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“Climate + Change - Indian Himalayan Region: Our Mountains, Our Future” Initiative




Indira Paryavaran Bhavan, New Delhi

Date & Time

11 December 2015 to 15 December 2015

Sudas Sharma


Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India   

G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development (GBPIHED)

Centre for Environment Education




Across the Indian Himalayan region, communities are experiencing myriad social, economic, and disaster-related impacts due to global and regional effects of climate change. Over millennia, the ancestors of these resilient communities, like their counterparts around the world, have adapted to environmental change through cultural responsiveness and individual creativity. What is new in the present era is that the pace of change outstrips many communities’ capacity to successfully adapt. Larger societal responses are called for to inform effective adaptive and ameliorative responses to climate change. These include making the full breadth of our evolving knowledge – both scientific and cultural – more accessible to individuals and communities at every level. The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), covers three biogeographic zones – the Trans Himalaya, the Himalaya, and Northeast India about 3,000 km in length and between 220 and 300 km in width. It is spread over the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, part of Assam, and one district of West Bengal.

The Initiative

“Climate + Change – Indian Himalayan Region: Our Mountains, Our Future” initiative is an innovative, open-ended initiative to foster Climate Smart Communities throughout the Indian Himalayan region. Becoming Climate Smart requires increased capacity for individual communities to respond constructively to the present rate of change in the environment, as well as awareness of what is occurring and innovative ways to respond.

To that end, the initiative will travel to mountain villages and state capitals, seeking out and documenting the changes people perceive around them and the ways some have already begun to respond to them. It will document stories of successful development programmes, sharing knowledge of what has worked in the past as well as failures that the community at large can learn from. The initiative will take the form of an evolving exhibition that is co-created with the communities it travels to. It will also share basic information about the mechanisms and ramifications of global and regional climate change, tailored to the needs communities express in the project’s initial phase, and continually adapted as practice suggests.

Beyond documentation

This synthesis of knowledge— from local to global, traditional to scientific—will provide a broad basis for action to improve the lives of families and communities across the region. With the objective of stimulating action on the ground, Climate + Change – Indian Himalayan Region: Our Mountains, Our Future, will be more than an exhibition of stories and diverse knowledge. The initiative is envisioned as a catalyst for building a cross-cutting knowledge community around climate-related adaptation and mitigation. By assembling an accumulating wealth of knowledge and storytelling resources from community to community, the new Climate Smart Community that results from the initiative will cut across local, linguistic, sectorial, and regional boundaries. By carrying rural stories to urban state capitals and ultimately to the nation’s capital, it will cut across upstream/downstream boundaries and link the mountains to the plains. In the first four months of 2016, a pilot programme will travel to multiple sites in the Himalayan states to prototype the project’s methodology and develop the initial materials for a planned roll-out at scale in autumn of that year. Teams will then travel, building on Landscape Yatra methodology for approximately ten months to states in the Indian Himalayan region. They will recruit community members to travel to other districts as programme facilitators for a period of two months, adding direct human links to a growing knowledge network and piloting what could become a full-fledged fellow programme by year three.

The material co created by teams will be brought to the state capitals during the summer months, where it will be used to convene government officials, industry, scientists, community members, and students. At the same time, the teams will continue to solicit and document the stories of migrant residents of the cities, whose histories reflect the pervasive effects of climate and social change on mountain communities. These activities and the urban exhibition programme will also highlight the upstream/downstream relationship that cities have with rural mountain communities and their dependence on the natural resources of mountain ecologies.

Actioning change

The first two years will culminate in an extended series of happenings across New Delhi in December of 2017. This series of happenings will include an interactive exhibition co-created by a large number of people from across the Himalayas, including communities, students, and representatives from community based organizations and government agencies. This will also provide a platform to showcase the Climate+Change fellows and their work.

The presentation of the first phase of the initiative may be backed up by a policy platform in the presence of the Honourable Prime Minister of India and other dignitaries. At the end of these first two years, Climate+Change Indian Himalayan Region: Our Mountains, Our Future will have begun to build a web of Climate Smart Communities in the Himalayan states and a network of community based change agents This network will help to improve linkages that connect people to information, resources, and other people across this knowledge community. This will allow individuals and their communities to leverage an increasing accumulation of options to tackle the issues before them and even to thrive in an era of rapid climate change. To make that network sustainable, the initiative will continue to evolve in subsequent years. One key evolution may be the creation of a network of Fellows, based on the initial programme of recruitment of individual community members to travel with the initiative to other communities. The Fellows programme could offer educational opportunities, community grants, microfinancing, knowledge resources, mentoring, and other modes of support to individuals who show initiative and interest in improving their communities’ ability to respond to a changing climate.

The programme can also begin to work more deeply with communities to provide a bridge to NGOs that could assist in piloting innovative development programmes and informing state and national action plans, including State Action Plans on Climate Change. It could provide longer-term documentation of the effectiveness of development programmes, mitigation efforts, and adaptive strategies while also facilitating the continued dissemination of information and sharing of successful innovation. Over time, the goal of the programme is to significantly augment the resilience of diverse communities by strengthening their own capacities through a self-sustaining network of knowledge and action. It will simultaneously build an expert community of Climate-Smart practitioners and a body of best-practice experience and knowledge that can be shared within and beyond the Himalayan states.

