Washington Post: Amid regional tensions, only 4 of 7 Himalayan nations meet for climate summit on the mountains. Four Himalayan nations, faced with erratic weather and the threat of melting glaciers and catastrophic floods, are hashing out a plan for preserving the vast mountain range and helping millions living in the foothills cope with climate change. But as India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan set to work on a new 10-year management policy, three other major Himalayan nations will be conspicuously absent.
The summit, to some extent, is the Himalayan answer to an urgent need for action amid the international community’s inability to agree on limiting greenhouse gas emissions thought to cause global warming. Expectations are again low for a breakthrough at the next U.N. climate talks, beginning Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa.
“Climate change is placing extraordinary pressure on the Eastern Himalayas — its people, iconic landscapes and species are all being hit hard by changing weather patters,” Bhutan’s Agriculture Minister Pema Gyamtsho said in a statement. “The Eastern Himalayas is now in urgent need of a regional framework of cooperation that combines expertise from governments, NGOs and civil society. Himalayan nations must act now.”
But the absence of three key players underscores the difficulty of reaching regional consensus on how best to protect the peaks, known as the “Water Towers of Asia,” with snowmelts feeding into the continent’s seven largest rivers.
Regional tensions have long prevented Himalayan cooperation, including basic research in the world’s largest block of glaciers outside the polar regions, and accounting for 40 percent of the world’s fresh water.
“The Himalayas present an opportunity where India and China, for example, could really work together to understand and preserve the glaciers, which are a very important ecosystem not just for the region, but for the global climate,” said glaciologist Shakeel Romshoo, head of the geology department at the University of Kashmir.
A first step, scientists say, would be to establish a research framework for the region, where just a few dozen of the tens of thousands of glaciers have been studied.
“There is so much acrimony and mistrust, (the countries) are not able to think logically about what needs to be done,” Romshoo said.
Many lower-altitude glaciers are melting faster, with thousands of new lakes appearing and threatening mountain villages and agricultural plateaus with catastrophic floods should they overflow. Weather patterns have changed, with some regions experiencing torrential monsoons and mudslides, and others suffering droughts. The flow of rivers carrying snow melt toward the seas is less predictable.
As populations grow, and economies need more water for agriculture and energy production, establishing and revising water treaties will become a key issue to the seven Himalayan-dependent nations as water is predicted to get more scarce.
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>>