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20 Mar 2015 | News

Consolidating the Himalaya-Third Pole Circle

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Initiating and sustaining dialogue and collaboration on the challenges of climate change was at the heart of the second Himalayan Third Pole Circle meeting held in Thimphu, Bhutan, on 5 and 6 February 2015.

Her Royal Highness Princess Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck, Her Royal Highness Princess Kezang Choden Wangchuck, Prime Minister Lyonchnen Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan, and President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland graced the inauguration of the two-day meeting.

Delivering his keynote address, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said people in the mountains face various challenges of increasing population, poverty, and climate change. Other challenges included deforestation, pollution, desertification, and habitat loss. “We have to work together because ‘thinking globally, acting locally’ isn’t enough. We have to think globally and act regionally,” he said.

President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson said his commitment to the Himalayan-Third Pole process is inspired by the belief that coming together can help in learning from each other. He said there is mounting evidence of how the retreating glaciers will impact the rivers and water systems in the Himalayan countries directing attention to dramatic consequences for food and energy production, security and international relations.

The Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, David Molden, said the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is a global asset and should anything happen to it, entire globe would be in problem.

“Somebody somewhere in these mountain range has got solution for climate change. What we really need to do is exchange ideas between people in the mountains to advance forward,” he said.

The Himalaya-Third Pole Circle is an effort to address these challenges by fostering relationships across national borders in the region. It builds on relationships that have already been established with scientific institutions of the region, and constitutes a special effort to convene meetings where policymakers can meet with technical experts.

The Himalaya-Third Pole Circle will encourage policy dialogue with evidence coming from scientific assessments and knowledge-sharing for the benefit of political and policy-making establishments in the region. For example, there was a proposal that a regional assessment, now called the Hindu Kush Himalayas Monitoring and Assessment Program (HIMAP), could be linked with the Circle.

Collaborations with a number of scientific institutions in the region such as the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in Dehradun, ICIMOD in Kathmandu, and the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, along with learnings from decades of collaboration in the Arctic, brought forward by President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson forms the basis for the idea of a ‘Himalaya-Third Pole Circle.’

In 2013 October, a meeting of senior experts and government officials from the Himalaya-Third Pole region was held in Reykjavík, Iceland, during the Arctic Circle Assembly. At this meeting, it was recognized that there are already many institutions engaged in scientific research, data generation, and sharing. However, there was an identified need for a mechanism to allow for more evidence-based dialogue that informs policy-making, a niche that Himalaya-Third Pole Circle could fill.

The Thimphu meeting discussed the possible structures of cooperation amongst the Himalayan Third Pole Circle nations and communities. Specific challenges and concerns were also analyzed by experts from 13 countries, including the United States of America, China, Germany, Iceland, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Switzerland.

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