ELAW Advocate: Autumn 2002

In Danger: Kaiser-i-hind butterfly

Fifteen kilometers southeast of Kathmandu, Phulchowki mountain rises above the Kathmandu Valley. In the Godavari forests nestled at the base of Phulchowki live hill leopards, barking deer, jungle cats, and 300 species of butterflies, including the rare Kaiser-i-hind butterfly.

Teinopalpus imperialis
Teinopalpus imperialis

The large, brightly-colored Kaiser-i-hind is one of 557 insect species included in the World Conservation Union`s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. It is estimated that more than 70% of all animal species on earth are insects, but fewer than 0.1% of these have been assessed for threatened status.

Kaiser-i-hind butterflies living in one of Nepal`s most biodiverse ecosystems are threatened by limestone-mining activities of Godavari Marble Industry. The quarries that feed the marble factory have destroyed the lower slopes of Phulchowki mountain, and the factory has polluted the district`s air and water.

E-LAW partners at the Forum for Protection of Public Interest (Pro Public) in Nepal have filed suit against the marble company to protect the forests from further degradation.

Pro Public`s efforts to defend Godavari began in 1989. On behalf of LEADERS, a local NGO, Pro Public lawyers presented a writ petition against Godavari Marble Industry, the Ministry of Industry, and others, calling for closure of the marble factory. In October, 1995, the Supreme Court of Nepal issued an important judgment holding that the right to life includes the right to a healthy environment, and that public interest environmental organizations, such as LEADERS, have the right to go to court.

Despite this landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of Nepal did not order closure of the Godavari marble factory. Although the Court recognized that effective mitigation and corrective measures for environmental conservation had not been taken, this was not in clear violation of any Nepalese legislation. The Supreme Court issued advisory directives to the Ministry of Industry, Cabinet Secretariat, and others to enact legislation for the conservation of air, water, and the environment.

Earlier this year, the government of Nepal renewed the Godavari Marble Industry`s lease.

In April, 2002, Pro Public filed suit again, arguing that the decision to renew the lease violates Nepal`s new Environmental Protection Act as well as new Supreme Court directives to protect the ecologically-sensitive Godavari area.

Pro Public has called on the E-LAW network for information about the impacts of limestone mining. E-LAW U.S. scientists provided information on the environmental impacts of limestone mining in ecologically significant regions, including several case studies from India.

Advocates at Pro Public hope to convince the Court that the damage caused by the limestone quarrying exceeds the economic benefits. They hope the Godavari area will be designated a protected area so that its rich biodiversity can be enjoyed by generations to come.

IUCN`s Red List of Threatened Species