Knowledge forum calls for strengthened regional collaboration to support inclusive climate resilience in the Himalayan and downstream region

Monday, 20 June, 2016 - 16:11

Unless countries in the Himalayan and downstream region strengthen collaboration to address food, water and energy issues, the region is likely to face an unprecedented food crisis. This was the underlining message of the two-day regional ‘Knowledge Forum on Climate Resilient Development in Himalayan and Downstream Regions’, held in New Delhi from 16–17 June 2016.

Jointly organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MOAFW), International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), and Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), the event brought together policy makers, scientists and development practitioners from Himalayan and downstream countries, including Bangladesh, China, India, and Nepal. Over the two-day meet, participants shared innovative ideas to promote climate resilient development by addressing the food-water-energy nexus from a regional perspective.

“We need to work hard to make sure that mountain issues and their downstream linkages are well reflected in regional and global discussions. We need new knowledge in this area to make sure that it guides in the development of effective adaptation strategies in the region”, said David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD. “This knowledge is critical to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, he added. 

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals will require integrated solutions, efficient and sustainable use of land, water and ecosystems, strengthened linkages between communities in upstream and downstream areas, and increased regional and sub-regional coordination and connectivity. These key issues were actively discussed during the Forum.

“In the whole SDG process, mountains are somehow left behind, but there is a space for this and the mountain countries need to develop their own targets and mechanisms to address climate change and sustainable development,” said Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Vice-Chairperson of National Planning Commission, Government of Nepal. He also highlighted ICIMOD’s pilot project on climate smart villages, which he said has now been adopted by the government and included in the national planning process. 

The Himalayan and downstream region has a great opportunity now especially with a river basin approach in a coordinated manner. “Australia’s most important water basin, Murray-Darling, has flourished due to strong knowledge and management support for two decades and Australia is ready to share their experience and expertise to take appropriate measures in three Himalayan basins – Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra,” said Harinder Sidhu, Australian High Commissioner, India. She added that for the countries, creative and innovative solutions are key towards improvement in food, water and energy. 

Regional collaboration is needed on knowledge on specific sectors and research on single issues. “Climate change is not uniform in the region and might be very diverse and the impact is more on low income areas of all nations,” said Manoj Panda, director of Institute of Economic Growth, India. 

The level of impact and the coping mechanisms are different in low and high income areas of all countries of Himalayan region. This is where diversity and equitable development is key.

“For sustainable development inclusiveness is not enough. We need equity and equitable development that lets all men, women and children benefit equally,” said Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, Bangladesh. He added that the region needs to build social capital at the institutional and individual level, locally, nationally and regionally.

Institutionalizing benefit-sharing Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) is seen as a good initiative to forge the linkages between upstream Himalayan and downstream regions. The PES, also known as payments for environmental services, are incentives offered to communities of upstream catchment areas in the mountain region for their role in managing land, sources of water and ecosystem. Such a PES system is being institutionalized in Nepal’s Dhankuta district to promote the linkage between the Dhankuta town residents and the villagers of remote Nibuwa and Tankhuwa. 

In India’s Himachal Pradesh, there has been good progress to promote the State’s ecosystem health by adopting green growth strategy. “Himachal Pradesh is a leading mountain state today in terms of poverty reduction and can be achieved through integrated approach,” said Srikant Baldi, additional chief secretary of the Government of Himachal Pradesh.

The forum concluded with direction for appropriate policy and institutional options, and regulatory mechanisms to foster science-policy-practice interactions, and a conversation about how all countries in the region can work together through a meaningful collaboration on issues surrounding food, water and energy security issues.

“There are solutions to many of these common challenges, but to implement these, we must strengthen transboundary cooperation in the management of the region’s shared natural resources”, said Golam Rasul, livelihood expert at ICIMOD. He noted that collaboration is also essential to ensure that the benefits of improved resource management are shared between communities in upstream and downstream areas, and that appropriate incentive mechanisms are put in place.

Tishyarakshit Chatterjee, Director, Indian Institute of Public Administration, Former Secretary, Government of India cited the example of Sikkim and said “hill people have managed resources in micro-watershed for centuries despite absence of appropriate administrative unit in watersheds and we must communicate knowledge of the mountains and hills to downstream region.”

Climate change is not just a cause for alarm, but also provides us an opportunity to work together beyond our national borders. After all, as a Hindu Kush Himalayan region, we share so many things – geographically, culturally, socially, economically and most of all our natural resources.” said David Molden. He hoped that one day, the region would have its own Himalayan “Council”, like the Arctic Council, a notion that was echoed by Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad and Ajay Narayan Jha, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India. Ahmad suggested that having such network would give strong stronger voice to the HKH region in international negotiations. Ajay Narayan Jha lauded the critical role played by ICIMOD as a knowledge integrator and requested ICIMOD to initiate discussion on Himalayan Council.

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