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Resilent HKH conference begins with call for regional cooperation against climate change

Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari

Kathmandu, Dec 4 (UITV/IANS) - Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Sunday inaugurated the international conference on resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya here with a call of regional cooperation and international collaboration to address climate change.

More than 400 experts including scientists, environmentalists and policymakers from 26 countries are taking part in the international conference Resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya: Developing Solutions towards a Sustainable Future for Asia.

Over the next four days, they will discuss ideas for strengthening the fragile environments and solutions for mountain communities of the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH), which extends from Afghanistan to Myanmar.

"Only mutual collaboration among all nations along the mountains range will make this possible and effective to address the issues of climate change. It is not possible without international and regional cooperation, unity and collaboration," Bhandari said in her inaugural address at International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) premises here.

She said the task of nature conservation cannot be limited within national boundaries and concrete collaboration among countries is vital. It is very important to pay attention to distinct challenges specific to the HKH region, she added.

Bhandari urged experts for extensive scientific research on the impact of "The South Asian Brown Cloud phenomenon" on glaciers and the cryospheric environment, as well as about "Cloud Burst phenomenon".

She has also expressed concern over amounts being squandered for military might continue to soar recklessly despite widespread calls for peace and good governance from all corners of the earth.

"This earth is a common place gifted by nature for precious human lives along with biodiversity. I believe that it is high time that nations invested resources to limit detrimental impact of climate change and environmental degradation rather than spend money on areas that threaten human lives and resources."

Nepal's Ministry of Population and Environment and the ICIMOD are co-hosting the conference to address growing challenges to mountains and mountain communities. The conference, which will last till December 6, focuses on ideas and solutions to create effective and sustainable changes to improve mountain livelihoods.

The HKH sources 10 major river systems in Asia that provide water, ecosystem services, and livelihoods to more than 210 million people. The region holds and distributes water for more than 1.3 billion people living in downstream river basins. Climate change and other drivers of change in the HKH have already begun to impact ecosystems and communities increasing vulnerability and exposure to natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and landslides.

Resilience is the ability of communities and ecosystems to be prepared for shocks, recover from shocks, and "bounce forward" to emerge stronger than before. ICIMOD and its partners have been working on developing solutions for resilience building, promoting regional cooperation, and enhancing knowledge for sustainable mountain development.

The conclusions drawn from the conference will add a mountain perspective to larger global agreements, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - the United Nations' set of milestones for eradicating poverty and tackling climate change by 2030. The Resilience conference is an indication that ICIMOD's eight regional member countries recognize the need for a collaborative approach to achieve the SDG targets.

"I hope the outcomes of this conference will contribute toward improving the socio-economic conditions of the people living in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region," said Nepal's Population and Environment Minister Mithila Chaudhary.

The European Union is providing support to this conference through ICIMOD's "Himalica" initiative. EU's Ambassador to Nepal, Veronica Cody, said: "I am sure that this conference will make a strong contribution to understanding the concept of resilience in the Hindu Kush Himalaya better and to mapping the way forward -for the benefit of the region, Asia and the world at large."

ICIMOD Board Chair and Bhutan's Agriculture and Forest Secretary Dasho Rinzin Dorji said: "This international conference is timely as climate change is a reality we face and we must prepare to be resilient so that our future generations do not suffer."

ICIMOD Director General, David Molden said, "At ICIMOD, we know that mountains face challenges, but they also provide opportunity: opportunities for collaboration, opportunities for partnership and private investment, opportunities for youth and opportunities to envision and work toward a future where mountains can become examples of changes that can inspire the rest of the world. We know that mountains can bring us together."