Mountains 'face multiple threats'

Minister says dependence on natural resources central to the livelihoods of many communities

Rina Saeed Khan November 15, 2017
Mushahidullah Khan. PHOTO: FILE

Minister for Climate Change Senator Mushaidullah Khan has expressed concern over the threats to Pakistan’s vulnerable Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region – including flooding, glacial lake outbursts and avalanches – due to climate change.

Mushaidullah was speaking at the German pavilion at an event organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) which has eight member countries, including Pakistan.

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The Pakistani senator arrived in Bonn on Monday to attend the high-level ministerial segment of the UN Climate Change Conference 2017 (also known as COP23).  He is expected to lead Pakistan’s 20-member official delegation to COP23 this year, where more than 190 countries will be finalizing the rule-book for implementing the Paris Climate Agreement.

Speaking at the German pavilion, Mushaidullah spoke about the threats facing Pakistan’s vulnerable Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region due to climate change.

“The Indus Basin is undergoing rapidly changing conditions… the glaciers are receding at a faster rate. The dependence on natural resources is central to the livelihoods of communities,” he stated to a panel comprising officials from a few of the other eight countries like Bhutan, Nepal, India and China.

Earlier, the Pakistani pavilion at the climate conference held its first big event this weekend. The programme titled ‘Strengthening Exchange and Collaboration between the Arctic and the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH)’ aimed to address issues facing the countries and people that inhabit these regions.

The keynote speech at the event, given by Director General ICIMOD David Molden, focused on the similarities between the Arctic and HKH Regions.

“The Arctic Council was formed around the arctic region and we wanted to see if countries around the HKH region could similarly work together to protect the mountain region,” he said.

“There are 240 million people living in these mountain ranges and two billion living downstream. Around 3-4 billion are dependent on waters flowing down in rivers for food production. These mountains are a global asset,” he added.

The Arctic Council serves as a high-level intergovernmental forum to solve problems for indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

The Arctic and HKH regions are both climate change hotspots, under threat from climate change. However, the Arctic enjoys greater political and economic support from its member countries and researchers, resulting in various issue-based working groups which arrange various scientific collaborations and exchange programs.

The HKH, on the other hand, needs to fill large data gaps and deficiencies in trust and institutional capacities among its member countries. Countries in the HKH also need to figure out how to adapt by sharing the lessons they have learnt with environmentalists all over the world.

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The global community, currently gathered in Bonn for the conference, also needs to hear more about how this highly vulnerable mountain resource is under threat.

According to Aisha Khan, who founded the Mountain and Glacier Protection Organisation in Pakistan, and is attending the conference in Bonn as an observer, there are many things in common between the Arctic and the eight countries sharing our mountain ranges.

“We both have a large ice mass, rich biodiversity and ethnic diversity. Learning from each other’s experience and sharing best practices as well as what didn’t work will be mutually beneficial. We need a science policy dialogue to develop a roadmap to manage climate challenges,” she stressed.

Profound climate change impacts are expected to increase in the future in the HKH region, which is already warming considerably. ICIMOD is currently coordinating a comprehensive scientific assessment of the HKH area to aid policy makers making tough decisions for the region.


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