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Celebrating International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD): Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992 ushered in a new approach for the way we plan, deliver, and monitor sustainable development in the mountains. The CBD brought special attention upon biological diversity, stressing that the concept applied to much more than species and their ecosystems: Biological diversity is key to people’s relationships with food, water, energy and the environment.

David James Molden

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The expanded understanding of biological diversity informs our work in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), where the lives of mountain people are closely linked with the availability and diversity of natural resources. International Biodiversity Day reminds us of the importance of this relationship.

Promoting tourism in parts of the HKH has emerged as a promising avenue for development, but one that requires careful attention to the landscapes in which communities hope to attract increasing numbers of travelers. While the increased tourist visits will raise income levels and economic opportunity, communities will be challenged to accommodate that visitors sustainably, which is to say, with minimal impact on the resources and environment, including biological diversity.

Striking this balance between promoting tourism while protecting the environment is more difficult than it may appear at first. On one hand, the HKH landscape draws more and more visitors every year, and it behooves us to promote this sector as it can address some concerns about poverty alleviation among mountain communities. On the other hand, the CBD encourages countries to convert more and more land to secure our biological heritage, which might effectively slow or limit tourism-based growth in these areas.

Through our numerous transboundary programmes, such as the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conversation and Development Initiative, ICIMOD has gained much experience in maintaining this balance between development and conversation, bringing dividends to the remotest and poorest communities, but in a manner that ensures that resources and cultural formations will be kept intact for the foreseeable future. This work requires considerable collaboration among local communities, tour operators, government agencies, and local stakeholders.

In the Kailash region, which extends over parts of China, India and Nepal, more than one million visitors are expected to arrive in this area to celebrate the “Year of the Horse.” They may walk koras (circuits) around Mt. Kailash or take purifying swims in the waters of Lake Manasarovar. Each of these visitors will increase the amount of money spent in the areas, but also augment stress on the environment through an intensified demand for food, water, sanitation, and lodging.

For these reasons, ICIMOD is working hard with stakeholders in Kailash and other transboundary areas to devise “win-win” solutions to accommodate this change in remote and environmentally sensitive areas of the HKH. In Kailash, we recently developed “awareness materials” for tour operators and supporting agencies to promote responsible tourism in the area. We also help local communities design infrastructure – such as waste collection and disposal – to minimize the environmental impact of increased traffic.

In early May this year at a policy-Dialogue Bhutan, India and Nepal governments agreed to cooperate on development of tourism in Kangchenjunga Landscape. ICIMOD is facilitating regional cooperation among three countries on conservation and development of this landscape.

On this International Biodiversity Day, we recognize the need to promote development in ways that assuage the effects of poverty while maintaining a careful and holistic view of biocultural needs and challenges. We renew our pledge to work toward this goal throughout the HKH, where biodiversity and human inhabitance can mature in harmony, promoting sustainable growth and equitable development for all.

With best wishes on the International Day for Biological Diversity.

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确保空气洁净蓝天:紧急呼吁全球空气污染公约

近期的空气质量寿命指数(AQLI)报告标题为:“空气污染是地球上人类预期寿命面临的最大外部威胁”。这一严厉警告应该足以激励全球采取行动应对这一最严重且无处不在的威胁。然而,目前还没有专门针对这一“沉默杀手”的全球合作框架或公约。据世界卫生组织称,每年有 700 万人过早死亡与空气污染有关,这比迄今为止死于 Covid-19 的人数还多,而且根据该报告,空气污染对普通人的健康危害比吸烟或酗酒还大。为纪念今年国际清洁空气蓝天日,我紧急呼吁全球和地区领导人建立应对空气污染的全球合作框架。该框架应与解决“三重地球危机”的其中两个要素——气候变化和生物多样性丧失——的框架保持一致。 兴都库什-喜马拉雅地区受到的空气污染的严重影响,根源有很多,包括:机动车辆、工业、焚烧固体生物燃料、农作物秸秆和家庭废物。重要的是,这类受污染的空气并不是某个城市、地区或国家特有的,而是整个印度河-恒河平原和喜马拉雅山麓——横跨北印度次大陆和山脉的数十万平方公里的区域——所共有的。该地区空气中的悬浮颗粒经常超过安全水平,影响着居住在这里的大约十亿人。 正如联合国空气污染倡议所解释的,颗粒物是微小的污染颗粒,这些微小、肉眼看不见的颗粒污染物会深入我们的肺部、血液和身体。约三分之一的中风、慢性呼吸道疾病和肺癌死亡病例以及四分之一的心脏病死亡病例都因这些污染物造成。阳光下许多不同污染物相互作用产生的地面臭氧也是哮喘和慢性呼吸道疾病的原因之一。 美国芝加哥大学能源政策研究所发布的空气质量寿命指数报告显示:“如果污染水平将持续,孟加拉国、印度、尼泊尔和巴基斯坦的居民预计平均寿命会缩短约 5 年。” 报告继续指出,“亚洲和非洲负担最重,但缺乏关键基础设施”。尽管如此,我们还是有理由希望在我们的地区找到可能的解决方案,因为中国在空气污染防治的努力仍然取得了显着成功,而且工作仍在进行中。正如该报告所述,“自 2013 年(即中国开始“反污染之战”的前一年)以来,中国的污染已下降了 42.3%。由于这些改善,如果减排持续,中国公民的平均寿命预计会延长 2.2 年。”

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