Black And White: Carbon

Posted on March 25, 2011

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Since over last few months the Black Carbon issue is being highlighted in the Himalayan region by various international and region agencies, with the viewpoint that it will have adverse impact on the human health, air quality and on various ecosystem functions. It is said that, there is urgent need through various local and international efforts to reduce the emissions and to cope with the situation of increasing black carbon in the Himalayan region.

In one of the regional consultation held in Nepal recently, it was mentioned that the scientific studies conducted under project Atmospheric Brown Cloud (ABC), found that black carbon will lead to climatic changes and adverse impact on human health, food and water security among others in the Himalayan region. The study also considered South Asian region among one of the hotspots for Black Carbon emission. The Black Carbon has been defined by these researchers and scientists among major concerns leading to rapid melting of snow and ice and leading to negative impact on the human health in this region.

Given such a picture of existence of Black Carbon in the Himalayan region, it has been emphasized that there is the need for depth scientific understanding of the sources and role of this short-lived atmospheric pollutant. This group has also emphasized upon the deeper understanding of Black Carbon science, building capacities in the region for monitoring this issues and implementation of mitigation measures.

However, in my view the moot question here is that; Are we equally concerned about various other scientific phenomena and socio-environmental problems of the people in the Himalayan region? How much contribution the mountain people from the Himalayan region have in releasing Black Carbon, and what share remaining part of the world has in this? Where is the need of research on Black Carbon in the Himalayan mountains or at major sources releasing black carbon (e.g. diesel and coal based industries) in huge amount. What are the results of the Black carbon emission from other parts of the world? Are there substantial evidences that Himalayan mountains have Black carbon in excess, that impacts the glacial or ice melt phenomena? Why without any such evidences, we are highlighting this issue? Are not we directly targeting the poor communities in the Himalayan region those use fire wood for their daily cooking purposes? And how much they use it, and does it impact all 50,000 glaciers spread in 7500000 sq.km area ? What is the contribution of population from other parts of the world towards global warming and glacial melt phenomena taking place in the Himalayas? Have we done such research and revealed those facts and compensated the mountain communities for their conservation efforts and low carbon lifestyle adequately?

In my view, in case we are really concerned about the problems in the Himalayan mountain region, at first hand, it should have been about the increasing trend of water linked disasters here, where recently we lost thousands of people during a series of floods in Pakistan, India and China in 2010. There is much scope that, we form a similar scientific committee or scientific group that could try to understand the science behind such calamities and go deeper in to the scientific facts and mitigation measures for that purpose. We can also emphasize that how the displaced families would be coping during post disaster situations and how many of them might still have health, agriculture, food and water related problems and what are the possible workable solutions to overcome from such a situations in the future. And to avoid such situation in near future, we should have hosted similar consultation in the region to secure the lives of people and develop a robust disaster preparedness plans that are practical and help the communities! It should have been among the major concerns of our planners, researchers, scientists and policy makers in the Himalayan region.

Another concern of our such consultations should have been about swelling urban population and urban settlements in the Himalayan region due to mass migration, which is taking place at an unprecedented rate! We must have been concerned about the dramatic settlement transition in Himalayan region and going deeper in to the factors leading to such a situation across. We could have done or planned enough scientific studies about such emerging scenario and could have sought multiple cooperation projects to cope with the situation through various action research programmes.

The third important issue in my view could have been about emphasizing upon our outdated educational library management system in the Himalayan region, that still exists in our research, scientific institutions and universities, while making them more effective by piloting a few ICT based models for open and easy access to practitioners and policy makers. There should have been emphasis upon knowledge networking and sharing aspects, which is very much needed for the day to day information sharing among the mountain communities for various decision-making processes towards poverty eradication, livelihood opportunities, improving mountain farming systems, developing resilience towards climatic vulnerabilities and coping with future disasters. But, looking upon present scenario it seems neither our research, scientific institutions or universities are interested in connecting their science with policy actions nor they have any such mandate. They are more in to the domain of securing their future by securing the funding from the donor agencies withing the country or from outside.

The fourth issues is about various research extension wings we have in a number of research and scientific institutions in the Himalayan region, and those need to be revived at a level where the research project team start sharing their scientific findings for the benefit of the communities and also with the planners and policy makers. Therefore, there should be a mechanism in place that ensures science is communicated effectively and in timely manner with people and policy makers. We should hold such consultation, where all set of stakeholders come together and research and understand the knowledge gap on various mountain specific social and environmental fronts. But, this is not the case at present.

Therefore, in my view the black carbon is not at all an issue that could be termed as impacting the ecosystem functions in the Himalayan mountain region, but there are other larger issues those need to be clearly indicated to the such agencies in ‘black and white’ by the country governments from the Himalayan region.