By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
Bonn , Germany: Political leaders and government representatives from the Hindu-Kush-Himalaya region have pledged to collaborate at all scales to cope with global warming-induced climate change impacts on various sectors, particularly agriculture, water, energy and mountain areas.
“We must unite to protect lives and livelihoods of millions of climate-vulnerable people from exacerbating fallouts of climate change, particularly those living in mountain areas and priority must be assigned to helping mountain areas in H.KH region to adapt to shifting weather patterns and their fallouts,” they said.
“Lives and livelihoods of nearly 210 million people living in the mountain areas of the Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan are at stake from various common climate change-caused disasters, particularly floods, glacial melt, shifting summer and winter weather patterns. However, deepening transboundary collaboration among these countries in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region for coping with common climate risks is now inevitable,” said Mushahidullah Khan, Pakistan’s climate change minister in his speech at the side event held on the sidelines of the two-week UN-led annual climate change conference in capital city of Bonn.
The event was jointly organised by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and hosted by the International Center Integrated for Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the event brought together environmental ministers, representatives of expert institutions and relevant.
Addressing as a distinguished speaker at a high-level event ‘Cooperation for Building Resilient Mountain Communities’ held on November 14, he remarked the HKH region is characterised by mountainous environments and diverse of regional climatic conditions. High-altitude regions in the HKH have witnessed recently warming amplifications and the paced warming is causing solid state water (snow, ice, glacier, and permafrost) to shrink at a much higher speed, leading to increase in the glacial melt-water.
The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region extends 3,500 km over all or part of eight countries from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. It is the source of ten large Asian river systems -– the Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra (Yarlungtsanpo), Irrawaddy, Salween (Nu), Mekong (Lancang), Yangtse (Jinsha), Yellow River (Huanghe), and Tarim (Dayan), – and provides water, ecosystem services, and the basis for livelihoods to a population of around 210.53 million people in the region. The basins of these rivers provide water to 1.3 billion people, a fifth of the world’s population.
The Himalayan range alone has the total snow and ice cover of 35,110 sq.km containing 3,735 cu.km of eternal snow and ice (Qin 2002). The total for the region is not yet calculated. Hills and mountains, particularly the Hindu Kush Himalaya mountain system, have always constituted places where adaptation, mitigation, and resilience are hallmarks of the people and the landscape they inhabit. Since time immemorial, the people of the Himalaya have maintained a rich cultural identity, and have maintained food security and biogenetic diversity within the parameters of their own tradition.
The Minister Mushahidullah Khan emphasised, “As a result of the impacts of the global warming-induced climate change in the HKH region, incidences of flash floods, landslides, livestock diseases, and other disasters are being witnessed with more frequency and intensity, which cause millions of people, particularly those in the mountain regions, to suffer in many ways and where poverty has shown increasing trends.”
He urged the regional countries to collaborate with each other for boosting climate resilience of the region against common climate risks through joint adaptation programmes, with major focus on mountain communities, which are highly vulnerable to the devastating impacts of the climate change.
Political leaders and official representatives from environment and forestry departments from the eight HKH regional countries elaborated on the myriad exacerbating fallouts of the climate change on their agriculture, water, food, energy and livestock sectors and how these impacts are badly affecting socio-economic lives and poverty and hunger reduction programmes.
In their addresses, they were of the view that glacial melt due to global warming is the biggest problem in the region, which has increased frequency and intensity of the glacial lake outburst events and riverine floods, land erosion and landslides.
They also supported Mr. Khan’s call for jointly working against the common climate risks to various socio-economic sectors, particularly water, food and energy sectors.
Meanwhile, the political and official representatives of the Hindu Kush Himalaya region comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China pledged to join hands with Pakistan and collaborate at all scales to boost climate resilience of the climate-vulnerable region, and particularly the mountain regions, which are home to nearly 210 million people.
Earlier, the keynote speech at the event, delivered by Director General ICIMOD David Molden, also emphasissed collaboration amongst political leaders, science community and media as a part of efforts to boost climate-resilience of the HKH region.
He told the participants of the side event that as the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) is one of the fastest warming and most vulnerable regions on Earth to climate change, implementing adaptation measures that target these mountains and downstream areas is crucial.
“Building a foundation is must for assessing region-wide risk and vulnerability to climate hazards, and the existing adaptation policies and measures. By identifying policy gaps as well as opportunities, the findings of the workshop will provide decision makers with much-needed knowledge to meet current and future challenges from climate change and other drivers,” David Molden said.
Council was formed around the arctic region and we wanted to see if countries around the HKH region could similarly work together to protect the mountain region,” he said.
“There are 240 million people living in these mountain ranges and two billion living downstream. Around 3-4 billion are dependent on waters flowing down in rivers for food production. These mountains are a global asset,” he added.
The Arctic Council serves as a high-level intergovernmental forum to solve problems for indigenous peoples of the Arctic.
The Arctic and HKH regions are both climate change hotspots, under threat from climate change. However, the Arctic enjoys greater political and economic support from its member countries and researchers, resulting in various issue-based working groups, which arrange various scientific collaborations and exchange programs. The HKH, on the other hand, needs to fill large data gaps and deficiencies in trust and institutional capacities among its member countries. Countries in the HKH also need to figure out how to adapt by sharing the lessons they have learnt with environmentalists all over the world.