BLOG | Moving towards a more resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya

By Philippus Wester, Principal Investigator for HI-AWARE and Chief Scientist, Water Resources Management at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

Recent climatic events around the globe are harbingers of the more extreme climatic events that can be expected in the future if emissions of greenhouse gasses are not sharply reduced in the coming decade. Our current reality is one of uncertainty and increasing danger from climatic events. As the Atlantic seaboard in the US was battered by hurricanes, closer to home, South Asia faced heavy rainfalls and the subsequent flooding in August of this year led to countless displaced families and deaths. Furthermore, recent research published in Nature, and partially supported by HI-AWARE, projects that approximately one third of the ice mass stored in the glaciers of the high mountains of Asia will melt by end of century under a 1.5 degrees scenario. At current emission levels, as much as 64 (±5) % of glacier mass will be lost by end of century (EOC).

As even a 1.5 degree world will be too hot for the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), leading to a warming of 2.1 ±0.1 degrees by EOC in the HKH, the need for workable adaptation options that can be brought to scale is becoming increasingly urgent. HI-AWARE’s recent work on adaptation pilots has shown that resilient options are available that once upscaled, can lead to promising adaptation options being adopted by at-risk communities. For example, Megh Pyne Abhiyan’s under construction eco-san toilets stayed above flood waters at HI-AWARE’s pilot site in West Champaran, Bihar. In a period of uncertainty, these toilets not only provide a safe alternative to women for sanitation, but also cut the risk of groundwater contamination. Similarly, our flood and climate resilient housing pilots in the Rangpur region of Bangladesh, held their own against rising waters. In Pakistan, our demonstration site consists of Climate Smart Agriculture Packages, a conglomerate of adaptation options to be made available for farming communities in the Potohar region. Recently, a team of adaptation professionals from government and non-government agencies in Pakistan visited the site to interact with and learn from our Pakistani counterparts. With this promising first results, we now move forward towards an adaptation solutions portal. 

The adaptation solutions portal being developed with support from Climate Adaptation Services, is to be an interactive platform that will serve as a repository of successful adaptation options available and having the potential to be implemented across the HKH. The importance of the portal is two-fold: it brings attention to the work being carried out under HI-AWARE, and it encourages a format of crowd-sourcing information onto the portal. This crowd-sourcing, we believe, will become the legacy that HI-AWARE leaves in its wake, as it draws to a close next year. In order to build resilience, we believe the solutions portal portrays the essence of building resilience- through cooperation and collaboration. We plan to launch the portal in December, 2017 at the Resilient HKH conference, taking place in Kathmandu.