Climate Smart: Adaptive Social Protection in Hindu Kush Himalaya

Aug 16th, 2011 | By | Category: Adaptation, Development and Climate Change, Ecosystem Functions, Governance, M-20 CAMPAIGN, Youth Speak

Ms.Suman K ASuman K: The Hindu Kush Himalayan Region spans eight countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and China. It is home to around 1000 living languages, 4 global biodiversity hotspots, 60 eco regions, 27 Ramsar wetland sites, and as many as 13 UNESCO heritage sites.

The region covers 10 major river basins from west to east including the Amu Darya, the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Irrawady, the Mekong, the Yangtze & Yellow and the Tarim. Further its stretch of 4000 km3 of snow and forms a solid global ecological buffer while indirectly supporting livelihoods for 200 million people and ecosystem services covering one billion population of the region. The region abounds in a very diverse landscape comprising 39% grasslands, 20% forests, 5% agricultural land and 25% barren land, snow cover, and water bodies.

Impacts of Climate Change on the HKH Region

The region has shown consistent trends of accelerated climate change over the last 100 years. Studies in Nepal and China have shown that the there is a definitive trend of increased temperatures in the high altitude areas of the region. The observations related to many receding Himalayan glaciers, permafrost retreat, degraded springs , increased precipitation, snow melt cycle and river regime changes, higher incidence of natural disasters (GLOFs, flash floods, debris flow ) , higher incidence of poverty, diseases & deaths, reduced capability to bear the nature and livelihood stress, erratic/disrupted river water flows , stronger winds, longer dry periods, land degradation, reduced moisture retention and ground water recharge, changes in forest ecosystems ( shift in the latitude of forest boundaries , upward movement of tree lines at higher elevations, changes in species composition and vegetation types ), decline in soil fertility and crop yields are attributable to this increasing trend of temperature rise in the region. This in turn has shown a marked impact on the ability of the region’s ecosystem’s provisioning, supporting, cultural and regulating services and corresponding decreased human well being in terms of security, health, basic material availability for good life, social relations, freedom and choice. In short, the Region presents challenges across several dimensions – geography, mountain climates, development, access to natural resources and their control by equally varied institutional and legal frameworks spanning political boundaries, biodiversity, vulnerability & adaptive capacities of the mountain communities, disaster and risk and ecosystems.

Climate Smart Adaptive Social Protection Implementation Framework

Given such wide and challenging variations and the complex tasks of addressing the increasing impacts of accelerating adverse changes, we believe there is a strong case for a ‘Climate Smart Adaptive Social Protection Implementation Framework’ for the region.

The framework exposition and the detailed background presented in a recently concluded DRVC conference in Kerala highlights the synthesis of concepts, practices , instruments in hot spotting mechanisms, climate smart disaster risk management , and adaptive social protection intersection areas to arrive at a practical implementation framework to work at the downscaled national and local levels. Figure (above) highlights the four pillars of the framework. (Source: Apparusu (2011) – Figure 4 – Climate Smart Adaptive Social Protection Implementation Framework)

Following this implementation framework tenets, we believe there is a strong case for its innovative application to the HKH region. Starting with the extensive HKH region hot spotting to natural hazards and climate scenarios for the region, identifying and bringing together the trans boundary actors at various levels ranging from regional to national to state to local level, to framing the advocacy issues for the region to the design and delivery of appropriate adaptive social protection programmes calls for appropriate tools, inclusive mechanisms, indices construction , methodologies devise, inter disciplinary thinking and capacity building, institutional innovation, funding, exemplary political will and execution.

The challenges are many but are we all geared for radical thinking and action to address the complex climate challenges plaguing this precious Region – past, present and future…. ?


About Author: Suman K A wrote this article for Climate Himalaya’s Youth Leaders Speak Column. An Engineer by training Suman has great interest in climate change and mountain issues. She is the founder of Change Planet Partners foundation.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Himalaya Initiative’s team.


Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>

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2 Comments to “Climate Smart: Adaptive Social Protection in Hindu Kush Himalaya”

  1. Pabitra says:

    The question mark at the end of your article feels ominous. I sometimes feel obsessed for getting under the skins of chaiwallahs, shanty shop ladies, farmers and forest scavengers of the mountains and wish to know what they are thinking. The most vulnerable are the most indifferent.

    Thought provoking post. Thanks.

  2. Suman says:

    Thanks Pabitra. Your gauge is on spot!

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