"Adapting to change" (2009)

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The Hindu Kush-Himalayan mountain ranges are a climate change hotspot and they need to be put on the map` pointed out Andreas Schild, the Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) as he welcomed us to the centre located in the outskirts of Kathmandu earlier this month.`Mountain systems are very fragile and sensitive to climate change… Policy makers need to be made aware of this`. I knew that ICIMOD, which was created in 1983 and has several member countries (including India, China and Pakistan) was well funded, but I was still surprised to see their impressive, well equipped building. ICIMOD, we were told, comes up with appropriate scientific research and offers adaptive solutions, but they can only act as facilitators — action has to be taken by the governments themselves.With climate change now affecting the amount of snow and ice and rainfall patterns in these high mountains (including the Karakoram mountain range), there is now an urgent need to understand these changes and their impact on downstream users and livelihoods. Unfortunately regional cooperation, scientific data and the exchange of information are lacking — for example, scientists are still unsure about the glaciers` storage capacities. They just don`t know how much ice there is and what amount of water is available each year for irrigation needs, etc.ICIMOD is trying to bring all the scientists from the region together so that there is more data sharing and regional and trans-boundary cooperation.Later, we were taken to visit the ICIMOD`s `Demonstration and Training Centre` which is located nearby in Godavari, outside Kathmandu city. An entire degraded mountainside has been rehabilitated by ICIMOD`s researchers and scientists since 1992 and it is hard to believe that the forested area, spread over 30 hectares, was once denuded of trees! This is where ICIMOD comes up with the technology to help create resilient mountain communities. `Our focus is on adaptation` explained one of the scientists as they took us on a tour of their field sites, where various interventions can be viewed by visitors.Since access to fresh water is a recurring problem in the mountains which will be made worse by climate change, the first intervention we came across was roof-top rain-water harvesting. This is actually quite simple — you collect the rainwater which hits your roof-top by channelling it into a large tank which then stores the water for later use in the house.Another interesting intervention we came across were the water harvesting ponds lined with blue coloured plastic to avoid seepage. These small ponds can be built on mountain slopes (wherever there is enough flat space) and they can easily store water for irrigation and for livestock use. We also came across examples of gravity sprinkler irrigation, drip irrigation, hydraulic ram pump (which uses the momentum of water flowing downwards) and sloping agricultural land technology.The last one sounds a bit complicated but it actually consists of growing different species of trees and plants close together. Double hedgerows of trees or shrub species are planted along contour lines — this creates a living barrier that traps sediments and gradually transforms the sloping land into terraced land. This prevents soil erosion and improves soil fertility. The flat terraces can be used to grow cereals, vegetables and fruit trees.The scientists at ICIMOD have also come up with various ways to improve cooking methods in the mountains — since foraging for fuel wood is a constant problem. They have introduced solar cookers and improved bio-gas plants. What fascinated me were the bio-briquettes which are now being used quite widely in Nepal. Beehive Briquetting Technology (BBT) converts unwanted bio-mass (weeds, paper, trash, etc) into charcoal in a charring drum. A mould (the only real cost involved) is used to turn it into solid fuel bio-briquettes which can be ignited quite easily and produce smokeless burning thanks to the air flow through the holes in the briquette!We spent the rest of the day looking at cool chambers, pit composting, bio-pesticides, various equipment for measuring rainfall and temperature, solar dryers and honey bee boxes. It was perhaps too much information for one day, but it was heartening to learn that the technology is out there to help mountain farmers adapt to climate change in the near future.
Year: 2009
Language: English
Dawn.com,
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 Record created 2012-09-28, last modified 2014-03-03