PM for greater coordination with neighbours to save Himalayas

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave in principle approval to the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-system and called for "much greater engagement and coordination" among nations, including China and Pakistan, who share the sensitive mountain range.

The approval to the mission assumes significance as India gears up for the climate change talks in Copenhagen in December to decide on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol to check global warming. The decision was taken at the meeting of the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change on the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, where Singh said that he would convene a meeting of Chief Ministers of Himalayan states in an effort to safeguard the sensitive zone.

While a large part of the Himalayan range lies within Indian territory, other countries -- Nepal, Bhutan, China and Pakistan -- share the mountain ranges with India, he said. "Any comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan for the entire Himalayan zone will, of course, require coordinated action among all stakeholder countries," Singh said. Noting that some bilateral initiatives were being taken with China and Bhutan, he said "we have to recognise the need for much greater engagement and coordination with all our neighbours which share the Himalayas.

The Prime Minister said there was a need to prepare the country and people to anticipate and respond to the consequences of climate change and part of the adaptation response was in halting and reversing the ecological degradation that has already taken place in the Himalayas. The National Mission on Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem will endeavour to find out the extent of the receding of glaciers and suggest ways to address the problem.

"We have anecdotal evidence that glaciers may be receding, but we need precise and carefully vetted data, both through satellite imaging and ground surveys," Singh said. He also welcomed the initiative taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forest to commission a study on Himalayan glaciers in collaboration with ISRO. "This initiative must become an integral part of this National Mission and must be institutionalised so that the longer-term trends are monitored and analysed.

Only then would it be possible to formulate appropriate and effective adaptation strategies," Singh said. He said the involvement of local communities was indispensable in ensuring the successful implementation of this Mission. "The reference to drawing upon local and traditional knowledge and practices is laudable. We must find ways to institutionalise this," Singh said adding that it was extremely important that no time is lost in implementing the practical measures that have been identified.

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