The Hindu Kush Himalaya region faces the threat of climate and ecological change.

Urgent coordinated action is needed to save it, warned experts from five mountain countries of Asia, including Nepal.

They were speaking at a session on ‘the HKH Call to Action: Maintaining the Pulse of the Planet’ at a virtual conference organised by Global Landscapes Forum. The HKH is referred to as the ‘pulse of the planet’ since changes to its troposphere and biodiversity are barometers of climate and environmental change across the world. It is a key global asset, sustaining lives and livelihoods of nearly two billion people. The session, hosted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development aimed to highlight the links between biodiversity, landscapes, culture, and health in post-COVID ‘new normal’ situation. One of the objectives was also to draw attention to environmental, socio-cultural and economic value of the HKH region and the challenges presented by climate and other changes, said a press release issued by ICIMOD today.

This year’s digital conference brought together top scientists, environmental practitioners, policy-makers, banks, corporate heads, indigenous people and local communities to discuss and showcase means to ‘build back better’.

The conference hosted over 200 speakers to discuss global challenges related to biodiversity, ecosystem restoration and public health. Speaking at the session, Pema Gyamtsho, director general, ICIMOD highlighted the uniqueness of the HKH, particularly its rich bio-cultural diversity and the associated traditional and indigenous knowledge system that continue to be practiced.

Gyamtsho said ICIMOD was committed to improving the well-being of communities in the HKH region through three strategic areas of impact: reducing poverty, enhancing resilience by reducing physical and social vulnerabilities and enhancing ecosystem services.

Gyamtsho also touched upon the complex challenges facing the HKH, especially population growth, unsustainable development, migration and climate change, with COVID-19 further compounding those challenges.

In his keynote presentation, Eklabya Sharma, deputy director General of ICIMOD, highlighted the ‘HKH Call to Action’ which provides a roadmap for the region with six urgent actions as pathways to prosperity.

Those six urgent actions emphasise greater regional cooperation, recognising and prioritising the uniqueness of HKH mountain people, taking concerted action to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, accelerated actions towards realising the Sustainable Development Goals, enhancing ecosystem resilience and facilitating greater data and information sharing. A panel of speakers from Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan addressed critical questions related to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the HKH. They highlighted the need for water conservation, reversing land degradation, ecosystem restoration involving local communities – particularly the youth, documenting traditional knowledge systems and strengthening scientific capacity in the HKH.

A version of this article appears in print on November 06, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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