routine electricity shortages and a well-publicized campaign to subsidize purchases of compact fluorescent light bulbs. But concern about climate change here is mostly centered on the potential for global warming to melt the Himalayan glaciers and trigger disastrous flooding. The country has suffered five catastrophic Glacial Lake Outburst Floods since 1977, with about 20 other glacial lakes considered serious threats.
And with some 20 million Nepalis sitting in the dark during Earth Hour, the country is likely to be the largest participant in the worldwide event, even though most people here won’t know it.