Call for a new agenda to sustain mountains as a global commons

03 Feb 2012


New Delhi, India

In a special event organised as a part of the 12th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, environment ministers, policy makers, development experts, and scientists from the Hindu Kush–Himalayan region have called for a new mountain agenda at global level to protect and sustain mountain systems for their vital services to the whole globe – chiefly as sources of water for drinking, agriculture, industry, and hydropower, but also for their climate regulating and carbon-storage functions, their unique agro-biodiversity, and many natural products particular to mountain niche ecosystems. 

The theme of the summit, held annually by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), was ‘Protecting the Global Commons: 20 Years Post Rio’. The world’s mountains require particular attention because they are among the environmental commons most vulnerable to climate and socioeconomic changes. These fragile and remote ecosystems are also home to some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people, and they are undergoing rapid socioeconomic change due to globalisation and other drivers. The implications of change in the mountains are relevant not only for the environment but also for human livelihoods, health, and security. 

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), jointly with India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) and TERI, therefore organised the special event on `Sustainable Mountain Development in the Context of Rio+20’. Speaking at the event, Dr David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD emphasised the need to address more than environmental issues, noting that mountains face multidimensional problems but also offer solutions. “The new mountain agenda needs to include elements of adaptation, livelihood improvement, disaster management, knowledge sharing, and regional cooperation”, he said, stressing the need for an overall emphasis on poverty reduction. 

“Globally driven processes are important but are slow to respond to the immediate needs of mountain countries”, said Dr Pema Gyamtsho, Minister of Forest and Environment of Bhutan. He explained that therefore solutions must be found at other levels – regional, national, local and individual – by working together, working differently, and working better. “Solutions to mountain problems will not be found in Rio, but will be found at home”, he said.

Dr Madhav Karki, Deputy Director General, ICIMOD, called for a new and green economic agenda that can strengthen the better management of critical resources such as water and biodiversity to improve peoples’ livelihoods. “Mountain people require national, regional, and global support in terms of finance, technologies, and capacity building that can help them adapt and build their resilience not only to the impacts of climate change, but also to socioeconomic problems including poverty and environmental degradation”, he said. 

Mr BMS Rathore, Joint Secretary, MOEF, India stressed that in order to improve the institutional arrangements and governance of Himalayan resources, there is a need for both scientists and practioners to understand the problems at the grassroots level. Mr Hemraj Tater, Minister of Environment, Nepal, stressed the need for strengthening upstream-downstream linkages, and Mr Tishya Chaterjee, Secretary, MOEF, India, emphasised better delivery of services to meet the urgent needs of local communities. 

The more than 100 participants called for global and regional support for adaptation and sustainable development in mountains at the Rio+20 conference. They called for stronger political commitment and improved coherence and coordination to address the disconnect between policies and practices. The session concluded that the new mountain agenda should recognise the increasing role of mountain resources in supplying the globe’s water, food, and energy needs, and should promote incentives to mountain people for conserving and managing the resources to ensure a continued flow of crucial goods and services for the benefit of all.

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Nira Gurung
Communications Officer

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