Mountains cover 24% of the Earth’s land surface and host about 13% of the world populations. Mountains are the providers of essential ecosystem services and play the role of water towers to billions of people living in downstream slopes, valley and plain-directly and indirectly. As a source of water flows and river systems, the world’s mountain water-sheds support livelihoods and food security for almost half of the population of them majority of people living in the mountain areas are poor, indigenous and marginalized groups who live in an increasingly fragile environment, thus making them physically and Socio-economically vulnerable.
The richness and significance of mountain ecosystems in sustaining the earth system, their contribution in development process, the number of goods and services provided including diverse fauna and flora, recreational activities, mineral water, timber and much more. As a consequence the world’s people rely on mountain water to grow food, to produce electricity, to sustain industries and most impo9rtantly, to satisfy water needs. Official statistics reveal that one billion Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi’s, 250 million people in Africa and the entire population of California are among the 3 billion people who rely on continuous flow of water from the mountains.
Climate change is making our lives increasingly vulnerable. Its impact has widely been felt across the globe in various forms. Experts have confirmed that progressive warming at higher altitude has been three to five times the global average. This rapid warming is evident is our observations of increased snow and glacial melt and the frequency of extreme events such as devastating floods and droughts which have exacerbated problems of hunger and poverty in many mountainous regions. In, particular, women and children have been the most affected victims of its adverse effects.
The IPCC fourth Assessment Report (R4) issued in 2007 had alerted us about the alarming state of global warming and accelerated climate change. Just to recall, it stated that warming of climate system is unequivocal with a tone of greater certainty. It then cites the recent incidents of climate change such as widespread global temperature increase; eleven of last 12 years; that is from 1995 to 2006 being the warmest ever years; more frequent host days and hot nights; increased sea level rise; and decreased snow and ice sheets in various parts of the globe.
Mountains are great sources of energy, food security and biodiversity, providing water system services to the billions of people living both upstream and downstream. They are the humanity blessed with the richness of ethno-cultural diversity and traditional knowledge. They have been rather disproportionately affected by climate change. The impact of climate change on mountains and on the people rely on them for their livelihoods need to be minutely understood and holistically analyzed concrete actions need to be taken to address them. Mountains hold enormous resource potentials and opportunities but also carry a risk of disastrous consequences, if we continue to neglect them. The world has accorded special priority to mountain to Oceans atmosphere, sustainable cities and transportations, but the time has come for the world community to accord similar priority to mountain countries that are especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change and global warming.
Climate change and its impacts have indeed becomes a global issue of paramount. So that the mountainous countries should call for a new path of development that not only better integrates environmental, economic and social issues but also provides for equitable and just development strategies that environmentally clean, green and climate resilient. The irony is that those who are most affected countries have hardly contributed to climate change, yet they are ill-equipped to deal due to their low capacity, poor technology and scarce financial resources. The developed countries that have contributed that most in the destruction of the environment must naturally the greater responsibility in repairing the damage of climate change.
|Cabinet Meeting in Mt. Everest Base Camp ( Kala Patthar – 5,5542m / 18,192 ft)|
Mountain should be recognized as hotspots of climate and the global changes and policy makers should be motivated to take action, placing emphasis on the conservation of mountain socio-ecological systems and funding research in order to reduce existing knowledge gaps. It is realized that without the support and awareness of civil society, including Non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, universities, and other research institution. It will not be possible to achieve resilient mountain social-ecological systems and to respond to the specific needs of communities dwelling in the fragile systems in this time of rapidly changing climate and socio-economic circumstances.
Effective mountain specific policies need to be designed not only at the local or country level but beyond. In many countries, policies currently favor lowland areas and largely ignored the disproportionate vulnerability of mountain social-ecological systems.
Ref.: ICIMOD publications and other research base reports.