Shimla: The two-day chief ministers’ conclave on Sustainable Himalayan Development held at shimla ended with participants reaffirming their commitment to adhere to the basic principles enshrined in the National Action Plan for Climate Change 2008 and noted the recent finalization of the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem.
The Conclave recognized the seriousness of the threat posed by climate change to the country in general and to the Himalayan States in particular, being primarily agrarian economies and the repository of rich biological diversity. The Conclave also recognized that the Himalayas shape the climate, hydrology and soil fertility of much of South Asia and therefore preserving the ecological and environmental sanctity of the mountains is not only of paramount importance to mountain inhabitants but also for the region as a whole.
The Chief Ministers noted the recommendations emanating from the four groups – (i) Knowledge Gaps and Research Needs; (ii) Social and Economic Implications of Climate Variability; (iii) Local Actions: Global Impacts; (iv) Role of Academia, Civil Society and Industry which are annexed to the document. They stressed that such deliberations are important for the region’s future. They directed that these recommendations should be sent for incorporation in the action plan for National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem.
Taking cognizance of recommendations from the four thematic groups, the Himalayan Chief Ministers’ Conclave 2009 resolved to jointly face the challenge of climate change and sustainable development. The Conclave agreed on the following actions:
Establishment of a Himalayan Sustainable Development Forum
1.The Conclave agreed to foster cooperation on sustainable development by establishing the Himalayan Sustainable Development Forum. The Chief Ministers agreed to meet annually so that this agenda can be furthered and actions implemented. They also suggested that the dialogue will continue at different levels and agreed that their officials will convene a bi-annual, preferably at the Chief Secretary level to discuss the status of implementation of the actions proposed. They agreed that the Forum would be hosted by partner states on a rotational basis and the G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & Development, Uttarakhand will provide the technical secretariat for this forum.
Setting up State Councils for Climate Change
2. The Conclave noted that some states have formed State Level Councils for Climate Change and other states are in the process of instituting these councils. These Councils will function as the convenors for the Himalayan Sustainable Development Forum. The Council, situated, within the CM’s office, will play an important role in furthering discussion and decisions on sustainable development in the mountain states. They noted that it would be important that these Councils include representatives from different segments of society – civil society, industry, farmer representatives and academia.
Catalysing research for policy action
3. The Councils will play a catalytic role in tracking research being conducted by different departments and institutions. The Council will work as an information and knowledge pool to foster exchange of data related to climate change, good practices and policy initiatives across the Himalayan states. The Councils will convene meetings to discuss the research findings and their policy implications and programmes for implementation. These findings will be presented at the annual CM Himalayan Sustainable Development Forum and also at the bi-annual official level meetings.
Payment for ecosystem services
4. The Conclave agreed to pursue the common agenda to protect, conserve and enhance forests and other natural resources of the state. They will work to ensure that financial incentives are provided for natural resources, which capture the cost of ecosystem services, carbon sequestration as well as land and livelihood opportunities. They prioritised the need for the 13th Finance Commission to enunciate the principle of payment to Himalayan states for the protection, preservation and enhancement of forests and other natural resources and desired that the Commission should provide adequate and ample resources for sustainable development.
Managing water resources for sustainable development
5. The Conclave noted that the Himalayas are the nation’s watershed. They noted that hydroelectric power provides renewable sources of power. But equally this energy development is faced with new challenges, and noted the importance of maintaining ecological flows in rivers. They also voiced concern about the impact of climate change on glaciers, which could lead to changes in hydrology of the critical and life-giving rivers of the States and the need for evolving methods for comprehensive impacts of projects at a basin-level. They agreed to set up a joint working group to look into these urgent issues and to recommend actions.
Challenges of urbanisation
6. The Conclave noted that growing urbanisation is leading to new challenges of unplanned growth, solid waste, pollution and traffic congestion. They agreed that Himalayan states need for look for alternative models for urban growth, keeping in mind the specific conditions and constraints of the region. They decided that the Himalayan Sustainable Development Forum would play a key role in discussing these challenges and share best practices that are being tried in the different states. For instance, the ban on plastics, the move to make rainwater harvesting mandatory, the emphasis on solar passive design, energy efficiency, local technologies for green buildings and the need to look for alternative models for mobility so that cities do not first pollute and get congested before cleaning up.
7. The Conclave noted that construction of roads in the fragile region could have devastating impacts, if not planned and built with care. They agreed to support technologies, which would provide methods of building green roads and to discuss these with central and states agencies for urgent implementation. They agreed to explore alternative forms of mass transit, which is eco-friendly like railways and ropeways.
Dealing with impacts of climate change on livelihoods
8. The Conclave voiced concern of the possible impacts of climate change on agriculture and horticulture in the states, which is critical for livelihoods and economic security of people. They agreed to undertake research in these areas and to evolve best practices to adapt to these coming changes. They agreed that traditional knowledge, built on diversity and innovation of local communities, needs to be supported to build resilience and coping strategies.
Decentralised energy security
9. The Conclave agreed that energy security is a basic human need and also noted that new and renewable energy sources could provide important leapfrog solutions in the many remote and grid-unconnected villages of the states. They noted the need for the central government to provide adequate incentives for the promotion of these technologies, including household level solar water heaters to meet the need to scale up for transition.
Managing growth of eco-friendly tourism and pilgrimage
10. The Conclave noted that tourism and pilgrimage is an important economic and social activity for the region. However, the growth of unregulated tourism or unmanaged pilgrimage could destroy the very spiritual character and pristine ecology, which attracts visitors in the first place. It is therefore, imperative that the region explores alternative models for this sector, which are both eco-friendly and provide economic livelihoods for local communities. They noted also that different states have been endeavouring to find such options and these examples need to be learnt from and emulated. For instance, there have been successful efforts to introduce green taxes, which have provided financial resources to manage and neutralise the impacts of tourist activity. Similarly, homestead tourism has been promoted in many states, which has led to local community interest in conservation of the environment. The Himalayan Sustainable Development Forum will continue this dialogue and evolve best practices for the region.
11. The Conclave agreed that encouraging green industry and clean technology is important for the region. They noted that industry must take up the challenge of building sustainable businesses, which reduce and minimise pollution and waste and ensure there is no damage to local ecology and people’s livelihoods.
Green job creation
12. The Conclave noted that employment for young people is a development imperative for every state. They noted that green jobs in the emerging areas of adaptive agriculture, horticulture, green buildings, water conservation, green energy and others will provide a huge opportunity for the youth of the states. They agreed that the need is undertake programmes for skill development as well as retraining and retooling to enable people to take advantage of emerging opportunities. They agreed to propose to the Central government to incorporate these emerging areas in their ongoing skill development programmes and to provide resources to the states for new green job creation.