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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Comment
"The glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating faster than any other glaciers in the world"

The Third Pole
Marianne de Nazareth

Kathmandu was overrun for the whole of the week with ministers, international media, NGO’s, reps from academic and research institutions and Climate Change activists from what is now called the ‘Third Pole’.

High level government representatives from seven countries which included, Nepal, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh deliberated over two days, from the 31st August to 1st September, at the South Asia Regional Climate Change Conference held in the Hyatt Hotel. The conference was named- ‘From Kathmandu to Copenhagen- a vision for addressing Climate Change risks and vulnerabilities in the Himalayas’ and was hosted by the government of Nepal.

The Prime minister of Nepal set the tone at the start of the conference on the 31st, by saying that despite the fact that his government is focussed on the priority of guiding Nepal towards a peace process and his priority was drafting a new constitution, he still thought it imperative that Nepal recognised the threat of Climate Change to the region and believed it needed equal attention as politics.

" We in Nepal recognize that Climate Change has become possibly the greatest development challenge of our times, and it is in the Himalayas that the impact will be severely felt. Few in the world recognize that the Himalayas which store the largest body of ice outside of the polar region, are the sources of the world’s greatest rivers which supply water to the world’s most densely populated plains," he said. He was pleased that the conference, for the first time, brought together affected countries, " to share experiences and build a common vision for the future."

After the two days of deliberations, the Kathmandu conference came out with a declaration, which stressed the need to translate the principles of common, but differentiated responsibilities, of the developed nations as envisaged in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), into operational practice. Ten salient points that were set down in a formal declaration included:
1 South Asia including the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is a climate Change hotspot that influences the lives of half the world’s population.
2 The South Asian region is vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and suffers from critical knowledge gaps especially of mountain eco systems.
3 These countries need to accelerate sustainable social and economic growth in accordance with the UNFCCC.
4 Therefore these countries need to come together to enhance climate change responses including generation of data and adaptation at all levels. And enhanced climate change responses need additional technical and financial resources.
5 Water resources are particularly impacted and basin wise approaches, along with provisions of additional financial and technical resources as per UNFCCC guidelines need to be urgently implemented.
6 The inhabitants of the South Asia region are most likely to be the worst affected by climate change and special strategies need to be evolved along with additional resources provided to the most vulnerable communities.
7 The development and transfer of clean technology should be provided by the Annexe 1 countries to non- Annex-1 countries without the constraints of intellectual property rights and costs.
8 Indigenous clean, technologies should be promoted with funding from developed countries in accordance with the UNFCCC’s provisions.

As the Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal stressed, "The glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating faster than any other glaciers in the world. Increased investment from developed countries and international organizations for the conservation of environmental resources of this region to address the adverse effects of Climate Change, should be the guiding spirit behind international co-operation to cope with the crisis."
And Purushottam Ghimire, Joint Secretary and chief of the Environment division was gladdened, that at least this was a combined step of the Third Pole countries in the right direction.

© Marianne de Nazareth Sept 5th 2009

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