Experts from riparian countries discuss regional cooperation and strategic direction for the Upper Indus Basin Network

Second Regional Strategic Committee Meeting – Upper Indus Basin Network

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The UIBN’s Second RSC Meeting was held in Kathmandu on 26–27 August 2019. All RSC members from the four riparian countries – Afghanistan, China, India, and Pakistan – and other key relevant stakeholders participated in the meeting. (Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

The transboundary Indus River basin serves as an important source of water for human consumption, agriculture, energy production, and industrial use for about 268 million people in the region. Rapidly changing demographics and climatic conditions are placing great stress on this resource and are likely to affect upstream and downstream populations, especially in the Upper Indus Basin (UIB). 

The Upper Indus Basin Network (UIBN) was accordingly formed in 2012 to foster higher coordination among institutions and researchers working on climate, cryosphere, water, hazards, vulnerability, and adaption in the UIB. As a knowledge and research network, the UIBN is committed to effectively dealing with climate change effects on water resources and strengthening upstream–downstream linkages.

The UIBN is governed through an 11-member Regional Strategic Committee (RSC). The committee is headed by a chairperson, with further support provided by two members (country coordinator and co-coordinator) and one advisor from each member country, along with one member and one advisor from any relevant international organization and two members from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). The UIBN’s second RSC Meeting was held at the ICIMOD headquarters in Kathmandu from 26 to 27 August 2019. All RSC members from the four riparian countries – Afghanistan, China, India, and Pakistan – and other key relevant stakeholders participated in the meeting.

In his welcome remarks, David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD, commended the UIBN’s efforts to bridge knowledge gaps and share resources, expertise, and information. Nisar A Memon, acting on behalf of RSC Chairperson Khalid Mohtadullah, highlighted the importance of government institutions’ participation for the network’s sustainability. Peter Budd, Australian Ambassador to Nepal, lauded the UIBN for its shared vision of an empowered and resilient UIB region and underlined Australia’s commitment to bolstering regional cooperation, capacity building, and development of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.

[L–R] Peter Budd, Australian Ambassador to Nepal; David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD; and Nisar A Memon, deputizing on behalf of the RSC Chairman. Memon underscored the importance of government participation for the UIBN’s future. (Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

The meeting proceeded with the sharing of recent UIB-related scientific findings from the four country chapters. ICIMOD presented the major findings from its 2019 Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment report. Findings from other research projects were also shared, such as the analysis of the climate change scenario in the Kabul River basin, recent progress on glacier studies in Western Tibet, Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio’s research on the Indus basin, and a study on specific warming levels over the Indus River basin. 

The country chapters’ progress was discussed, including the recent formation of the China country chapter. Factors that contribute to better cooperation in the UIBN were also discussed, with Afghanistan emphasizing the need for strengthening research capacities and joint research projects and China highlighting the crucial need for supporting young scientists and early career professionals. Pakistan highlighted the need for close collaboration between technical groups within each country chapter, and India elaborated on the need to work towards producing joint knowledge products and deliverables such as journal articles and case studies. The countries also discussed the skills sets they each bring to the table and identified areas in which they require support from their fellow riparian countries. There was a request for support from Afghanistan in developing research-focused doctorate courses on environmental topics. Similarly, Pakistan identified the need for technical capacity building in cryosphere-related science. India expressed the need for short-term University courses and China was keen on exploring closer government partnerships.  

To foster science-based collaboration, joint research on the impacts of climate change on water resources has been proposed, with a set deadline for developing a concept note. The RSC has agreed to work further on specific methodologies for each country, and identified key project stakeholders. They include the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD); The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India; the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), Afghanistan; and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia has offered to support the joint research in terms of the framing and standardization of methodology.

Furthermore, the RSC deliberated on a theory of change to set the UIBN’s strategic direction and map the key stakeholders, with a particular focus on communication and engagement strategies. This approach is expected to improve regional cooperation, strengthen upstream–downstream linkages, facilitate uptake of context-specific and gender-sensitive solutions, and enhance capacities of institutions and individuals for sustainable water resources management.

The RSC has agreed to hold the next meeting together with the Regional UIBN Annual Meeting (RUAM) in the second half of January 2020. The Ministry of Energy and Water, Government of Afghanistan will host the next RUAM in Kabul in January 2020. Yunnan University, China, is the alternative host country and ICIMOD, Kathmandu, the third alternative.

For further information, please contact:

Arun Bhakta Shrestha (Regional Programme Manager, River Basins and Cryosphere, ICIMOD)
Arun.Shrestha@icimod.org


Ajaz Ali (Programme Officer, River Basins and Cryosphere, ICIMOD)
Ajaz.Ali@icimod.org