Harnessing Natural Resources for Sustainable Development

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Harnessing Natural Resources for Sustainable Development

This programme at NEC is aimed at optimal utilisation of natural resources for the country’s better future. 

--BY BIJAY LAXMI DUWAL

NARAYAN KOJU, Assistant professor and programme coordinator of NRM at NEC.NARAYAN KOJU
Assistant professor and
programme coordinator
of NRM at NEC.

The recent years have seen haphazard urbanisation and unmanaged infrastructure development in Nepal given away to calls for proper utilisation of natural resources to achieve sustainable development. According to World Bank collection of development indicators, the total natural resources rents in Nepal were recorded at 1.31 percent in 2016. Likewise, the contribution of mining to GDP in Nepal increased to Rs 3,949 million in 2017 from Rs 3,575 million in 2016. 

Despite such growth in the utilisation of natural resources and their rents, there are only a few academic courses on the utilisation and management of natural resources. On the other hand, the rapid urbanisation in the country has created a host of challenges and threats.To address these challenges and to fill the academic gap in natural resource management, Nepal Engineering College (NEC) introduced the Master of Science in Natural Resource Management (MSc - NRM) in 2001.

NEC, the first private engineering college in the country has stepped up to fill the void of management education in the sustainable use of abundant natural treasures of the country. According to director of NEC, Khem Raj Sharma, MSc-NRM is the most sought-after programme by students of forestry and the people who want to pursue their career in the sector of conservation and management of natural resources. Though there are other similar coursesin Nepal, NEC is the only college with Pokhara University affiliation offering the programme.

“Poor land management, destruction of high steeps on hilly area for rapid road construction,poor management inurbanization, climate change, poor level of study in ecology and development are the major problems found in the conservation and management of natural resources.In such a situation, development is hardly systemic and sustainable.MSc in NRM helpsto overcome these problems,” shares Sharma.

Course Initiation
MSc-NRM was introduced in 2001after the realization of the need for higher education in utilising the natural resources. In the beginning, the programme would completed in three semesters wherein the students were required to write their thesis in the third semester.

“We studied the master’s degree courses of other universities and found that mostly master’s degree courses are of two years with four semesters. Later we also designed the coursefor two years,” recalls Sharma.To amend the course, NEC conducted workshopsin 2013 with participation from experts of natural resources and representatives from different organisations such as the Department of Forestry, Kathmandu University, Tribhuvan University. Sharma says that even Asian Development Bank had supported in sketching out the syllabus. NEC has been practicing the same amended course since 2014. At present,it has four semesters where the students are required to submit their thesis in the fourth semester. 

About the Course
NEC has been offering MSc-NRM to utilise the overall resources from human resources to natural resources. The first semester of the programme offers the students wide knowledge of the overall natural resources and some portion of Integrated Water Resource Management. Oraganisation Behaviour and Human Resource Management, Population and Data Management, Fundamentals of Natural Resource Management are some core modulesin the first semester. In the second semester, students study some portion of Forest Management, Wildlife Resource Management programme. Natural Resources Policy, Legislation and Institutions, Application of IT in NRM, Financial Management and Resource Economics are major subjects in the second semester. Students are required to choose elective subjects like Bio-engineering, Environmental Impact Assessment, Biodiversity Conservation and Renewable Energy in the third semester. 

Course Objective
The major objective of MSc in NRM is to make the students grasp an interdisciplinary understanding and appreciation of the importance of sustainable management for natural resources. The course aims at developing management skillsin planning, developmentandutilization of natural resources encompassing social, institutional, ecological, and economic aspects of the country. “Human Resource is also one of the natural resources,” says Narayan Prasad Koju, assistant professor and programme coordinator of NRM at NEC. He further says that besides the utilization of natural resources, developing the participation of human resource in managing the natural resources is also another main objective of the course.

Scope
The graduates after completion of the course get job opportunities in both private and government sectors. According to Sharma, they can either work as natural resources managers or executive officers, besides being able to work independently as entrepreneurs. Sharma takes pride in the fact that most of the MSc-NRM graduates from NEC are engaged as office heads, secretaries, bureaucrats as well as warden at District Forest Office (DFO). 

They are working in different private as well as government organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like National Trust for Nature Conservation. Koju shares that even retired officials have completed MSc-NRM. Hesays that a majority of the students who get enrolled to the programme are already engaged in some job.“The degree helps them get promotions,” he says. Even all the conservation officers at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation have studied MSc-NRM. Surendra Prasad Adhikari, who enrolled for the MSc-NRM programme in 2014, is now an assistant forest officer at the Division Forest Office, Kathmandu. He shares, “Since the course is related to the course of public service commission, it is useful for applying for a job in the civil service as well.”   Adhikari says that the course helped him do better in his profession. He expects to get promoted further as he has completed the MSc in NRM course. Some of the other graduates are working as Assistant Warden at Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, warden at Gaurishankar Conservation Area and other government offices.

Admission 
Only the students graduating from engineering, basic natural and applied science can enroll in the programme. Admission for the programme is announced annually in January for 30 seats. “But normally we are taking 12 to15 students in each semester,” shares Sharma. 

Fee Structure and Scholarship 
The total cost of the course is Rs 369,500. All the students studying MSc-NRM can get scholarship of Rs 96,000. For scholarships,the universityconducts an exam under certain criteria. In the beginning, Women and Environment, an NGO working in the environment sector used to provide certain amount of scholarship to four female students to study MSc-NRM. At present, the NGO is providing the scholarship to all students enrolling for MSc-NRM. 

Class Hours
The classes of MSc-NRM are run at NEC at Prayagpokhari, Lagankhel, Lalitpur in the evening from 5:30 to 9:10 in summer and from 4:30 to 8:10 in winter. 

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