Mountainous Task- Rio+20: Achievements in Himalayas!

Posted on April 4, 2011

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The Chapter 13 of Agenda 21 of Rio in 1992, which emphasized upon two programme areas and we could see them on broader perspective where we were entrusted to work upon:  Knowledge generation on Ecology and SD aspects in Mountain Ecosystem (Environment) while strengthening it (internalizing and communicating-Social) and working upon integrated watershed development (working on water, forest and land) and livelihood aspects (generating employment-Economic).

When we talk about Sustainable Development, we discuss the holistic framework of development in mountain perspective, which contains the elements of socio-environmental and economic aspects. So, it was well covered in Rio 1992 document.

This we could consider in terms of various institutional or governance functions, programme implementation and scientific research related aspects. It includes three key sectors of-forestry, water and land management. But, on a broader frame itself we could not achieve much on all three aspects of institutional functions, programme implementation and on communicating science or research to mountain people in the Himalayan region.

Let s talk about knowledge generation and strengthening aspects on various mountain ecosystem functions, and how much we have achieved in last 20 years. The fact is that, whatever information our scientific and research institutions, universities, and government agencies have in the region, often not shared and not accessible to the practitioners. The sharing mechanism is further constrained by poor communication strategies and forward linkages, to take it to the mountain communities.  Therefore, at times it appears so constrained that the region is data deficit on various cross cutting issues.

Also there is no mechanism in place through which one can facilitate the process of dialogue among scientists and policy makers, policy makers and practitioners and likewise. Our major challenge remained that how the scientific data is efficiently, timely and effectively communicated to the local communities.

In my view, in Himalayan region the governance system is not that effective, and it seems that various entrusted leading government, inter government and other institutions are not in catalyst role. For example, despite of the fact that ‘Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem’ is among the eight laudable missions of Government of India in its National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) since 2009, there are hardly progressive efforts by government and international agencies in putting forward this important agenda on board.

Also, one can observe city development processes in most of the Himalayan countries, which is constrained by haphazard planning, poor infrastructure development and increased pollution.  The public services in these mountainous countries fall short largely because they have little or no accountability to the ultimate clients, and outdated management systems are unable to provide the information needed for decision-making.

We are aware that, in Himalayan mountains there are massive plans of building several hundreds of dams for hydropower generation in next 20 years, which will generate 150,000 MW power in countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. Also, given that, our governments, scientists and researchers are aware that the region is earthquake prone and there are various factors leading to water related disasters, no efforts are in place on developing and communicating scientific understanding to the affected communities.

We need to thoroughly review and internalize our achievements since 1992, on sustainable mountain development agenda before getting in to Rio+20 discussions!

Can’t we?