By Passang Norbu
Eastern Himalayas: Despite challenges in building resilience to buffer the impacts of climate change in their respective countries, together, the four regional countries that share the eastern Himalayas are progressing towards adopting a regional initiative for a living Himalayas.
The first meeting of the coordination group of these four countries- Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal on February 23 in Thimphu agreed to finalise the adaptation projects proposed by each country based on relevancy to the agreed 10- year framework of cooperation and to start off with “simple and doable projects” that are relevant to all four countries.
Often referred as the “third pole” given the significant number of glaciers, the region is one of the most sensitive areas to climate change, experts say. Given the direct impact of climate change, the four countries decided to come together separately and work towards mitigating the impacts of climate change even as the global discourse on climate change continues. The countries have proposed eight projects.
One of Bhutan’s projects is to enhance household and community resiliency against climate change impact through innovative use of indigenous knowledge system and efficient use of natural resources to ensure food, energy and livelihood security.
To ensure food and livelihood security, Bhutan has proposed in devising mechanism for transfer and sharing of post harvest technologies – processing, handling and storage.
Among others, the three-year project is expected to promote the use of natural resources, such as “cold energy” of natural stream to create ambient cold storage facility, and other Zero Energy Cold Storage facilities to increase products’ shelf life.
Bhutan’s second project is to promote eco (economical and ecological)-efficient water infrastructure through transfer and exchange of technologies and good practices to conserve and improve water use efficiencies.
The project proposes integrated rainwater harvesting project with sanitation measures, eco san, zero water urinals; development of water sensitive urban design and multi-purpose hydropower project for power, drinking water and irrigation.
The third adaptation project that Bhutan has proposed is to secure biodiversity and ensure its sustainable use through enhanced ecosystem resilience and poverty alleviation. It proposes to protect critical conservation areas in the region, empowering communities to conserve resources and strengthen regional information.
“With increasing population and development pressure, the region’s biodiversity is under threat from loss and degradation of natural habitat and increasingly exacerbated by the impacts of climate change,” the project’s proposal states. “Only through an integrated and concerted regional approach with a common vision that empowers communities, the threats to biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods in the region can be reversed.”
India’s project is to strengthen institutional capacity to carry out resource assessment of renewable energy. Bangladesh is working on safeguarding the ecosystem from climate change induced degradation and use of biological resources for sustainable development. It is also working on applying technology to improve water use efficiency to enhance crop productivity in the Ganges and the Brahmaputra Basins.
The meeting also endorsed India to be the lead coordinating county and provide secretarial service to the summit process for the next one-year. It also identified India endowment fund for climate change as a potential source of funding for implementation of regional projects. Appreciating ADB-RETA’s initiative to support the work of the coordination group, the meeting agreed that ADB’s support and consultancy would be done on a project- to project basis.
The next coordination meeting on July 17 this year would review the progress and based on the funding, some projects would be identified for implementation.
“The issues we are facing can’t be tackled on our own but together we can,” agriculture minister Dr Pema Gyamtsho said at the meeting’s closing. “The glaciers are melting here faster than anywhere else so there is reason for us to be alarmed and respond to this critical issue.”