ICIMOD: Conserving Nepal’s Natural Resources

In an effort to conserve the unique biodiversity of the region known as the Hindu Kush Himalayas, the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) was formed in December 1983 with its headquarters based in Kathmandu. The organization works along with regional programs in the eight member countries it represents, with its stated mission being “To enable sustainable and resilient mountain development for improved and equitable livelihoods through knowledge and regional cooperation.”

A Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed by Dr Krishna Chandra Paudel (Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation) and David Molden (Director General of ICIMOD) to consolidate cross-border conservation projects. Supported by the United Kingdom and Germany, the Memorandum of Understanding is expected to promote cooperation between China, India and Nepal, by engaging all parties in safeguarding the ecosystem, thereby protecting the millions of people living there. Of the eight ICIMOD member countries, only Nepal and Bhutan lie entirely within the Hindu Kush Himalayas, with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar and Pakistan lying partly within the region (60%, 9%, 17%, 14%, 47%, and 51% respectively).

Among the programs overseen by ICIMOD is the concept of Transboundary Landscapes, where the emphasis is on conserving natural resources, such as forests, wetlands, watersheds and farming systems, and the people who rely on these resources, irrespective of country boundaries. For example the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) is a collaborative transboundary program between India, China and Nepal, incorporating the southwestern section of Tibet (an autonomous region of China), the Far-Western region of Nepal that borders Tibet, and the northeastern section of India’s Uttarakhand State. Covering an area of around 31,000 square kilometers, the region includes numerous sites of religious significance, such as Holy Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar, both of which are in Tibet, but which attract pilgrims from Nepal and India. In fact these holy sites are considered to be the ultimate destination by Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and Bon pilgrims, and have been for countless generations. Today, a number of factors, including climate change and population growth, threaten to degrade these areas if conservation steps aren’t taken. With tourism being a significant income generator for Nepal, the importance of conserving the country’s natural resources and promoting sustainable development is paramount, and this is where the combined knowledge and scientific resources of ICIMOD members and supporters can really make a difference.