There is a need to look at policies for mountain people and communities: ICIMOD Director General

12-28 People's Daily Online

The Hindu Kush Himalaya region is perhaps one of the most vulnerable regions in the world due to climate change and global warming. Countries in the region are supposed to work hard to ensure better livelihood of their people for sustainable development. With over 240 million people inhabiting the region, and nearly 2 billion people when we take into account downstream populations, it is also the region where the most number of people are going to be impacted, said Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) David Molden.

“With climate change, mountains become hotter faster. So in a 1.5 degree world as set out with the Paris Climate Agreement, we will see temperatures of upwards of 2 degrees in mountains, and at present emission trends, about 5 degrees. We will lose 1/3 of mountain glaciers in a 1.5 degree world, and 2/3 with the rate of emission trends we are experiencing now. This is indeed worrisome,” he added.

According to Molden, if we don’t act, this will have serious consequences on the livelihoods of mountain people and downstream people dependent on mountain resources.

However, such a challenge as climate change also offers opportunities, especially if we can pay more attention to mountains. For example, there are opportunities in mountain agriculture and nutrition bringing high valued mountain products to markets in support of poor mountain people, there are opportunities in ecotourism if we do it sustainably and ensure benefits go to local people, and in green and sustainable energy development that can reduce greenhouse gases and also promote businesses in mountains.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region extends 3,500 km over all or parts of eight countries.

Regarding the cooperation amongst the eight ICIMOD member states (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan), Molden said, “We see a very high level of cooperation amongst our member states. At our Board meetings all the governments approve our plans, programmes and budgets.” He went on to say that ICIMOD has made a direct impact on livelihoods of mountain and downstream communities in the region with regards to trans-boundary disasters, biodiversity conservation, adoption of low-cost technologies for food-water-energy security, agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, tourism, to name but a few.

Since the impacts of climate change have resulted in crisis in energy and water supplies and forced migration patterns are taking place in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, he said ICIMOD thinks about resilience as the ability to minimize and bounce back from shocks, to be better able to adapt to change, but also to bounce forward to a situation better than it was before.

He shared that all the eight member countries are very cognizant of climate change and its ongoing and potential impacts. “There is a need to look at policies for mountain people and communities slightly differently and taking into consideration their particular circumstances and realities,” he argued.

He is of the opinion that we all need to internalize that the Hindu Kush Himalaya is essentially one system which is shared by eight countries from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. “Looking at it separately will therefore never be enough. Similarly, addressing issues in an isolated part of this singular system is also not going to get us very far. Collaboration and cooperation among all the countries and at all levels is the most important thing,” he opined.

“It was clear that the scientists, academics, officials are very much aware of the issues and challenges facing China’s mountains and downstream regions, especially with the potential impact of climate change. We were also heartened to see that China too is in agreement about the need to highlight and prioritize some of the actions like collaboration and cooperation with other regional member countries as well as raising a stronger voice around these mountains at the global level. We have also made strong commitments towards continuing to work closely and together with China on numerous issues and research surrounding them,” he summed up. 

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