By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
Developed countries, with advanced resources in science and technology, can help developing countries with climate change mitigation and adaptation by sharing their scientific know-how and transferring the latest innovative technology.
But scientists in both developed and developing should also be working together to ensure science-based policies are put in place in countries to promote environmentally friendly practices in fields as diverse as agriculture and sanitation.
Those were the conclusions of a recent conference of scientists, climatologists and environmentalists in Kathmandu on the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region, known as the ‘third pole’ of the earth because of its inaccessibility and the amount of water stored in the form of ice and snow.
The region is also known as the ‘water tower’ of Asia, and is the source of ten of Asia’s largest rivers. An estimated 60 percent of the land area in the region is rangelands, which are threatened by degradation, desertification and other a host of climate change effects, according to a report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, one of the organisers of the conference.
Stretched over an area of some 4.3 million square kilometers, the region is home to millions of people, many of them members of poor and marginalised communities who rely on the biological resources of the region for their subsistence livelihoods.
The environmental services provided by the glaciers, rivers, forests, rangelands and wetlands in the region have direct impact on the lives of many downstream communities and areas beyond the region.
In his opening address at the conference, David Molden, director-general of ICIMOD, spoke of his organisation’s readiness to work jointly with other institutions in the region to come up with better knowledge and creative solutions to address challenges of climate change, poverty, and environmental decline in the region.
“Generating such knowledge and innovative technology-based solutions to climate change and environmental degradation is, of course, the need of the hour,” he said.
Madhav Karki, ICIMOD’s deputy director-general and the team leader of the Himalayan University Consortium (HUC), said creating and sharing knowledge are key to creating the awareness, opportunities and skills needed to cope with the challenges of climate change and other environmental problems in the region.
Noting that knowledge is increasingly linked with economic competitiveness, he expressed concern the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region is generating too little new scientific information.
“Academia needs to adjust to both the region’s growing knowledge economy and its increasing socioeconomic disparity”, Karki said.
FOCUS ON POOR AND MARGINALISED
At the conference, the participating universities developed an agenda for working together on research to support, among other things, sustainable livelihoods for the poor and marginalised people of the Hindu Kush–Himalayan countries.
The consortium’s agenda will address skills development in social innovation, enterprise development, assessment of the role of the informal sector, and developing value chains of high value products and services that are based on the region’s rich ecosystem services, according to ICIMOD’s Daan Boom, head of the integrated knowledge management programme.
HUC is a membership network for education and research for sustainable mountain development of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, which covers countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan, many with fragile or vulnerable ecosystems.
Representatives of universities and research institutions in Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan agreed to jointly work as a network for mountain-focused teaching, research and outreach in the Hindu Kush–Himalayan region to tackle climate change effects in the region.
Universities, especially located in mountain regions of the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region, can play a part in hammering out and promoting viable regional and national policies for climate change mitigation and adaptation and developing in the region, which is highly vulnerable to the climate change effects, the speakers told the conference.