Parents feel for their children-a sneeze or a cough is enough to set in a panic. It was just such a collective panic that led to the formation of the Save the Environment Foundation (SEF), after Chanda Rana and her friends concluded that Kathmandu's pollution was responsible for their children's chronic respiratory illnesses and decided to do something about it.
From cleaning out the mounds of rotting garbage near the Ratnamukeswore vegetable market to campaigning against Vikram tempos, SEF has achieved a lot. The beautiful garden in front of the Birendra International Convention Centre in Naya Baneswor is an SEF undertaking. Earlier, the space gave no hint of the world-class convention facilities that lay beyond what had essentially become a public toilet.
Now the landscaped garden looks like the work of real pros, but isn't. "All the designing was done by us! The flowers were provided by Standard Nursery for a nominal amount," says Rana, laughing with pleasure. The park boasts out-of-season flowers, sculptures dedicated to Mother Nature by leading Nepali artist Thakur Prasad Mainali, artistic-looking tree stumps, green poems carved in marble, and walkways. Maintaining the garden doesn't take much-two gardeners, and the municipality trucks that water the traffic islands. All in all it's a fantastic job.
SEF also plants trees-the barrelled trees on the stretch of road in front of Singha Durbar is their doing. In addition, SEF awards environment-friendly industries (with the Ministry of Population and Environment), propagates energy-saving techniques in factories, and is leading an awareness campaign against polluting the Bis Hajari Tal area of Chitwan.
SEF is a group of 15 women, most of them housewives concerned about the environment. There's no big budget and the Foundation isn't donor-driven. "There are donors who will be more than happy to support us, but SEF is not interested," says a defiant Rana.