Himalayas fall prey to climate change

Kathmandu, December 5:

The rapidly changing global environment because of increasing population has left a severe impact on the Hindu Kush-Himalayan ecosystem, threatening the livelihood of the people of that region.

Global warming and climate change, while posing new challenges to the environment, have badly affected the Himalayan region which plays a vital role in maintaining weather patterns and resources for the livelihood of a large part of the subcontinent, said a conclave of international and regional experts here today during a panel discussion on ‘Role of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Mountain System in the Context of a Changing Climate’.

National Planning Commission vice-chairman Prof Pitambar Sharma said that global warming was affecting the mountainous regions more severely than the plains and the phenomenon had already created serious poverty and resource degradation issues.

The earth is now approximately 0.75 degree warmer than what it was in the last hundred years, with the Himalayas bearing the brunt of it all. According to ICIMOD, the past 11 years are ranked as the hottest years on record since 1850. This has caused thinning of Himalayan glaciers by 0.3 to1 m per year and also thinning of more than 3,252 glacial lakes in mountain regions leading to a high risk of Global Lake Outburst Flood. This could pose a serious threat to the ecosystem and biodiversity and become a major setback to the hydropower sector, he said. Stressing the need for detailed understanding of the situation, he said, “As long as the government shows no concern, no plan will work effectively.”

“Nagging problems, uncomfortable knowledge and clumsy solutions are the reasons why initiatives against climate change have not been rewarding,” said Dipak Gyawali, former minister for water resources. Gyawali pointed out that before opting for solutions the situation should be properly assessed and more research focused on mountains and the encouragement of climate friendly technologies.

ICIMOD director general Dr Andreas Schild added that there was a need for an umbrella effort to create awareness among the people and increase the level of cooperation between government agencies and civil communities to fight against climate change. “The positive aspect is that awareness among people is increasing” said Dr Schild.

Experts from India, China, Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal and other countries participated in the discussion on challenges faced by the region due to climate change and roles to be partaken.