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Mountain states find common ground on disaster management, climate change

Itanagar: A unique three-day summit on sustainable development of mountain states in India, held in this Arunachal Pradesh capital, called for special steps for disaster risk reduction and optimal utilisation of mountain agricultural resources.

Given the disastrous earthquake in Nepal in April this year and the 2013 cloudburst in Uttarakhand, disaster risk reduction was the central theme of the 2015 edition of the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS) that was attended by stakeholders across multiple sectors from 11 mountain states of the country.

A key issue that was raised in terms of disaster risk reduction was the adoption of a building code separate from the rest of India for the 11 mountain states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand.

“It is the opinion of the legislators present in this meet that the building code applicable to the whole of the nation is not ideal for buildings in the mountain states,” stated a resolution adopted at the end of the summit held from October 7 to 9.

“It is resolved that legislators from mountain states will raise the issue of forming a separate building code for mountains at different forums including the state legislative assemblies and the parliament.”

In the inaugural session of the summit, Kamal Kishore, member of the National Disaster Authority, highlighted the fact that as many as 41 districts of the 11 mountain states did not have a disaster management plan in place.

“Can we earnestly do something for the hill states in terms of earthquakes and landslides?,” he appealed.

This found reflection in the final resolution that stated that “41 districts across 11 mountain states are yet to formulate district disaster management plans”.

“It is resolved that the districts will be identified in a fast-tracked manner and a disaster management will be formulated in each of the districts within the next one year,” it stated.

Mountain agriculture was another key issue that came up for wide discussion between the participants of the summit.

An output report released after several brain-storming sessions on the issue called for “an ecologically sustainable, socially inclusive, resilient, diverse, flourishing and market-linked mountain agriculture economy driven by youth and women by 2030”.

It also called for the formulation of a clear mountain-specific policy approach for Himalayan agriculture.

Given that the summit was held ahead of the Conference of Parties (CoP) 21 climate summit to be held in Paris later this year, climate change was another issue that came up for much discussion.

Addressing a meeting of legislators of the 11 mountain states, Speaker of the Arunachal Pradesh assembly, Nabam Rebia, highlighted the fact that the country and the world as a whole was facing disasters at an increasing pace in all parts.

“We faced destructive floods in Uttarakhand in 2013, annual floods in Assam, floods in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2014 and the recent earthquake in Nepal,” he said.

According to Rebia, the mountain states and their sensitive ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Lok Sabha member from Sikkim PD Rai stressed the importance of advocacy within the northeastern states so that effective policies and frameworks could be worked out for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The Itanagar summit also saw Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki calling for the creation of a separate ministry at the Centre for the country’s mountain states.

“Due to geographical and historical reasons, the resources of the mountains, both natural and human, are either under-utilised or ill-utilised,” Tuki said while inaugurating the event.

“Therefore, policy decisions to protect and sustainably harness these resources must be put in place. The role of the union government is paramount in providing an umbrella for all the mountain states, preferably in the form of a separate ministry,” he said.

Sponsored by the GLOBE (Global Learning and and Observations to Benefit the Environment) India and the Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), this year’s SMDS was hosted by Sustainable Development Forum Arunachal Pradesh.

The event also saw the legislators of all 11 mountain states coming under the common banner of GLOBE-IMI Pan Himalayan Legislators Forum.

(By Aroonim Bhuyan, IANS)

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