Knowledge Disconnect In Himalaya

Aug 17th, 2011 | By | Category: Advocacy, Information and Communication, M-20 CAMPAIGN, Rio+20, Youth Speak

K N VajpaiK N Vajpai: Much has been said about Himalayas and its beautiful mountains, rich biodiversity and rich culture. But, sometime it seems that the inhabitants in the region are not cognizant about this richness. Are they?

Let me take one of the factors that contributed to such situation in Hindu Kush Himalayan region and that is ‘disconnected knowledge sharing‘!

It has been learned that our scientists are not able to communicate what they do know to the public and policymakers. There are concerns related to coordinated and comprehensive research in the region and pool of research seems academic. Whatever research has been done, in majority of the cases, the results are not shared effectively due to inadequate communication efforts. The region has deficient information sharing mechanism of scientists and researchers to policy maker and communities.

In my view this had led to knowledge gap leading to poor understanding on various environmental issues and vulnerability aspects, while inadequate understanding contributed to poor leadership and subsequently poor actions.

Let me quote an example from one of the important study reports in 2010 by a UK based media group. In their report, Stephen Edwards, an earth scientist called for more high-quality, peer-reviewed data and specifically noted that the need of understanding problems in Himalayan region at first hand before attempting to manage them. He doubted that science itself is not enough, and suggested that scientists have to interact with economists and policymakers through proper dialogue. The Editor of Chinadilogue, Isabel Hilton mentioned Himalayan region as black hole in terms of data. Dr. Andreas Schild, outgoing DG of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development mentioned that to close the knowledge gap in HKH region we have to strengthen the institutions.

A series of commentary by Youth Leaders and Experts at Climate Himalaya’s knowledge portal (Link) also indicates in same direction. I have extracted a few relevant one here:

  • # Dr. Shalini Dhyani writes that in majority of the cases in Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), the scientific and research institutions are not updated, and they rely on old scientific database leading to conflict and failures. Link
  • # Ms. Suman K Apparusu suggests the need of an innovative concept of forming ‘Learning-Alliance @ SMD’ in Hindu Kush Himalayan region Link. She also advocates for designing and delivery of appropriate adaptive social protection programmes through appropriate tools and inclusive mechanisms. Link
  • # Er. Pabitra Mukhopadhyay proposes the important role of an interface organization between the scientific communities and indigenous people in Himalayas that considers community wisdom and local innovations Link. He also observes that there is unpreparedness in Himalayan region in context to disasters mainly due to inadequate infrastructure and information systems in place Link.
  • # Dr. Anamika Barua suggests that the best way to reduce the vulnerability of mountain communities is by strengthening their resilience in terms of building their capacities. Link
  • # Dr. Manish Semwal writes about the need of taking initiatives like ‘Chipko Movement’ forward through collaborative initiatives of educational and research institutions and civil society groups. Link
  • # Expert commentator Prof. Iqbal Hasnain observes that the predominance of bureaucracy and coalition politics in India has stunted the growth of strategic thoughts Link . He suggests that within the region we need a ‘Knowledge Action Networks’, that is, managed social networks that link global science, technology and policy communities to local initiatives. Link

Given the scenario, I sometime wonder that when would it be possible that people in Himalayan region are capable of discussing and communicating about their rich tradition, heritage, indigenous practices and various facets of inclusive science! Are their options available for them and generations to come, to easily access such information, models, knowledge and science?

How a farmer in remote Humla will be able to cope with GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood) and his buddy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Uttarakhand with landslides and floods. Whom should a mountain dweller at first hand contact or refer to when he wants to know the livelihood opportunities and options available, the water management technologies, agro-forestry models, in case of crop failure, animal husbandry issues, and horticulture technicalities…?

In my view, access to Information, Capacity building and Leadership development are the important dimensions to overcome from this ‘knowledge disconnect’ and retaining mountain people.

