Need large-scale action to protect Hindu Kush Himalaya from climate impact: Experts

Imran Khan

Kathmandu, Dec 6 (IANS) Scientists, policymakers and experts have urged the countries in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region to take action without further delay to protect the region from the increasing impact of climate change.

Stressing on the need for large-scale action, they said it is important for addressing the challenges and complexities of climate change in the HKH region.

"Failing to take resilient action immediately would only deepen poverty, joblessness, food insecurity and malnutrition," the experts warned here on Wednesday.

Mona Sherpa, Deputy Country Director, Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, Nepal, said during the deliberations at an international conference here: "A number of steps such as strong coherence in policies, plans and actions, blending of technical and social solutions and a strong political will."

More than 400 experts from 26 countries are taking part in the conference "Resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya: Developing Solutions Towards a Sustainable Future for Asia".

She said large-scale action requires system-based thinking for bottom-up policymaking. The main mantra for sustainable large-scale action is building social capital and involving communities that address structural issues.

The HKH sources 10 major river systems in Asia that provide water, ecosystem services and livelihoods to more than 210 million people. The region holds and distributes water for more than 1.3 billion people living in the downstream river basins.

Carolina Adler of the Mountain Research Institute said that resilient action is urgently needed to halt poverty from getting worse.

"Worsening impacts of climate change on lives and livelihoods of the mountain communities is adding more to the mountain poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition and outmigration.

"Policy-based resilient action must be taken without further ado to address these impacts of climate change on the people's lives and livelihoods," she told the participants of the "Ending Mountain Poverty session".

She also called for the need for wealth equalizing institutions and value-based approach in HKH region. Besides, mountain specificities must be addressed to lower the mountain poverty, build resilience and close income gaps between the plains and mountains.

Director of the Patna-based AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies (ANSISS), Sunil Roy, said while framing policy-based resilience action plans, people must be engaged in the process.

"The communities must be at the centrestage of the discourse on climate resilience for local communities are best placed to recognize the problems and propose appropriate decisions accordingly," Roy said.

He said that the formal and informal institutions in the HKH countries should be inclusive and promote participation of all stakeholders at local, regional and global levels.

Chief Policy Advisory for Natural Resource Management at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Brij Rathore, said that active partnership of people in social and political fora is must for redefining and elaborating public policy and governance.

"The whole idea of political will relies on people's engagement, who actually suffer from the impact of climate change," Rathore said.

Another ICIMOD official recognized the unprecedented significance of data and information generation and its sharing among HKH regional countries.

Food Security scientist at the ICIMOD, Gholam Rasul, said that the relationship and interchange between upstream and downstream communities characterises much of the work that takes place in the HKH region.

Nearly all researchers agree that this relationship is of paramount importance to the HKH region and requires improved regional cooperation for a sustainable and productive future, he said, while addressing the participants of the session "Regional Cooperation in HKH".

"Water, energy and food security of people downstream would be affected if the Himalayan watershed is not managed sustainably keeping in view the relationship between upstream and downstream areas," said Rasul.

(Imran Khan is in Kathmandu at the invitation of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development - ICIMOD. He can be reached at imran.k@ians.in)

--IANS

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