Climate Himalaya: Disaster related early warning systems are available in South Asian countries like Nepal, and neighbouring countries like India should learn and adopt such technologies in their region. A side event at 4th Global Meeting of Mountain Partnership was organized by Climate Himalaya and Centre for Environment Education India at Erzurum, Turkey on 18th September 2013 to discuss about the increasing disaster in Himalayan region, and ways and means to reduce them in future.
The discourse focused on what has been mentioned in the Hyogo Framework for Action on disaster as priority action area vis-a-vis country governments’ cognizance of its implementation in the mountains.
The Erzurum Disaster Discourse
In the wake of a recent disaster that inundated huge landmass leading to thousands of human deaths during 16-17 June 2013, in the western Himalayan mountain region of India, a joint event was organized by Climate Himalaya and CEE during Erzurum Global meet. It was observed in the meet that no action were taken towards putting early warning systems in place or supporting community based initiatives in the region given the highly sensitive mountainous topography in western Indian Himalayan region, which was hit by similar kind of hydro-meteorological disaster during 2008, 2010, 2012.
It was said that early warning systems could be good in GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood) related cases, but, in case of cloud burst and flash flood it’s tough to give early warning to the communities in the region. The delegates from over 11 mountain countries of the world, found that the country governments should be pushed further through consistent and effective advocacy by various international agencies, to work seriously upon creating disaster related early warning systems and to communicate the information in timely manner to reduce losses.
A participant from Uganda shared example that the civil society groups are using community monitoring systems for early disaster warnings. A delegate from India mentioned that in countries like India, the National Disaster Management Act 2005 exists, but, the communities in its mountainous regions are really not prepared. The Geological Survey of India, a government of India’s body suggested relocating the people from the highly vulnerable areas in the mountains, for which no actions were taken.
In case of Pakistan flood in 2010, even the meteorological department informed the authorities about the probable occurrence flood, but, the message was aired almost after 24 hours. Later it was found that there was problem at government’s network in floating information timely. Countries like Bhutan and Nepal have early warning systems and monitoring system in place for glacial lakes with available technologies to maintain the water level in high altitude glacial lakes.
It was suggested that frequent trainings of NGOs, civil society groups, government functionaries and local youths on various disaster linked issues should be considered on priority basis, to reduce disaster risks in the mountain regions of the world. It is also important that adequate advocacy and capacity building efforts should be put in place at government level, so that the disasters in the mountain region become priority.
The suggestions were made for the need of detailed hazard zonation, easy availability and accessibility of scientific data, a strong disaster network, focus on capacity building efforts and evolving long-term EWS-Early Warning System by using ICT applications.
Here in Indian Mountains
Extreme climatic events are not easy to understand and handle, but their magnitude of devastation can certainly be minimized by respecting the laws of nature. A state/provincial level workshop held on 20 Sep 2013 at Dehradun in Uttarakhand, India, captured field lessons from Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) that constitutes 16 per cent of the geographical area of India and provides valuable ecosystem services to more than 500 million people. The workshop highlighted that human wellbeing can only be ensured with the wellbeing of the mountains, and it is an imperative to ponder over the entire development priorities of the Himalayan states and find solutions to mitigate the colossal impacts of natural disasters.
Role of Regional Agencies
When Climate Himalaya team that was involved in rescue and rehabilitation work in the region, wrote about possible actions and rehabilitation work since 2008 disaster in Indian subcontinent by ICIMOD, a regional agency entrusted with the role of knowledge dissemination to reduce the risks associated with natural hazards through community-based disaster risk reduction and response protocols, the reaction of the organization was more of a political statement.
A response from Dr. David Molden, Director General, says, ‘as a knowledge and learning centre we are engaged in finding ways to address such issues of risks and disasters in the mountains and its impacts on the downstream plains in close collaboration with our national and regional partners.’ It also mentioned a number of initiatives in this direction like HKH-HYCOS a real time data sharing mechanism, Kailash Sacred initiative in China, Nepal and India, HICAP for improving knowledge across the region on climate change issues, etc.
The question is, when we have such initiatives, why they were not applied during 16-17 June’s disaster!
Given that Indian government contributes substantially to ICIMOD as an inter-governmental agency for taking up sustainable mountain development issues in the Indian Himalayan region, the efforts need serious review. Also read a discussion on funding aspect by James Renaldi at Link>>
As an intergovernmental organization it is also supposed to help governments in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) in developing various disaster risk related information systems, developing technical capacities, sharing learning, demonstrating and helping in setting up early warning system, etc. Read>>
The Erzurum Conclusion of Mountain Partnership
This global meeting of the members of the Mountain Partnership was attended by over 100 delegates from different mountain parts of the world to discuss the future of mountains.
In this gathering of delegates from different countries having mountains, confirmed the commitments through a global mountain partnership to conserve mountain environment and improve livelihood by empowering mountain people. As ‘Erzurum Conclusion’ the partners approved a global strategy document for next four years for advocacy, joint action, knowledge management, communication, capacity building, technology transfer and resource mobilization through the principles of innovations in the mountains.
With growing threats to the mountain environment and communities due to global climate change, the document also urged donor communities for their support of sustainable mountain development.
Suggested Readings and Discussion on Similar Topic:
- Disaster Relief: Avoid Old Mindset And Jargons
- Undefined Role of Regional And National Agencies In Reducing Disasters
- Do We Really: Need to Rewrite the Mountain Perspective!
- Kedarnath Disaster: Facts And Plausible Causes
- Uttarakhand Disaster-Uncertain Future Awaits
- Flaw Of Big Aid
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>>