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The second Regional Upper Indus Basin Network Annual Meeting (RUAM) saw participants deliberate on the need for greater exchange of scientific knowledge, research gaps in the Indus, the progress made by country chapters, the opportunities for learning, and potential for collaborative interventions across the Indus basin.
Speaking at the event, Pema Gyamtsho, Director General, ICIMOD, said that the Upper Indus Basin Network (UIBN) takes into consideration the crucial transboundary nature of water-related challenges. He remarked, “Just as water provides support for livelihoods, it can also take away livelihoods”, as he dwelt on the importance of working together to build resilience in the face of disasters and their cascading impacts.
Held virtually from 26 to 27 January 2021, the event was attended by the Chair of the UIBN and country chapter coordinators and co-coordinators from the four basin countries – Afghanistan, India, China, and Pakistan. Also attending were advisors, leads, and co-leads of the network’s Technical Working Groups (TWG)s, experts from organizations such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and members from the Secretariat, ICIMOD.
During the meeting, Khalid Mohtadullah, who had chaired the UIBN for two years, welcomed Mohammad Naim Eqrar, the coordinator of the UIBN Afghanistan Chapter, as the new Chair.
The country chapters reported on progress made in securing support from stakeholders and on ongoing research work and collaborative interventions. Specifically, the Afghanistan Chapter is opening its office within the Afghanistan National Water and Environment Research Center premises. In Pakistan, the recommendations of the first annual UIBN Pakistan Chapter meeting are being shared with the Federal Flood Commission for implementation in the framework of the National Water policy, which would increase government ownership of the network. In China, there has been increased involvement with universities and relevant institutions. There are also plans to increase collaboration amongst the country chapters as India has proposed hosting a short-term course for the Afghanistan Country Chapter.
UIBN members noted the importance of each country chapter developing its own Theory of Change. There was consensus that doing so would help identify long-term pathways and guide each country chapter as it tries to align its work with national priorities within a regional context.
Ongoing joint interventions, including research on the impacts of climate change on water resources, were deliberated upon. The members briefly discussed a joint document being prepared on the evolution, progress, and prospects of the UIB Network.
Also discussed was a transboundary study of climate change impacts on the livelihoods of UIB communities in Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan and the initiation of the Gender Resource Group (GRG). All country chapters agreed that the GRG will play a crucial role in integrating gender perspectives into the UIBN and thereby introduce and strengthen gender-focused policies and processes.
On scientific knowledge sharing, researchers from the Indus basin and beyond shed light on the diverse knowledge being generated on the impacts of climate change on snow cover, glaciers, hydrology, and ground water resources.
While research is ongoing, the key gaps identified by the various TWGs ranged from data gaps on various cryospheric processes, estimates of mass balance on large glaciers, impact of climate change on glacier and snow, large-scale modelling of water availability, and climate change impacts on groundwater.
There were discussions about the inadequate research capabilities of professionals to analyze risks and inadequate laboratory facilities in academic and research centers. The TWGs noted that capacity building (of students and researchers), science-based partnerships, academic collaborations, and strong institutional linkages between the country chapters would help bridge these gaps.
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