MONITORING REPORT ISB: Experts at an international conference have emphasized for greater collaboration between various actors and initiatives to understand and mitigate the impacts of climate change in the Indus River Basin.

They also said that while there are data and research gaps, the situation is exacerbated by the lack of adequate sharing among researchers and between researchers and government suggesting that should be a priority.

More than 80 researchers, policy makers, journalists, and practitioners from the four countries including Pakistan sharing the- Indus basin, as well as international experts and representatives of development partners participated in the conference on “Climate and Environmental Change Impacts on the Indus Basin Waters” held last week in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman, who represented Pakistan in the conference, in his address at the inaugural session said that the seasonal shift in snowfall to late spring and the subsequent heat waves lasting two to three days have caused rapid melting of snow, flash floods, early avalanches, and loss of life and property along the basin.

He appreciated efforts by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), World Bank, and International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to organize the conference.

“The Indus River supports a population of about 215 million inhabitants of Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan, whose livelihood depends on these waters,” said Eklabya Sharma, Director of Programme Operations at ICIMOD, emphasizing the importance of research on the impacts of climate change in the Indus basin.

He added while reducing knowledge gaps is important, it is equally important that people and communities benefit from the knowledge we generate.

Dr Sharma also stressed the need for transboundary cooperation among the four countries to support the sustainable development and management of Indus waters.

“The Indus Basin is the most glacier and snowmelt dependent basin in the Greater Himalaya region. Climate change and resulting changes in seasonal runoff patterns pose significant challenges to livelihoods and socioeconomic development, and it is the poor who are the most vulnerable,” said Christina Leb, Senior Water Resources Specialist at the World Bank.

Alan Nicol from the IWMI said that the “level of challenges facing the Indus Basin call for collective action across the basin.”

He further emphasized the challenge of population growth, calling for “greater attention to the future employment needs of the growing economically active population”.

During the conference, scientists shared results from past and ongoing research, while practitioners presented the progress of ongoing initiatives in the basin. The topics of discussion were diverse and included climate change and variability, cryosphere dynamics, data collection and sharing, water availability and demand, climate induced hazards and risks, and local and basin-level adaptation strategies.

A pre-conference workshop addressed the development of tools to support stronger analysis and support to decision makers in complex upstream geographies.

“Greater coordination among researchers and the use of common methods and standards for data collection could enhance our understanding of the changing cryosphere and hydrological regimes in the Indus basin,” said Arun Bhakta Shrestha from ICIMOD.

A post-conference workshop was held on 19 February to discuss ways to bridge these gaps and create positive outcomes for greater cooperation.

Through group discussions and plenary sessions, the participants attempted to find solutions for challenging areas such as coordinating research and mutual stakeholders interaction and integrating research on the upper Indus basin with those on the lower part of the basin, and with policy and decision making.

The participants agreed that coordination and cooperation would be facilitated through two coordinating bodies already working in the basin: the Upper Indus Basin Network, which will focus on reducing knowledge gaps, and the Indus Forum, which will facilitate the coordination among various stakeholders, including policy makers.

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