East Himalaya

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Australia extends its expertise in water resource management to Asia

Floods are probably the most recurring natural hazard or even human development initiated calamity in the Indian subcontinent. The syndrome is mostly seen with the Himalayan rivers. The Koshi River originates in the Tibet (China) and Nepal altitudes, the catchment being given birth by Mt.Everest and Mt.Khangchendzonga. The River finally joins the River Ganga in the state of Bihar, India. We all remember the Koshi Flood of August 2008 and it is said that it is mainly because of the change of course for the first time after 1950. We have all seen the changing courses of the Himalayan Rivers and forming large fans. This is an yearly event, but the mega floods comes once in 50 years or so, like the mega Earthquakes or even Bamboo flowering. In regard to our Rivers, we can be more cautious and responsible scientifically, less interfering in the name of development and more traditional in our respect for the resource. Sometimes there are hopes as we see in this press release:

Canberra, Australia, 25 June 2013 - Scientists from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, are applying their knowledge in transboundary river basin management to improve the livelihoods of people living in some of the poorest parts of Asia. CSIRO and its partners have begun work in the Koshi River Basin which stretches from China, across the Himalayas through Nepal and discharges into the Ganges River in India.

The Koshi Basin is home to millions of people who rely on its fertile floodplains for their livelihoods. There is growing pressure to address development challenges in the Basin, in particular population growth and an increasing demand for energy, whilst working within constraints of natural hazards exacerbated by a changing climate, such as floods, drought, landslides, sediment movement and debris flow.

In a collaborative four-year project, scientists from CSIRO’s Water for a Healthy Country Flagship will provide technical assistance to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development’s (ICIMOD) Koshi Basin Programme. CSIRO scientists will develop an integrated basin-wide modelling system to improve management of the Koshi River Basin. This system will incorporate information on water availability, freshwater environments and the ecosystem services they provide and social considerations such as the effect of changes in water availability on livelihoods. The system will contribute to development in the Koshi Basin in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner and support national and transboundary water reforms. 

“Australia has a long history of managing a scarce and variable water resource, and sharing this resource amongst competing users,” said CSIRO’s Water for a Healthy Country Flagship Director, Dr Carol Couch.  “There is much the Australian water experience will bring to this project to help improve sustainable development and climate resilience, reduce water stress, and inform water-related decision making and transboundary issues. We will draw on the suite of large river basin assessments undertaken across Australia in recent years, such as the Murray-Darling Basin Sustainable Yields assessment.

“Research will be undertaken as a partnership between Australian organisations and ICIMOD researchers, based in Nepal. We will also be learning from ICIMOD, particularly in relation to sediment movement, snow melt and glacial processes,” said Dr Couch. 

“At ICIMOD, we have taken a long-term, transboundary approach to support river basin management. This includes testing, piloting, and monitoring the innovations needed to address common issues related to climate change, cryosphere, water resources management and livelihood promotion,” said Dr David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD.

“The Koshi Basin Programme will provide a platform for national and international researchers and decision makers to come together to promote transboundary cooperation and integrated water resource management practices and policies. This will also include the development of measures for risk management as well as equitable access to water for energy and food security,” said Dr Molden.

Work undertaken by CSIRO this year will consist of a review and analysis of the existing knowledge base, capacity building and the development of a prototype model for the Koshi River Basin that incorporates information on water, climate, hydropower, freshwater environments, irrigation and social issues including poverty alleviation. The knowledge gained from this project will culminate in the development of a robust integrated basin-wide modelling framework, using eWater’s hydrological modelling platform, Source.
Project partners
This work is supported by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) through the Sustainable Development Investment Strategy. Through the Strategy, AusAID works with a portfolio of partners to address the challenges of water, food and energy security in South Asia.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Himalayan Tourism in India, today’s journey with sorrows and joys

