Cross-border collaboration can help improve conservation, spur uplift in South Asia

KATHMANDU/ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development have joined hands to put a regional framework in place for cooperation on important transboundary landscapes, said a media release.

Recognizing the global and regional significance of transboundary landscapes, the Government of Nepal through its Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation has been working closely with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and partner institutions from Bhutan, China, India, and Nepal to facilitate the development of a regional cooperation framework for developing Transboundary Landscape Conservation and Development Initiatives.

Cooperation across borders for the management of landscapes will help preserve the Hindu Kush Himalayan region’s unique biological diversity, valuable ecosystem goods and services, and value-based cultural and natural heritage while enhancing livelihood opportunities of the local communities of the most revered and sacred transboundary landscapes in the world, namely Kailash and Kangchenjunga.

In this context and for future cooperation in other landscapes, the Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MoFSC), Dr. Krishna Chandra Paudel, and the Director General of ICIMOD, Dr. David Molden, signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in an official function held today at Hotel Himalaya. Prior to the ceremony, MoFSC held the 2nd National Coordination Committee Meeting for Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative, in which several key decisions were taken for the implementation of the programme on ground.

This MoU envisages areas and modalities of cooperation based on the understanding reached and broad areas identified for focusing the collaboration by both parties.

The implementation of this MoU will be effected through agreements with key Nepalese institutions that share the common vision of long-term conservation initiatives based on regional transboundary cooperation and ecosystem management approaches.

The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative is the pioneer programme supported by UK Aid and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through German International Cooperation (GIZ).

This initiative will go a long way in forging transnational cooperation between China, India, and Nepal by proactively engaging them in ensuring the sustained management of ecosystem services and protecting the welfare of millions of people living both upstream and downstream.

The story published first in Lahore Times on May 3, 2013.


Khumbu Glacier melting

Khumbu, the largest glacier in the world. A part of this sea of ice turns into water continuously. This 12-mile glacier used to begin at 4000 metres in 1965 but has receded to 4,900 metres today. The local Sherpas and experts say this is not only harmful for the environment but also risky for people. There are 250 such glaciers around the 5310 square km of the Himalayas. Although many of them are still found in maps and atlases, they have all but dried and ceased to exist. Sudeep Barao has been to the Everest Base Camp 35 times in the last 20 years and says Khumbu used to be much larger before.

Pakistan pushes ahead on climate policy but action still lags

Pakistan faces a range of threatening climate change impacts: changing monsoon patterns, melting glaciers, seasonal flooding, rising sea levels, desertification and increasing water scarcity.

But concrete action to address climate threats has been relatively slow, critics say, and a convoluted process of devolution of power to Pakistan’s provinces and then the reorganisation of federal ministries hasn’t helped speed up the process – though a new federal Ministry of Climate Change may help change that.

“The time for talking is long past,” said Shafqat Kakakhel, a former U.N. Environment Programme official and a member of Pakistan’s original task force on climate change set up by the government in 2008. “What we need to see are projects on the ground. Pakistan is lagging far behind other countries in the South Asian region that are already addressing climate change through concrete actions.”

To read the full story:

Bhutanese glaciers to shrink despite steady temperature

The research findings indicate that even if climate remained the same Bhutan would lose almost 10% of its glaciers within a few years

In what could be a shocking revelation, a research conducted in the mountains of Bhutan showed that almost 10% of Bhutan’s glaciers would disappear within the next few decades even though the climate remained steady.

According to the research conducted by a geology professor of the Brigham Young University (BYU), Summer Rupper, not only glaciers would vanish within a few decades but the amount of melt water coming off these glaciers could also drop by 30%.

In fact, if temperatures were to increase by just 1 degree Celsius, Bhutanese glaciers would shrink by 25% and the annual melt water would drop by as much as 65%.

With climate continuing to warm, such a prediction is not altogether unlikely, especially given the years it can take for glaciers to react to change.

According to Summer Rupper, while increasing temperature is just one culprit behind glacier retreat a number of climate factors such as wind, humidity, precipitation and evaporation can affect how glaciers behave.

“These particular glaciers have seen so much warming in the past few decades that they are currently playing lots of catch up,” said Summer Rupper.

Professor Summer Rupper says the only way for these glaciers in Bhutan to avoid melting is for snowfall levels nearly double. This is an unlikely scenario because warmer temperatures lead to rainfall instead of snow.

Last year, a report released by the ICIMOD (International Center for Integrated Mountain Development) during COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, revealed that snow cover in Bhutan dropped to almost 14% in the last decade.

The report “Snow Cover Mapping and Monitoring in the Hindu Kush Himalayas” revealed that snow coverage area of Bhutan decreased from 9,058 square kilometers to 7,851 square kilometers in 2010. This has been attributed to warming temperatures.

“Much of the world’s population is just downstream of the Himalayas,” says Summer Rupper. “A lot of culture and history could be lost, not just for Bhutan but for neighboring nations facing the same risks.”

The research was conducted by Summer Rupper and BYU graduate students Landon Burgener and Josh Maurer, researchers from Columbia University, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, NASA and Bhutan’s Department of Hydro-Meteorological Services.

It took the team seven days just to get to the target glacier trekking through rainforests and barren cliffs to reach some of the world’s most remote blocks of ice.

“For our pack animals, horsemen and guides that terrain and elevation are a way of life, but I’ll admit the westerners in the group were a bit slower-moving.”

The team also placed a weather station and glacier monitoring equipment that can be used to gather real-time data in the months and years to follow.