Target audiance

The initial user base for the exhibition will be people living in rural communities throughout India’s Himalayan states. These people will also be the program’s co-creators. Its educational outreach will extend to schoolchildren beginning at age six. For the youngest children, the activities will shape a basic understanding of change in the world around them. Older children will learn about earth science and the fundamentals of climate change. A framework for engaging youth will be developed, with youth programs focusing on action plans co-developed with students that are directed toward making positive change.

The initiative is also intended to facilitate dialogue between communities and government officials—and among officials at all levels. By facilitating such discourse, it can assist state and local officials in forming policy priorities that align with community needs, as well as inform communities of the options available and remove barriers to communities’ understanding of the difficult choices officials must make among competing priorities.

The urban public will discover through the program new insight into the numerous ways they are already connected to the mountains and their rural stewards—whether or not they have actually travelled there. It will provide guidance for action that mitigates as well as providing a bridge to other kinds of individual and collective action. By illuminating the stories of mountain communities and individuals, it will also bridge cultural gaps and foster empathy across boundaries of wealth, caste, and geography.

Partners in change

    The Mountain Division, as a part of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and the GB Pant Institute for Himalayan Environment and Development holds an advisory role in the development of the project with a specific emphasis relating to Indian policies of conservation of mountain ecosystems and the sustainable development of the mountain regions.GBPHIED has been identified as a focal agency to advance scientific knowledge, to evolve integrated management strategies, demonstrate their efficacy for conservation of natural resources, and to ensure environmentally sound development in the entire IHR. The institute attempts to maintain a balance of intricate linkages between socio-cultural, ecological, economic, and physical systems that could lead to sustainability in the IHR. To achieve this, the Institute follows a multidisciplinary and holistic approach in all its Research and Development programmes with emphasis on interlinking natural and social sciences.
    ICIMOD is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. Our aim is to influence policy and practices to meet environmental and livelihood challenges emerging in the HKH region. To do this we bring together researchers, practitioners, and policy makers from the region and around the globe to generate and share knowledge, support evidence-based decision making, and encourage regional collaboration.ICIMOD seeks to improve the lives and livelihoods of mountain women and men, now and for the future. ICIMOD was co-organizer of the Climate+Change exhibition in Nepal, which exhibited, together with rich supportive programming and a robust arts and education programme, over five months in Kathmandu, and one year in the International Mountain Museum in Pokhara.
    CEE, as a Centre of Excellence supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, is a national institution with the mandate to promote environmental awareness nationwide. CEE is affiliated to the Nehru Foundation for Development and inherits the rich multi-disciplinary resource base and varied experience of Nehru Foundation for Development. CEE develops innovative programmes and educational material, and builds capacity in the field of education and communication for sustainable development. It undertakes demonstration projects in education, communication and development that endorse attitudes, strategies and technologies that are environmentally sustainable.CEE has applied its approach to projects across India, including the Science Express: Biodiversity Special and the Climate Change Express, which travelled across the country on a 16-coach AC train to create wide-spread awareness on the unique biodiversity of India, climate change, water, energy conservation and related issues among various sections of the society, especially students.
    Thinc is a leading exhibition design firm located in New York, serving clients across North America and around the globe in Asia, Africa, and Europe. With over 20 years of experience, Thinc has successfully completed projects for a wide range of institutions, including museums, science centers, aquariums, zoos, theme parks, corporations, and governments.Utilizing each project’s unique context, Thinc conceives and designs exhibitions that generate visitor engagement, social involvement, and active participation and uses a holistic approach that combines great design and execution with broad insight into the organizational, cultural, and physical contexts.Thinc has consistently invented new ways for people of diverse ages, backgrounds, and interests to develop strong relationships and meaningful experiences with an exhibition’s subject matter, and are particularly interested in creating transformative experiences that fundamentally alter the way people think about the world and each other.
    Founded by renowned mountaineer, photographer, filmmaker, and five-time Everest summiteer David Breashears,  it is a non-profit organization that uses art, science, and adventure to raise public awareness about the consequences of climate change in the Greater Himalaya. By comparing modern gigapixel imagery with archival photographs taken over the past century, GlacierWorks seeks to highlight glacial loss and the potential for a greatly diminished water supply throughout Asia.GlacierWorks has exhibited around the world, including at the Royal Geographical Society in London, the year-long exhibition ‘Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalaya’ at the MIT Museum, and the Climate+Change exhibition in Nepal. GlacierWorks has also collaborated with Microsoft Research to develop cutting-edge technology to design the ‘next generation of storytelling’, incluing nonlinear narratives that weave together multitouch interactive maps with embedded video, gigapixel panoramas, and data visualizations.

Climate + Change – Our Mountains Our Future

  • 50 million people in IHR
  • + 50,000 villages
  • + 400 urban/peri-urban townships
  • + 5,000 Climate+Change change agents activated in 2 years
  • Platform to bring together science, policy and practice  12 state policy dialogues  1 national policy dialogue  Hundreds of local-level dialogues
  • Convergence with National Mission for Himalayan Studies, NMSHE and state-level missions and programmes, including State Action Plans on Climate Change
  • Direct engagement of 50,000 to 1 million communities, students, and youth for awareness and action