The 03 day state mourning declared by the Uttarakhand Government came to an end day before yesterday. Several roads have opened and the Indian Forces, mainly ITBP is in the forefront of the entire rescue operations. The legendary Kedarnath Temple Complex, which had grown into a small town, along with the lower areas like Govindghat, Rudraprayag etc, has seen thousands stranded and hundreds missing. Every soul connected to the Indian Himalaya is heartbroken and many of them have reached the disaster areas to support rescue and relief.
Those who live in the East Himalaya will remember the Himalayan Earthquake in Sikkim on 18th September, 2011, the disaster which has still to heal up. Official report says that pilgrims will not be able to pay their homage to Kedarnath for the next 03 years. All this is probably due to too much interference of human beings to capture the Indian Himalaya in the name of development. If we look closely, most of the disaster is based around the water bodies, lakes and rivers, the source for the entire country. Water is nature’s strongest factor; water has the capacity to cut rocks and create gorges or even flood large landscapes. Water is the life maker.
We in India have regarded all the Himalayan Landscape as the “Abode of the Gods” or the “Sangrila”. We prayed to every bit of nature as our providers for all we have to live and have never lived as “masters of nature”, a human culture which in greediness of economy has forgotten the necessity of social and environmental aspects of life for sustainability. We still have the time to go to the Himalaya, which is almost 16% of total India’s area with about 73% of the Himalaya being in India. A close survey will show that almost 100 districts in 12 states of India are under the Indian Himalaya. The states are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.

The idea of 06 states in the Indian Himalaya was considered for many years, till several scientific organizations like the ICIMOD, GB Pant Institute, Indian Mountain Initiative, GTZ etc concluded that the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) spread across 10 states fully and 02 states partially with a total area of 500,000 sq kms between latitudes 26o20’ and 35o40’ North, and between longitudes 74o50’ and 95o40’ East. Asia today holds the largest, highest and most populated mountain system, the Hindu Kush Himalayan system, which was formed because of the collision of India and Eurasia during the plate movement about 50 million years ago. This also became the first land based trade route to connect continents, popularly known as Silk Route. Along with trade, the culture of the people moved and religiously the Himalaya became the “Pavitra Bhumi”, the holy or the sacred land as the nearest meaning.

Both trade and religion brought thousands and millions of visitors to the Himalaya. Some made it a point of their transit, some settled down and many migrated across passes following the rivers. This millennium is dedicated to tourism, the philosophy of travel that binds the guest and host community. With the strong lobbying of the ATOAI (Adventure Tour Operators’ Association of India), headquartered at New Delhi, the Minister of State with Independent Charge of Tourism, Government of India, Dr.K.Cheeranjeevi has announced the campaign “777 days of the Indian Himalaya” on the 20th of June, 2013. The mission as he explained is promoting ‘Incredible Indian Himalaya’ to attract International tourists during lean season and reminding the world that 73% of Himalaya is in India.
The regional tourism associations also have decided not to miss the bus, Travel Agents Association of Bengal (TAAB) with its headquarters in Calcutta and Eastern Himalayan Travel and Tour Operators Association (EHTTOA) with their headquarters at Siliguri have got together for the Himalaya 02 days ago. Based on the invitation of the Principal Secretary of West Bengal Tourism to ATOAI, to hold their annual convention in West Bengal, the 02 associations have decided to use the occasion to promote Siliguri as the Adventure Base Station for the East Himalaya Region, which includes the entire Northeast India and parts of South and Southeast Asia. Also, West Bengal being the largest source market for tourism in the Indian Himalaya, the 02 associations wishes to open a dedicated “Rescue and Relief” cell for visitors to the Himalaya.
Better places for people to live in and visit, can we not elaborate, Host to make a better home in the Himalaya and the Guest to make it better through visit. Here ‘better home’ is a perfectly conserved Himalayan Destination and the role of the visitor is through a missionary journey of how the same can be conserved for better. Yes, every person concerned to take up the responsibility. A process where we should know how to take responsibly from the Himalaya, as Himalaya is here to give and contribute. The eldest Pandava brother, Yudhistir in Mahabharata, after completing the post death ceremonies for all relatives and friends he had lost in the War of Kurukshetra, left his Kingdom, left all his joys and sorrows back and left for Mahaprasthan, the eternal journey to the Himalaya, accompanied by his brothers and wife. While on your journey to the Himalaya, leave all that you have which makes you feel like a king, as you should be prepared to receive more during your visit.
Many a campaigns are undertaken, but for the tourism campaign to the Indian Himalaya should be more inclusive. Several extraordinary campaigns like the UN campaign on water etc have to be included in the initiative through institutionalization. Ending here with a proposal of an immediate need to form a ‘Himalayan Tourism Resource Foundation’ with the initiative of ATOAI and India Tourism. The same to be partnered by as many organizations as possible. TAAB and EHTTOA to start with the Bengal chapter of the same. The Foundation to support research for right tourism products for the Himalaya, promote the same, support capacity building, support responsible destination campaigns, develop a rescue and relief cell, develop opportunities of International Cross-Border tourism and be the guiding force for the right kind of tourism in the Indian Himalayan Region.