The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region is sometimes called the Earth’s “third pole.” It contains the “water towers of Asia,” 6,000 cubic kilometers of snow and ice that, through 10 rivers and basins, support more than 1.9 billion people – a quarter of the world’s population. The region is a globally-important resource, given its energy potential and its cultural, agricultural, and biological diversity. It is increasingly touched by climate change and rapid globalization, including outmigration. And yet mountain regions, including the HKH, have received a fraction of the attention and study that they deserve.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) believes that solutions devised for mountain problems can benefit populations downstream and Asia at large. ICIMOD brings together eight countries that share mountain resources in the HKH. Our strength lies in working between countries to develop and share knowledge on critical issues. For example, we know that springs are drying up across the HKH, and we work with partners in several countries to develop methods to revive them. To combat the devastation that floods cause to communities – an increasingly important issue with the increased impacts of climate change– we worked with partners to develop a community-based flood early warning system that has saved lives and property in four of our HKH countries. We extend the same spirit of collaboration into research.
The Himalayan University Consortium brings together academics and researchers across the region who study mountain development. The Himalayan monitoring and assessment programme connects scientists to better understand what is happening in the region and to propose solution to the pressing issues of the mountains.
Bhutan has been a member of ICIMOD for 34 years, and its experiences and knowledge through the years have shaped our initiatives. ICIMOD’s human wellbeing framework, for instance, draws from learnings in several countries, but it is inspired by and based on Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness. Bhutan has much to offer in other areas of mountain development, including energy and benefit sharing. For example, its management of yartsa goenbub(Ophiocordyceps sinensis) has been exemplary, and is being shared with other countries in the region. ICIMOD has worked closely with Bhutan on glacial monitoring and spring-shed revitalization, developing organic agriculture value chains and diversified livelihood options for Bhutanese people.
ICIMOD is fortunate to hold its annual board meeting in Bhutan this year. The meeting brings together senior government officials from its eight member countries, who provide regional expertise, and ICIMOD’s support group – development and financial partners that fund our work. The meeting will discuss and hone ICIMOD’s future plans and guide its activities for the next year. The Royal Government of Bhutan has been extremely supportive of ICIMOD’s work over the decades and has helped develop its vision and mission. We are grateful for its continued support, and hope to use this meeting as a way to chart the way forward, and to celebrate a strong and fruitful partnership.