The research which is one of the first of its kind would used to make long-term decisions about Bhutan’s water resources and flooding hazards.

“They could potentially have a better idea of where best to fortify homes or build new power plants,” said Summer Rupper.

She said good science can lead to good engineering solutions for the changes we’re likely to witness in the coming decades.”

Another report released by ICIMOD titled “The Status of Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region” showed Bhutan’s glaciers have shrunk by an alarming 22% over the last 30 years. published in Business Bhutan

Himalayas get climate funds

A blog post on Indigenus, Nature India‘s blog, posted on December 4, 2012 reproduced here:

Subhra Priyadarshini

Some respite for the people of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas (HKH) grappling with the effects of climate change.

A new grant of 11 million euros announced today will go into livelihood development and mitigation of climate change impacts for people in the region. The European Union (EU) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) signed an agreement on this today.

The programme will start in 2013 and envisages using natural resources in a more sustainable, efficient way to protect the environment. According to a release by the organisations, the programme will try to do this by enhancing the knowledge base on Himalayan ecosystems and ecosystem services, raising awareness on the effects of environmental degradation, climate change and adaptation; strengthening collaborative action research in the region. It will also build capacity in higher education and train institutions and civil society across the region to scale up best practice for improved resilience to climate change.

The HKH region spans over 8 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Nepal with interconnected mountain ranges and plateaus, extending for more than 3,500 km.  Glaciers alone cover an area of 60,000 square km.  The region is called the world’s ‘roof’ and ‘water tower’.
According to ICIMOD, changing climate patterns have negatively impacted the lives of people in this region. Glaciers are receding, permafrost retreats, snow melt induces changed river flows, and ecosystems are altering.
There is an increased frequency and duration of extreme climatic events, causing more frequent and severe natural disasters.  These factors aggravate erosion, land degradation, decline in soil fertility and crop yields.  The capacity of mountain people to deal with these growing stresses is limited, and the incidence of poverty is growing.
The funds should see some reversals in the lives of the HKH people, who are in the direct line of fire of the climate change phenomenon.

Bhutanese gushing resource depleting

Almost 10 percent of the Bhutanese glaciers is feared to vanish in the next few decades, which would result in depletion of water resources, the main backbone of Bhutanese econmy besides agriculture

10% of country’s glaciers could vanish

Besides that the amount of melt water coming off Bhutanese glaciers could drop by 30 percent

Geophysical Research Letters: Depletion in, what is, the nation’s gushing resource today, would be the most likely scenario it could expect in not so distant future.
This was based on the findings of Brigham Young University’s professor, Summer Rupper, in her publication, Geophysical Research letters.

The findings indicated that the amount of melt water coming off Bhutanese glaciers could drop by 30 percent.

Her findings also indicated that almost 10 percent of Bhutan’s glaciers would vanish in the next few years, which local glacial researchers said would result in severe water resource depletion in the country in future.

“There would be reduction in water resources and our water-related agencies should plan in accordance with that,” hydro-met services director Karma Tshering said. “We will also have to look out for adaptation measures.”

Karma Tshering, who did the study in collaboration with the university said the study conducted on how the glaciers in Bhutanese Himalayas were responding to climate change indicated that snow and glacial melts not only occur because of rise in temperature but there are other climatic factors.

Wind, humidity, precipitation and evaporation were among the list.

He said the result of the study conducted through glacier mass balance model was close to realistic.

Mass balance, he explained, was an annual basis of study on how much ice was lost because of melt and how much was gained because of snow.

“Snowfall rates in Bhutan would have to be almost doubled to avoid glacier retreat,” he said. “But that is impossible.”

The findings also state that glaciers of Bhutan Himalayas would continue to shrink even if the climate remained steady.

A news release from Brigham Young University stated that instead of doubling the snowfall rate, warmer temperatures led to rainfall.

“If glaciers continue to lose more water than gained, the combination of more rain and more glacial melt increases the probability of flooding — which can be devastating to neighboring villages,” it stated.

Karma Tshering said professor Rupper’s research also indicated that in the long run if there was a rise of temperature by one degree Celsius, Bhutanese glaciers would shrink by 25 percent and the annual melt water would drop by as much as 65 percent.

He said the study helped Bhutan in terms of finding out what sort of glacier mass balance were in effect in Bhutan Himalayas, how much rivers and streams were fed by glaciers and whether there would be problems in water resources in future.

By Tashi Dema

Planted Glacier Now Threatens Valley

Today, high above the rocky Bindu “Gol” or valley in Chitral, which is located on the way to Mastuj, lies the manmade Bindu glacier. “This was an artificially seeded glacier that was made in 1840 by our forefathers”, explains Siraj, a local villager. “There was no water in our area and so they decided to grow a glacier a hundred feet above the settlement”. He says there is no one left in the village with the knowledge of how to grow a glacier today, but in the past they heard that “cow manure, salt and straw” were combined to “plant” the glacier. “It took three years for it to grow into a glacier and then it kept growing”. Now it is so big that there was a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in August 2010, which ended up blocking the Chitral River below the valley for twelve hours since so much debris had come down with the flood.

Full story:

The GLOF from the Bindu glacier damaged orchards and fields

Ice age: In the shadow of glaciers

The beautiful Bagrote Valley is not far from Gilgit town, only around two hours drive away, but the road to Bagrote is a narrow, winding track that wraps around a mountain and the going is slow. Even before one reaches the main village of Bagrote with its green terraced fields and fruit orchards, one can see the valley glaciers in the distance.