Stakeholder Consultations – ‘Sustainability in Living Himalayas in South Asia’

16th November, 2011
Nazhoen Pelri
Thimphu, Bhutan


Climate change is already taking place, and the South Asian countries, particularly the poorest people, are most at risk. The impacts of higher temperatures, more variable precipitation, more extreme weather events, and sea level rise are felt in South Asia and will continue to intensify. These changes are already having major impacts on the economic performance of South Asian countries and on the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor people. The consequences of such environmental changes include: decreased water availability and water quality in many arid and semiarid regions; an increased risk of floods and droughts in many regions; reduction in water regulation in mountain habitats; decreases in reliability of hydropower and biomass production; increased incidence of waterborne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and cholera; increased damages and deaths caused by extreme weather events; decreased agricultural productivity; adverse impacts on fisheries; adverse effects on many ecological systems;
As a result of these changes, climate change could hamper the achievement of many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including those on poverty eradication, child mortality, malaria, and other diseases, and environmental sustainability. Much of this damage would come in the form of severe economic shocks. In addition, the impacts of climate change will exacerbate existing social and environmental problems and lead to migration within and across national borders. In sum, climate change is clearly not just an environmental issue but one with severe socioeconomic implications in South Asia.

Policy Initiatives

As it is evident, climate change has fundamentally changed the development scenario with the realization of common concerns across the political, business, development, environment and scientific communities. This complementary of concerns means that a collective strategy is required for South Asian climate adaptation. The impetus provided by the international policy momentum towards an anticipated ‘Fair, Ambitious and Binding (FAB) Deal’ has created opportunities for high level discussions within South Asian countries. This brings South Asian countries closer in terms of desire and demand for common understanding on the level of practical actions towards climate regional cooperation. Developing holistic strategies for the region with mutual cooperation and respecting the mutual limits are mainstays of SAARC level strategy on sustainable development incorporating the risks and opportunities prevailing in the region. In this regard, developing a climate sensitive development policy would require specific interventions on ecosystem based adaptation measures
Recognising the need to adopt ecosystem based approaches, SAARC declaration already envisaged coordinated research and programmes for the understanding the dynamics of the Himalayan ecosystem and the impacts of climate change from scientific and socio-economic perspectives. While the SAARC declaration limits itself to studies related to understanding of nature and socio-economic linkages, it is important we move further and develop integrated plan for the future keeping in mind the intricacies of such linkages. It is necessary that stakeholders in South Asia explore linkages between cross cutting issues like Ensuring food security and livelihoods; Securing the natural fresh water systems of the Himalayas; Securing biodiversity and ensuring its sustainable use; Ensuring energy security and enhancing alternative technologies.

Objectives for the Workshop:

Climate Action Network of South Asia (CANSA) and its partners in the region propose to organize a half day consultation with experts from within the region to deliberate upon the cross cutting issues that should form the core of regional climate policies. The multi-disciplinary gathering will have a forward looking agenda where the experts will link the national and local actions with regional strategy and their policy impacts pertaining to the region. The opportunity will also deliberate on idea of ‘Green Economy’ in South Asia that is also the theme of Rio +20 next year in Brazil. The objective of the discussion will be:
(a)   To share best practices being implemented at local and national level inputting into 10-year road map for adaptation to climate change in the Eastern Himalaya’s sub-region for ensuring food, water and energy security while maintaining biodiversity and eco-system services
(b)   To Identify and bridge key gaps in the existing national/regional/international policies on symbiotic relation of human-nature focusing on Himalayan ecosystem that supports life in South Asia.
(c)    To encourage exchange of Knowledge, Skills and Resources for strengthening Climate actions across national boundaries within South Asia Countries through mutual cooperation.
(d)   Proposing alternative vision of sustainable development inheriting the concepts of ecosystem based adaptation and mitigation plans for the region

Outcomes – The consultation will ensure:

  • Sharing of knowledge, skills and Resources irrespective of geographically demarcated boundaries.
  • Mobilise proven experiences and lessons learnt from on-going climate initiatives
  • Open official and un-official communication channels among policy makers to tally notes and positions before participating in international negotiations, gradually moving towards common South Asian positions.
  • Sensitive towards mutual concerns and perspectives on while framing climate policies at various levels.
  • Bridge trust deficit among neighbouring decision makers, moving towards ‘collaborative approach’ to save Himalayas from climate impacts and keep the foundation of South Asia stronger.
  • Map ideas to initiate joint research and collection of data that will ensure informed decision making in future.

Climate Action Network South Asia

Aims to redress policy divides and insufficient systematic scientific evidence & collective action, the network were established to provide clear, credible and complementary learning, and be a platform for the CSOs across South Asia. CANSA was established by five likeminded development experts in the 1990s to redress environment and development concerns through civil society associations. The seed that was planted two decades ago has bloomed into a tree. CANSA has expanded horizontally and vertically; where the members have roots in all the South Asian countries and vertically it has percolated from national level CSOs to grassroots CSOs. The CANSA has strengthened from five to Eighty + CSOs; graduated from individual to institutional partnership retaining the philosophy of learning and sharing. CANSA has strategically positioned itself as a real life laboratory; produces learning outcomes and provides space for experimentation. The cross fertilization of CANSA outcomes and experimentations elucidate capacity building opportunities for the partner CSOs. Through the involvement in CANSA of five members from one partner CSO produces roughly 400 direct “green warriors” in the region. These green warriors are fighting the battle on the ground to tackle climate changes with improved skills, resources and passion. CANSA is also a relatively ‘young’ organization, with the average age of CANSA members being around 40 years, which suggests the currently generation still has 15 years of continued service in making a more greener and equitable development in South Asia. CANSA is geared to utilize its strength as a catalyst for integration of local knowledge and implementation of SAARC regional and national climate agenda to achieve equitable and sustainable progress at South Asia.
Contact details:

Dago Tshering Research Program Royal Society for Protection of Nature Thimphu, Bhutan
Sanjay Vashist Director Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) New Delhi, INDIA