The changing face of the Himalayas
05 October, 2012
Photo: Dirk Guinan
AusAID is partnering with ICIMOD and other Australian institutions on water management in South Asia. From left to right: Dr Paul McShane (Monash Sustainability Institute, Monash University), Dr David Molden (Director General, ICIMOD), Dr Lance Heath (ANU Climate Change Institute), Colette Gilmour (ANU Climate Change Institute), Dr Bill Young (CSIRO) and Brek Batley (Director, South Asia Regional, AusAID). Photo: ANU Public Affairs
Rapid changes present complex development challenges in the Himalayan region. The frequency of floods and droughts seems to be on the rise, as is the demand for water, food and energy.
David Molden, Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) told an audience at the ANU [external website] today that the effects of climate change are particularly worrisome in mountain environments, especially the impact on the region’s water supply, which serves over 1.3 billion people living downstream. However, these challenges can also bring opportunities. There are new possibilities for bringing high-value mountain products into the marketplace and improving access to markets for local communities.
Migration is common in the Himalayas, with large numbers of males leaving the countryside to find work in urban centres. This means that adaptation strategies, including economic adaptation strategies, need to target women. A forthcoming conference in Bhutan—Bhutan+10 Gender and Sustainable Mountain Development—will bring women and men from mountain areas together with researchers, policymakers and development practitioners from the region and around the world. This conference is timely, and picks up the conversation in a regional context after global environmental challenges and opportunities have been debated at Rio+20.
“Mountains are a global resource and it is the global community that has to look after mountain resources,” said Dr Molden.
There are also budding prospects for regional cooperation, which is essential for addressing biodiversity and trans-boundary water issues.
“Climate change and disasters have opened the doors to more regional cooperation.
“In a region where cooperation across borders is highly sensitive for many regions, scientific communities are increasingly working together to help address these emerging challenges,” said Dr Molden.
ICIMOD is working on these issues with AusAID, CSIRO, the Australian National University and Monash University. To tap into these opportunities, regional knowledge sharing and knowledge management are essential.
AusAID is partnering with ICIMOD to develop a resource management program for the Koshi River Basin, which covers some of the poorest parts of India and Nepal. This initiative will help to reduce poverty and enhance resilience to climate change by developing economic opportunities around the region’s fresh water resources. “The concern that doesn’t get enough attention is the changing variability of precipitation, which is a major concern for floods and droughts, as well as agricultural productivity” said Dr Molden. AusAID support to the Koshi Basin is helping to better understand these shifts in rainfall patterns and present management solutions for effective adaptation.
Last Reviewed: 5 October, 2012