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International Mountain Day: Knowledge of street-smart Folk who live in Mountains, if combined with Research can develop effective responses to Climate Change

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region extends 3,500 km over all or part of eight countries and is the source of 10 large Asian river systems

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Shimla, December 11, 2016: The knowledge of street-smart folk who live in the mountains, combined with research, can work together to develop effective responses to climate change and its impact on ecosystems and livelihoods, experts say.

There is potential to mobilise traditional knowledge to provide place-based evidence on climate change and its impact on ecosystems and livelihoods, said researchers Nawraj Pradhan and Abhimanyu Pandey of the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

Similarly, local knowledge and research could work together to develop effective responses that sustain biological and cultural diversity for adaptation in future.

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“If managed well, various facets of tangible and intangible cultural heritage can be long-term assets. They can represent an innovative way of achieving sustainable development goals and, as such, produce better livelihoods, food and water security, and effective climate change mitigation efforts,” they said in a report, “Mountain Cultures: Celebrating Diversity and Strengthening Identity for Years”.

Pradhan is Associate Coordinator with Kailash Sacred landscape Conservation and Development Initiative, while Pandey is Cultural Services Analyst in the livelihood Theme.
The Paris Agreement of December 2015 recognises that adaptation actions should follow a “participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable communities and ecosystems”.

Mountains cover nearly 27 percent of the world’s land surface and directly support 22 percent of the world’s people. They serve as water towers to the world, providing for the freshwater needs of more than half of humanity.

The Hindu Kush Himalayas are one of the world’s most diverse mountains systems, spanning 4.3 million sq. km. of land across eight countries — from Afghanistan to Myanmar.

Over millennia, communities in these landscapes have maintained a close relationship with the natural resources and surroundings that provide their livelihoods.

The researchers said the mountains were not studied as cohesive systems, but in recent decades, research is providing a more holistic understanding of mountain environments, and how they contribute to overall human well-being in the context of social, economic and environmental changes.

The Hindu Kush Himalayas present some of the most austere geo-climatic conditions in the world, encompassing the barren wilds of the Tibetan Plateau, the cold semi-arid zones of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the sweltering rainforests of northeastern India and Myanmar.

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Such diverse climate, however, has not deterred vast migrations, interactions and evolution of human communities in the Hindu Kush Himalayas over the course of history.

Until recently, said the researchers, traditional knowledge and practices provided the basis for the well-being and livelihood of indigenous mountain communities.

Consequently, mountain communities enjoyed an intangible, even spiritual, connection to the elements of nature. However, in recent decades, global media connectivity and the inclusion of once far-distant regions into national planning has ushered in the forces of globalisation, consumerism and, often, top-down governance regimes.

This has accelerated the pace of change in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, often upsetting the particularities of the mountains and their socio-ecological balance.

Of course, not all the change has been negative. Modern advances in healthcare, education and economic opportunity have improved mountain livelihoods and often worked to dissipate some oppressive traditional socio-economic hierarchies.

However, these advances have also caused some ruptures in traditional community fabrics and a loss of interest in preserving local knowledge and cultural traditions.

“Therefore, it’s critical for research institutions like ICIMOD to take a serious approach to understanding the traditional cultural worldviews of mountain communities,” the researchers said.

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The Hindu Kush Himalayan region extends 3,500 km over all or part of eight countries and is the source of 10 large Asian river systems, including the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra.

The basins of these rivers provide water to 1.3 billion people, a fifth of the world’s population.

In India, the Hindu Kush Himalayas and adjacent mountain areas include 11 mountain states — Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. (IANS)

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Paris Adopts Climate Action Plan, Aims At Achieving A ‘Zero-Carbon’ Future

Aiming to tackle this is France's Passeport Efficacite Energetique (Energy Efficiency Passport) — a project led by think tanks and companies such as French utility EDF.

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Paris
People cool themselves at the Trocadero Fountain in front of The Eiffel Tower in Paris on July 27, 2018, as a heatwave continues across northern Europe. VOA

Arrayed between elegant stone buildings and run-down railway tracks in the northwest of Paris lie bustling playgrounds, plant-filled ponds and stretches of lush grass.

The Clichy-Batignolles area, a former industrial wasteland, has morphed into the French capital’s first “eco-neighborhood,” billed as a model of sustainable development for the rest of the city.

Clarisse Genton, project coordinator for the Clichy-Batignolles district, said it aims to be “environmentally responsible” — with solar panels on homes and clean geothermal energy for heating, for example.

But the eco-effort also has a social aim: to address the city’s affordable housing crisis and ensure green benefits reach the poor as well as the rich.

“We wanted to create a district that’s accessible to all and to bridge the gap between poor and rich parts of the city,” said Genton, referring to the neighboring posh district of Monceau and the poorer La Fourche.