Following are a few way forward:

  1. Let’s learn from our failures and change our traditional strategies of development on various social or community and environment development fronts in HKH region.
  2. Review thoroughly and work upon the achievements from SUDEMMA (Sustainable Development of Mountain Areas of Asia Conference 1994) recommendation on knowledge sharing platform and SMD, and our achievements since Rio convention in 1991 on climate change and mountain biodiversity.
  3. Think radically and debate on the role of various scientific and research institutions, and universities in Himalayan region, which are over 200 in numbers. For example, in the Indian Himalayan region only there are 34 scientific institutions and 24 Universities.
  4. Discuss and analyze about our regional institutions and centers in terms of their actions and achievements! Therefore, look in to various concepts of partnerships and forums in Hindu Kush Himalayan region (and growing one) and learn from the glitches!
  5. Consider the practical recommendations of various task forces, commissions, working groups, expert groups, missions and declarations made in various countries of Hindu Kush Himalayan region about the commonality of advocating mountain perspective in national level plans. As these plans contains the perspectives of good governance, knowledge development and capacity building actions.
  6. Work upon methodical debates through various possible means and freeze the future course of our actions on mountain commonality.

We are aware that the Principle 10 of Rio Declaration on Environment and Development 1992 mentions about appropriate actions in developing a mechanism for access to information on environmental aspects, and participation of all concerned citizens in decision making processes. And the upcoming Rio-20 conference will focus to secure renewed global commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress and gaps in the implementation of the outcomes.

Therefore, it is imperative that we look in to the ways and means to communicate our science, research and publications to help people to overcome from the mountain peculiarities.


About Author: K N Vajpai has written this article for Climate Himalaya Initiative’s Youth Leaders Speak Column. A native of Indian mountains, Vajpai is the Convener at Climate Himalaya .

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


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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4 Comments to “Knowledge Disconnect In Himalaya”

  1. mememine69 says:

    The FORMER believers of climate blame know BOTH sides of the CO2 mistake:
    Face it, there isn’t enough climate change believers left to vote YES at election time for taxing the air to make the weather colder. The former believer majority you see before you now is convinced the science was exploited and legally exaggerated. And besides, unfulfilled fear is never sustainable and it now leaves the CO2 mistake as another neocon-like Iraq War of lies. Climate Blame’s PR went all wrong when unstoppable warming was bandied about like it would be just an inconvenient little hot spell but as the catastrophic climate crisis failed to be materialized for any of the voters, the CO2 theory was doomed. Now the good news for REAL planet lovers; this comet hit of an emergency actually WAS exploited and exaggerated. Our kids our safe again and we have avoided the worst disaster imaginable; climate crisis. Outside of a comet hit, nothing could be worse than a climate crisis and the former climate change believers are happy for the planet and happy not to be burdened with living in a constant state of confusing panic and took 25 years to fall off the cliff in support. Meanwhile, the UN, the media, academia and progressivism and the entire SCIENCE world had allowed carbon trading stock markets run by corporations and politicians to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 25 years of climate CONTROL instead of the obviously needed POPULATION control. I suggest the lazy copy and paste journalists and leading lab coat consultants posing as saints, be prosecuted for leading the country to another false war. Climate change was treason.
    Climate change has done to progressivism what Bush did for the neocons and climate change has done to science what abusive priests did for the Catholic Church.

  2. Pabitra says:

    I think community consultative processes and local governance principles are traditionally embedded in Indian rural life for long (e.g., sarpanchs, gramsabhas, etc.), we only need to base local level decisions on science and modern social values.

    In the western countries, serving nation for military service is prevalent. How about serving our villages for a year by youths as ecological ambassadors in India?

    Very relevant post. Thanks.

  3. Manish Semwal says:

    I too think that there is a need of right action and right education to take this knowledge uptake which is disconnected. We must emphasis not only emphasis on only ecological values of the region but we must also see the social and cultural pattern of the area as this patter lead to ecological conservation.

  4. Hanna McLean says:

    This is a very thoughtful and well written piece K N. I must admit that I too have been seeing a wider gap growing between scientists and scholars who have a lot of useful information and the ‘average Joe’ who does not.

    I think the biggest problem, like you said, is trying to find a way to communicate data in layman’s terms that is easy to understand and easy to work with. There are so many unused sets of data out there, that if translated and used could give people a lot of new information that they didn’t even know existed.

    I think the first thing that needs to be done is we need to educate the scientists and teach them how to transcribe their data in a way that everyone can understand. Something that may help them is if they work with journalists who can show them how to write in a more accesible way.

    This issue is definitely something to think about. I would be curious to hear what other ideas people have for this issue as well.

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