Knowledge Forum in New Delhi Called for Stronger Regional Collaboration Among Countries in the Himalayas and Downstream Countries

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Panelists at the two-day regional 'Knowledge Forum on Climate Resilient Development in Himalayan and Downstream Regions'
(Seated L-R) Harinder Sidhu, Australian High Commissioner, India; Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Vice-Chairperson of National Planning Commission, Government of Nepal;  David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD; Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, Bangladesh; P.C. Bodh, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India
Photos: Rakesh Anand

Countries in the Himalayan and downstream areas of the Hindu Kush Himalayas need to strengthen their collaboration to address food, water and energy issues. Unless this happens, the region’s agricultural development could be at risk. This was the key message during the ‘Knowledge Forum on Climate Resilient Development in Himalayan and Downstream Regions,’ held in New Delhi from 16-17 June. The two-day regional knowledge forum brought together policy makers, scientists and development partners from Himalayan and downstream countries including Bangladesh, China, India and Nepal. The event was jointly organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MOAFW), Government of India, ICIMOD and Institute of Economic Growth, India. 

“We need to work hard to make sure that mountain issues and their downstream linkages are well reflected in regional and global discussions,” said David Molden, ICIMOD Director General. He explained that there was a need for new knowledge to guide in the development of effective strategies in the region. “The knowledge is critical to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” explained Molden.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) require integrated solutions, efficient and sustainable use of land, water and ecosystems, strengthened linkages between communities in upstream and downstream areas, and increased regional and sub-regional coordination and connectivity. These key issues were discussed during the forum.

Vice Chairperson Yuba Raj Khatiwada of National Planning Commission, Government of Nepal explained how the mountains are left behind in the whole SDG process. “But there is a space for this and the mountain countries need to develop their own targets and mechanisms to address climate change and sustainable development,” he said. He also highlighted ICIMOD’s pilot project on climate smart villages and adopted by the Nepal government and included in the national planning process.

Social equity and diversity were also highlighted given that the level of impact and coping mechanisms was different in low and high income areas of all countries. “Inclusiveness is not enough for sustainable development but we need equity and equitable development that lets all men, women and children benefit equally,” said Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, Bangladesh.

There is a great opportunity for the Himalayan and downstream region especially through a river basin approach in a coordinated manner, said Harinder Sidhu, Australian High Commissioner, India. “Australia’s most important water basin, Murray-Darling,  has flourished due to strong knowledge and management support for two decades and Australia is ready to share their experience and expertise to take appropriate measures in three Himalayan basins – Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra,” she added.

The forum concluded with direction for appropriate policy and institutional options, and regulatory mechanisms to foster science-policy-practice interactions, and a conversation about how all countries in the region can work together through a meaningful collaboration on issues surrounding food, water and energy security issues.

The forum provided some meaningful take-home messages. “Climate change is not just a cause for alarm, but also provides us an opportunity to work together beyond our national borders,” said Molden. He hoped that the region would have its own Himalayan “Council”, like the Arctic Council, a notion that was echoed by Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad and Ajay Narayan Jha, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India. Ahmad suggested that having such network would give strong stronger voice to the HKH region in international negotiations. Ajay Narayan Jha lauded the critical role played by ICIMOD as a knowledge integrator and requested ICIMOD to initiate discussion on Himalayan Council.

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Knowledge forum calls for strengthened regional collaboration to support inclusive climate resilience in the Himalayan and downstream region