Paris
An aerial view is seen of the construction site of the new Paris courthouse in the urban development zone of Clichy–Batignolles, northwest of Paris. VOA

Paris is one of more than 70 cities worldwide that have pledged to become “carbon neutral” by 2050, meaning they will produce no more climate-changing emissions than they can offset, such as by planting carbon-absorbing trees.

Each is going about achieving the goal in its own way. But because cities account for about three-quarters of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.N., and consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy, whether they succeed or fail will have a huge impact on whether the world’s climate goals are met.

“Cities are where everything comes together: homes, transport, public spaces — so there’s a real role for them to help create the living places of the future,” said Eliot Whittington, director of the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group, a coalition of businesses promoting climate action.

“We’ve got to a state of accepting a certain level of waste and energy [use], but climate change [and] heat waves affect us all and have a real toll on people’s lives,” he told Reuters.

Global warming is currently set to exceed the more ambitious limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degree Fahrenheit) called for in the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb climate change, according to a draft U.N. report due for publication in October.

Following public consultations, Paris adopted its climate action plan in March. It aims to make the city carbon-neutral and entirely powered by renewable energy by 2050.

Paris
The study published in the journal Science Advances showed that meeting the Paris Agreement’s goal was likely to reduce the area of the globe that experiences greater than threefold increases in the probability of record-setting events. Wikimedia Commons

From swimming pools heated by sewage to ensuring the city is fully “cyclable” by 2020, it includes more than 500 initiatives to reimagine Paris as a zero-carbon capital.

‘Green lung’

The Clichy-Batignolles area of 54 hectares (130 acres), once chosen as Paris’s Olympic village as part of the city’s failed 2012 bid, is built around a 10-hectare park containing a skate park, deck chairs and wooden bridges.

Martin Luther King Park acts as a “green lung” and an “island of coolness” for the neighborhood, said Genton, showing a miniature model of the district to two passersby.

“Rainwater is channeled toward wetlands rather than discharged into sewers, and household waste is collected through an underground pneumatic system — removing the need for garbage trucks,” she added.

Paris
Panels of a photovoltaic power station are installed on the roof of a building in the new Clichy-Batignolles district in Paris. VOA

Buildings are heated by a new geothermal plant, and about two-thirds of homes are equipped with solar panels on their roof.

But the eco-district is about more than energy efficiency and biodiversity, said Genton, adding that “we urgently need affordable homes in a city that cannot grow and where prices are skyrocketing.”

Half of the neighborhood’s newly built flats qualify as social housing and can be rented for about 300 euros a month, she said.

Local residents have so far warmed to their new neighborhood, and say they feel “more connected” to the rest of the city, she said.

But many still await the arrival of a promised metro line, which should help reduce traffic and public transport congestion in the area, Genton said.

Virgile Geraud, a retired carpenter who has lived in Clichy-Batignolles for 40 years and is considering renting one of the new homes, said that “this new park, these new buildings … it’s really nice, it’s a change of lifestyle.”

Paris
Paris, Wikimedia

“But some people think the new buildings are too tall or too modern,” he added, pointing to a bright yellow crane looming over a half-completed building.

Denis Musanga, who two months ago moved to Clichy-Batignolles from the Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel, said he was “shocked by how clean it is, even at night.”

He is less convinced of the “affordable” label, however, saying that he pays 650 euros for one room in a two-bed flat — “much more than what I paid in the suburbs.”

Citizen-led

If zero-carbon initiatives are to succeed, citizens need to buy into them, according to the city of Paris’ climate plan, which received hundreds of proposals from residents to improve their city.

Fortunately, many ways of cutting emissions can also help people be more comfortable or save money, experts said.

Improving home insultation, for instance, can curb emissions, make people more comfortable and make a “significant difference” in their energy bills, Whittington said.

“Loft insulation for example is one of the easiest things to do, but what holds people back from doing it is the hassle. When do you do it? How do you clear the loft?”

Climate, Paris
The Eiffel tower is illuminated in green with the words “Paris Agreement is Done,” to celebrate the Paris U.N. Climate Change agreement in Paris. VOA

European cities have come a long way in improving energy efficiency in buildings and homes, he said, but still have a “huge body of old, inefficient buildings.”

“That’s a missed opportunity to tackle energy waste and improve people’s lives,” he said.

Aiming to tackle this is France’s Passeport Efficacite Energetique (Energy Efficiency Passport) — a project led by think tanks and companies such as French utility EDF. It encourages householders to renovate their homes step by step.

Also Read: ‘Carbon Removal’ An Urgent Priority to Stop Climate Change

Still in its pilot phase, the project involves auditing the energy efficiency of homes and storing any progress made — such as the use of more efficient lighting — with an online tool.

Musanga, whose building is not yet equipped with solar panels, said he is open to the idea but “wants proof” that going greener can save him money.

“If it helps the planet, then that’s a bonus,” he said, tying on his rollerblades before disappearing into the distance. (VOA)