The second session of the Himalayan Consensus Summit dealt with the sustainability discourse and the need for conscientiously adapting ways of operating businesses to tempo of the environment. More so, the session focused on understanding more intricately the supply side of natural resources i.e. the impact of climate change, food security, climate disruption and various other issues that has direct bearing on the future of the Himalayas. With panel consisting of experts in the field of environmental sciences, the session was moderated by Laurence Brahm, Founder of Himalayan Consensus Institute.
Laurence initiated the discussions talking on the possible emergence of ‘ecological civilization’ which the Chinese government has been pushing through in a bid to clamp down on its environmental issues. Contemplating on a rather grim yet not entirely impossible possibility of water becoming a rare commodity than oil, he addressed the need for rethinking growth models where the civilizations across boundaries ought to be ecologically aware.
This point was further succinctly expressed by Arnico Panday, Senior Atmospheric Scientist of ICIMOD, stating pollution knows no boundaries. He provided instances of stark disruptions in the ecology of Nepal, where agricultural fires in Punjab, India resulted in hazy atmosphere in Kathmandu a day after. Similarly, in Mustang, a Himalayan town North West of Kathmandu and naturally a barren land, rainfall has risen to unusually high levels along with emergence of mosquitoes which in earlier times would have been unheard of – a phenomenon largely attributable to carbon buildups beyond the political vicinity of Nepal. He also stressed on the necessity of exploring new ways in tackling ecologically unfavorable outcomes at the same time ensuring development while acknowledging that there is a trade-off between economic development and environment, with pollution being the inevitable outcome of development.
Similarly, with Dr. Panday having made abundantly clear that activities beyond the Himalayan region would have an impact on the region, the Director of Climate Change and Water of Stockholm International Water Institute Mats Eriksson highlighted the inherent responsibility of not just the Himalayan regions but other parts of the world as well to protect the resources – especially water— in the region. Claiming the Hindu-Kush Himalayas to be the water-tanks of the region, Dr. Eriksson pointed out that the water resource is a connector where goods are produced and consumed all over the world by utilizing resources from the Himalayan region. Therefore, with the interconnected supply chain, sustainable resource utilization was emphasized to be a requirement of all the nations.
Finally the third panelist, Sun Lizhou – Executive Director & Assistant Professor of Himalaya Institute China observed that the inhabitants of the Himalayan region share similar cultural ties transcending beyond the political boundaries. He further emphasized the potential current summit harbors in unleashing ideas which could be further extended to a global platform in the years to come.
Of late, the discourse surrounding environment and sustainable use of resources have been in the forefront of global conferences. With the summit, the focus centered on identifying problems and brainstorming on solutions at a local level, keeping in mind that the local groups would provide certain insights the top-down model likely miss.