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Climate change and mountains: Ten states discuss growing challenges

Aizawl, Sep 21 (IANS) The 6th edition of the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS-VI) began on a rousing note in the sprawling Mizoram University campus with representatives from 10 Himalayan mountain states of India deliberating on how best present policies can be suited to the mountains and how people of these regions can be protected against the reality of climate change.

Inaugurating the summit on Wednesday evening, Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla warned that “resources we use today are finite” and the development process planned today by governments and policymakers must “factor in safeguards” that do not compromise the needs of present and future generations.

He said the northeast was no more being viewed only from the strategic angle but as a “transitional zone between Indian, Indo-Malayan and Indo-Chinese geographic regions” and the “geographical gateway for much of India’s flora and fauna”.

“We must leave no stone unturned to see that out rich heritage – biological and cultural are sustained for the present and future,” the Chief Minster stated.

The three-day summit from September 20 to 22, is being organised by the Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), a civil society initiative involving the 10 Indian Himalayan mountain states and the hill districts of abutting states in association with the Mizoram Sustainable Development Foundation.

Mountain and hill states constitute almost 20.3 per cent of India’s total land mass.

Approximately 4 per cent of the Indian population live in the mountain states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and the hill districts of Assam, Tripura and West Bengal.

Since 2011, IMI has been conducting the SMDS as a platform to bring together the Indian Himalayan region to discuss themes that are vital to the development and well-being of the region.

Speaking at the inaugural, Sikkim MP P.D. Rai, who is a part of the IMI Governing Council, said the summit will have “urgent conversations about issues plaguing the mountains” as climate change was a reality that was being witnessed all over the world and “India, particularly its landslide-prone mountainous regions”, needed to prepare adequately for the environmental and disaster challenges to come.

There could not be a better venue for such a conference than the picturesque Mizoram University, whose campus is situated in lush forested area that includes a water catchment reserve and a small biodiversity park.

A number of streams, which are offshoots of the Lui river, flow through the campus.

Among the issues to be deliberated are the protection of hill livelihood along with conservation of forests and how existing forest rules can aid in development of hill states.

Participants who include central and state government officials, legislators, members of academia, think tanks and civil society, will discuss among other things the enormous prospects in the hill and mountain states for a thriving eco-tourism and mountain agriculture, of which Sikkim is one of the best exponents.

The Aizawl summit will focus on themes of Climate Change and Sustainable Mountain Cities, both of which have become issues of regional and national priority. With the limitations in livelihood opportunities and access to jobs in mountain states, coupled with inadequate compensation for provision of ecosystem services, outmigration trends continue to rise and integrated effort are needed for action to make development sustainable, with engagement of all stakeholders, the IMI said.

SMDS-VI at Aizawl was preceded by a lively Youth Summit, September 18-20, that saw the participation of 60 youth leaders from across the Himalayan region discussing ecological and livelihood challenges to their future.

–IANS
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