Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
KATHMANDU, Nepal: Sustainable mountain development resilience experts say global warming-induced environmental changes in climate-vulnerable Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region are unfolding at a much higher pace, posing grave risks to the sustainability of the life and livelihoods, particularly of those in mountain areas.
“Frequent and more intense floods, shifting rainfall, snowfall patterns have been increasingly impacting upon water availability for 1.3 billion in the HKH regional countries, posing threats to the region’s gains achieved over last a few years in food security, poverty reduction, water conservation, energy. However, climate resilience is key to cope with fallouts of the shifting climate,” said Dr. David Molden, Director-General of the Katmandu-based International Center for Integrated Mountain Development.
The international event is being organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in collaboration with the Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Population and Environment and in support from the European Union.
The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) are the source of 10 major river systems in Asia that provide water, ecosystem services and livelihoods to more than 210 million people. The region holds water for more than 1.3 billion people—a fifth of the world’s population—living in downstream river basins.
Comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan, the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region extends 3,500 km over all or part of the eight countries. 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.
Addressing a media briefing here on Thursday on this year’s four-day international conference on ‘Resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya: Developing Solutions towards a Sustainable Future for Asia’, Dr. Molden told journalists that resilience is future of the climate-vulnerable HKH region and more so for extremely vulnerable mountain communities as far as mitigation of the exacerbating climate risks are concerned.
He further told packed room of journalists at a local hotel that climate change and other environmental change drivers in the HKH have already begun to impact ecosystems and communities and often manifest in communities through an increasing vulnerability and exposure to natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and landslides.
Nand Kishore Aggrawal cautioned for the politicians, policymakers and bureaucrats that efforts for achieving water, health, sanitation, poverty-reduction and climate change-related sustainable development goals (SGDs) of the United Nations in mountain parts of the HKH region are unlikely bear fruit as long as the mountain areas are not secured through resilience from the unfolding climate change impacts.
“There is an urgent need to strengthen approaches for building resilience, particularly in the mountain areas, where around 210 million are struggling for their live and sustainability of their livelihoods. Because, resilience is now inevitable for achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and neglecting mountain resilience will inexorably lead to sustainability challenges in the plains,” Nand Kishor Agrawal, climate-smart rural development expert, who also leads ICIMOD’s Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP).
HICAP’s goal is to boost climate resilience of mountain communities in HKH region, particularly women, through improved understanding of vulnerabilities, opportunities, and potentials for adaptation.
Earlier, explaining about the key goals of the conference, which is set to begin from November 3, Mr. Agrawal told journalists that the event aims to identify, discuss and jointly recommend possible residence-centric solutions for making mountain communities in the HKH region climate-safe.
“The conference will approach resilience-building for transformative change in the HKH from a holistic perspective, seen in the context of multiple change processes unfolding in mountain areas. Besides, by drawing on experts’ experiences of developing and implementing durable and viable resilience-focused solutions, practical policies, and the latest knowledge on resilience, the event will seek to deepen the commitment among concerned stakeholders and decision makers, political leaders to find and implement resilience solutions in the HKH and downstream and boost intra-regional collaboration at all scales,” he explained.
To be inaugurated by the Nepal’s President, Bidya Devi Bhandari, the ICIMOD’s conference is bringing together more than 330 experts from over 30 countries from various parts of the world including Asia-Pacific, Europe and United States regions, nearly one-third of them women experts.
It consists of a high-level plenary session, 11 different parallel sessions on adaptation, resilience, water, mountain development, disaster risk reduction, trans-boundary collaborations, and resilient crysophere services in HKH region.