Himalayan Nations Meet to Confront Climate Change

Last month, South Asia nations met to discuss how to prevent and respond to climate change in the Himalaya. The conference, called “Kathmandu to Copenhagen: A Vision For Addressing Climate Change Risks and Vulnerabilities in the Himalayas,” brought together representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kyrgyz Republic, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Representatives from China also attended.

Himalayan glaciers are the source of ten major rivers in the region, including the Ganga, India’s holiest; the Yangtze, China’s longest river; the Karnali, Nepal’s main water source; and the Indus, Pakistan’s longest river. These rivers “supply the world’s most densely populated flood plains,” according to a statement on the Conference’s website. Researchers at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences have documented that more than 82% of the glaciers in western China have retreated and glacial area has shrunk by almost 5% over the last 50 years. They have concluded that “strong warming and reduced precipitation are likely key drivers for the extensive ice-cover reduction in the eastern and southern parts of the TP [Tibetan Plateau]” (Ding et al., 2006).

Glacial meltwater lakes left behind by retreating glaciers in the Bhutan-Himalaya. (Image courtesy of Jeffrey Kargel, USGS/NASA JPL/AGU)
Glacial meltwater lakes left behind by retreating glaciers in the Bhutan-Himalaya. (Image courtesy of Jeffrey Kargel, USGS/NASA JPL/AGU)

On the other hand, large glaciers in the Karakorum are growing, “probably due to changing precipitation patterns, perhaps more precipitation in the winter season due to westerly winds,” said Dr. Andrea Schild, the director general of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in an interview with Isabel Hilton of chinadialogue a week prior to the conference. Glaciers, which depend on the monsoon, tend to be receding quicker.

If glaciers continue to melt at the current rate, water shortages will result, said Purushottam Ghimire, joint secretary and chief of the environment division in Nepal’s Ministry of Environment. “Hydropower generation will start suffering in Nepal, India and then other countries.” Hydroelectricity accounts for 650 megawatts of the 720 megawatts of electricity Nepal produces every year. The Indian Prime Minister’s security advisor Shekhar Dutt said that food, water, and energy shortages threaten India’s future and should be addressed on a priority basis. The Conference’s final statement notes “that the world had spent more on corporate financial bailouts than on promoting sustainability and, least of all, on addressing climate change.” [For more about the impacts of climate change on the Himalayan region, read: “Relations Between India and China: Thawing Over Melting Himlayas?”].

Mitigating climate change in this region is linked to doing so around the world – and therefore subject to the current debates about who should be bound to emissions cuts. “The difficulty for the big regional countries is that mitigation is directly linked with growth,” said Schild. “The global debate on mitigation will only have long-term effects.” While encouraging research and collaboration, ICIMOD focuses on adaptation: “It is essential to strengthen adaptation and build resilient communities.” A related ICIMOD report The Melting Himalayas: Cascading Effects of Climate Change on Water, Biodiversity, and Livelihoods was recently published in Conservation Biology in July 2009.

Ding, Y. S. Liu, j. Li, and D. Shangguan (2006). The retreat of glaciers in response to recent climatic warming in western China, Ann. Glaciol., 43(1): 97-105, doi:10.3189/172756406781812005

Xu, Jianchu; Grumbine, Edward R. ; Shrestha, Arun; Eriksson, Mats; Yang, Xuefeu; Wang, Yun; and  Wilkes, Andreas, 2009. The Melting Himalayas: Cascading Effects of Climate Change on Water, Biodiversity, and Livelihoods, Conservation Biology. 23(3):520-530, June 2009.

Copyrignt 2009 by Brave Blue Words/ Danielle Meitiv

Last month, South Asia nations met to discuss how to prevent and respond to climate change in the Himalaya. The conference, called “Kathmandu to Copenhagen: A Vision For Addressing Climate Change Risks and Vulnerabilities in the Himalayas,” brought together representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kyrgyz Republic, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Representatives from China also attended.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Himalayan Nations Meet to Confront Climate Change

  1. I lately came across your blog and have been learning along. I thought I would leave my first remark. I dont know what to say except that I have loved reading. Solid blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s