Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday emphasised the need for greater engagement and coordination with all the country’s neighbours who share the Himalayas and pointed out that some bilateral initiatives are being taken up with China and Bhutan in this respect. While a large part of the Himalayan range is within the Indian territory, there are other countries who share the mountain ranges with India, including Nepal, Bhutan, China and Pakistan. Dr. Singh was chairing a meeting of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change on the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-System.
The Prime Minister said any comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan for the entire Himalayan zone would require coordinated action among all stakeholder countries. Expressing happiness that the mission — one of the eight identified in the National Action Plan for Climate Change — had come up with a set of concrete, immediate and long term measures, he said involvement of the local communities was indispensable in ensuring its successful implementation. “While the State governments have been sensitised to the need for drawing upon local and traditional knowledge and practices, I invite the Chief Ministers of the Himalayan State to join in a national effort to safeguard the Himalayan eco-system,” he said.
India had anecdotal evidence that glaciers may be receding. There was need for obtaining precise and carefully vetted data, both through satellite imaging and ground surveys. The establishment of a Centre for Glaciological Studies was welcome, he said adding that the initiative taken to commission a study on Himalayan glaciers in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation was commendable. “This initiative must become an integral part of this National Mission and institutionalised so that the longer-term trends are monitored and analysed. Only then would it be possible to formulate appropriate and effective adaptation strategies.”
Describing the entire Himalayan zone, including the mountains, the foothills and the terai area, as an extremely fragile zone, Dr. Singh said that over the years, deforestation, demographic pressures and rapid and often uncontrolled urbanisation and construction with only marginal attention being paid to environmental safeguards had caused steady degradation. “Now, however, these stresses and strains are already beginning to be accentuated by the adverse consequences of climate change. While the larger challenge of global climate change has to be addressed, we need to prepare our country and people to anticipate and respond to its consequences. And part of the adaptation response lies in halting and reversing the ecological degradation that has already taken place in the Himalayas.”