09/03/2009, 00.00
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Himalayas "vulnerable" to climate change

by Kalpit Parajuli
Ten delegations, including China and India, are trying to address the fragile Himalayan region and prepare for UN conference on climate change next December in Copenhagen.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The Regional Climate Change Conference met for a 3 day working session from on August 31 to Sept 2 in Kathmandu. The meeting entitled "from Kathmandu to Copenhagen: a vision for addressing the risk of climate change and the vulnerability of the Himalayas", saw the participation of the main countries of Central and South Asia, including China and India, the economic giants of the continent. The aim of the meeting was to plan a common agenda in view of the 15th UN conference on climate change, to be held in December in Copenhagen.

Inaugurating the event, the Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said that "the developed and developing countries are experiencing difficulties and challenges due to the global crisis. Nepal is situated in a fragile and delicate ecosystem that is particularly vulnerable”. He especially emphasized the risk of depletion of water in the Himalayan region, which alone supplies water to more than 700 million people.

Addressing to the conference Swiss Andreas Shield, director general, Integrated Centre for Mountain Development (ICIMOD) urged the governments to declare the Himalayan region as the hotspot for climate change. Shield refers to the devastating drought that is affecting the Himalayan region in July.

The data is alarming. In Nepal the crop of barley marked a loss compared to 2008 of over 133 thousand tons, forcing 3.4 million people to seek humanitarian aid. In India ten states have declared emergencies in 246 districts and an estimated decline in rice production of 10%. In China, drought instead involves ten regions from north to south and threatens to undermine the autumn harvest of cereals (70% of annual production).

In this context, the Nobel Prize for Peace 2007 Mohan Munasinghe, a leading figure in the event, declared that "rich countries need to reduce their consumption while developing countries must adjust their standards on emission levels far lower than those maintained by the West”.

Despite the importance of the issues addressed and the enthusiasm shown by some participants of the conference organizers denounced the lack of qualified people in the delegation. In fact there were no ministers. Former Nepalese minister for water resources, Ganesh Shah, the main supporters of the event, said that "the conference would have had a greater impact with the presence of high-level ministerial delegations." He also stressed the importance of a true collaboration between the countries of the Asian region to "form a single voice and that all nations should have a decisional power”.


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