Himalayan nations develop energy, water roadmap in lead up to climate summit
The energy meet saw participating nations develop five key strategies for regional cooperation in climate change and energy security, including the diversification in supply and use of cleaner energy resources, enhancing access to clean energy and improving efficiency.
“The Himalayas are one of the biologically richest areas on Earth. But they are also among the most vulnerable to climate change,” said Tariq Aziz, leader of WWF’s Living Himalayas Initiative. “Creating conditions that make the uptake of clean energy technologies feasible is an important part of ensuring the needs of local communities are met without negative impacts on the environment,” he said.
Held in advance of the November 2011 Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas, the series of meetings examined how the 4 nations can ensure water, food and energy security while maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services throughout the region.
Water, food, biodiversity and energy
The Himalayas feed seven of Asia’s largest rivers and contain the largest store of freshwater outside the polar ice caps, resources on which the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people depend.
But climate change is causing many Himalayan glaciers to retreat at a rapid pace, which could contribute to water shortages and have a major impact on freshwater flows. These changes would have a devastating impact on regional food security, the availability of energy resources and biodiversity.
Known as the "roof of the world", the Himalayas face numerous challenges in addition to climate change. As mountain glaciers melt, wildlife poachers are running rampant, and forests are being cut down for timber or agriculture expansion.
As many communities depend on the region's natural resources to maintain their livelihoods and traditions, conservation is an important part of their lives.
In 2009, climate change pushed the Thorthormi Tsho glacial lake to the verge of a potentially catastrophic breach in the remote Lunana area of northern Bhutan. Its growing instability required a team of 300 volunteers to artificially lower its water levels before an outburst flood devastated crops, caused massive livestock losses, destroyed vital bridges and roads, and damaged hydropower facilities.
Although Thorthormi Tsho was the largest and most dangerous glacial lake in Bhutan at the time, an additional 82 glacial lakes were also identified as growing risks. The potential for these increasingly unstable lakes to breach and flood the area’s fragile landscape illustrate some of the many devastating impacts of climate change in the Himalayas.
Recognizing the urgent need for Himalayan nations to build resilience to the impacts of climate change and promote sustainable development, the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal have agreed to convene the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas with WWF’s support.
“It is encouraging to see four neighboring Eastern Himalayan countries come together to create regional action to adapt to the impacts of climate change on water and biodiversity – two key providers of environmental services in the region”, said WWF’s Tariq Aziz.