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REUTERS
January 9, 2018

Cooperation to curb Asia’s climate risks still too rare: scientists

World

REUTERS
January 9, 2018

KATHMANDU: When heavy monsoon rains triggered unprecedented flooding last August in the area around western Nepal’s Babai and West Rapti rivers, the swollen waters crossed the border into India within a few hours.

But swift warnings from Nepali authorities to the downriver Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh allowed officials there to move people to safety, Indian officials say. Without that advice from Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, “there would have been no possibility for the Indian authorities to ensure timely evacuation of the people, which (would have) otherwise led to huge loss of lives,” said Anand Sharma of the Indian Meteorological Department.

As climate change increases the risk of flooding, glacial lake outbursts and cyclones, as well as droughts and heat waves, experts say that sharing information across borders is crucial to save lives and ensure economic stability in Asia’s Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) region. The region, which stretches from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east, includes over 1.3 billion people in eight countries.

They are connected by 10 river basins, including the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong and Yangtse, and some of the world’s largest mountain ranges, the Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalayas, which are home to over 54,000 glaciers covering more than 60,000 square kilometres.

But the cooperation seen between India and Nepal remains too rare in the region, regional officials say. Although countries face similar climate-related risks, political disagreements between countries, and a lack of legal arrangements for sharing information, are increasing the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters, they say.

David Molden, the director general of the Kathmandu-based International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), warned in an interview that HKH countries will suffer increasingly severe impacts from climate change-related disasters, particularly floods, cyclones, droughts and land erosion, if they do not cooperate in sharing information and early warnings. But in a bid to boost the region’s climate resilience, political leaders, government policymakers and scientists from the region agreed at a conference in Nepal in December to work harder to boost collaboration to tackle common disaster risks.

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