PAC Members Visit Site of Ichhyakamana Atmospheric Observatory REDD project in Gorkha

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On a crisp May morning, after a night’s heavy rainfall, a convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles climbed the 16 kilometer rough road from the Fishling village on the banks of the Trisuli river to the ridgetop at Ichhyakamana, Chitwan district, Nepal. ICIMOD’s Programme Advisory Committee, along with ICIMOD’s four directors, came to visit the site of the atmospheric observatory being established jointly by ICIMOD’s Atmosphere Initiative and Nepal’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment.  

Members of the Atmosphere Initiative team gave a walking tour of the site, taking the visitors to the summit of the highest peak (1870m), showing the marked off location of the proposed laboratory building, showing posters of planned installations, and feeding them lunch cooked in the local village lodge.  While enjoying clear views of both the plains of Chitwan to the south, and the high Himalayas to the north, Arnico Panday, Programme Coordinator of the Atmosphere Initiative, explained the rationale of establishing a ridge-top site for long-term atmospheric monitoring. He explained that the site can measure air pollutants, including black carbon, travelling from the plains towards the high Himalayas, and that its altitude was such that it is sometimes within the regional haze layer and sometimes above it. Other members of the team described the instruments being purchased to measure meteorology, aerosol physical and optical properties and gases, as well as the details about the infrastructure being set up at the site.   

Currently the team is waiting for the completion of paperwork for the handover of the site’s land from the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation to the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment. A twin site with identical instruments is being set up at a very similar ridge-top location near Gedu, Bhutan, for which paperwork has already been completed between ICIMOD and the Royal Government of Bhutan. The observatories at Gedu and Ichhyakamana, together with an existing Indian observatory near Nainital, will form a ‘garland’ of observatories spanning the eastern, central and western Himalayas’ south side, filling in important gaps in long-term monitoring of air pollution and climate.

On the following day, the entire team headed to ICIMOD Norad supported REDD sites in Gorkha. They went to the office of Birenchowk Community Forest Office, Gorkha, where Bhaskar Karky, Resource Economist of ICIMOD, explained the purpose of the new Regional REDD+ initiative and how the activities would be scaled up through the initiative. The office is situated on a hill top from where one can see Gorkha bazaar in the distant north. In the east below are ICIMOD Norad supported REDD sites, and in the west lies the USAID supported Hariyo Baan REDD site.

Through this field visit the board members got to learn first hand how communities could be involved in the REDD+ process. They also learned how coordination was being carried out between the various community forest user groups (CFUGs) and the district forest office at the field level. Major challenges, benefits of REDD+ and concerns were also discussed in a candid manner. The board members wanted to see ICIMOD carry out more international level intervention in REDD+ given its footing at the local level.