How to save the frag­ile Hindu-kush belt

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - COMMENT -

Pol­i­cy­mak­ers must start look­ing at eco­nomic val­u­a­tion of ecosys­tems

Acom­pre­hen­sive assessment of the Hindu-kush Hi­malaya (HKH) re­gion has said that a 1.5°C rise in global tem­per­a­ture over pre-in­dus­trial lev­els will spell doom for the frag­ile ecol­ogy of the re­gion. The re­port, which deals with cli­mate change, bio­di­ver­sity, en­ergy, cryosphere (frozen wa­ter), wa­ter, food se­cu­rity, air pol­lu­tion, disas­ter and re­silience, poverty, adap­ta­tion, and gen­der and mi­gra­tion, is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause the HKH re­gion cov­ers 4.2 mil­lion square km across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, In­dia, Myan­mar, Nepal, and Pak­istan. The re­gion is home to 10 ma­jor river basins and four of 36 global bio­di­ver­sity hot spots. The re­port is alarm­ing and calls for se­ri­ous in­tro­spec­tion by the eight coun­tries be­cause this trans­bound­ary prob­lem must have trans­bound­ary so­lu­tions. The re­gion is un­der­go­ing rapid changes driven by stres­sors such as cli­mate change and hu­man con­flicts, and fac­tors like glob­al­i­sa­tion, in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment, mi­gra­tion, tourism, and ur­ban­i­sa­tion. The out­come of the in­ter­play of these com­plex driv­ers of change is chal­leng­ing to pre­dict but will have ma­jor con­se­quences, not just in the re­gion but across the world.

Such ex­ces­sive de­mands on frag­ile ecosys­tems will also di­min­ish their ca­pac­ity and so there is a need to pro­mote their sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and also at­tach an eco­nomic value to the ser­vices they pro­vide to people who de­pend on them. But that doesn’t hap­pen be­cause such ser­vices are in­tan­gi­ble and do not have an ex­plicit mar­ket value. For­tu­nately, econ­o­mists are look­ing at the ecosys­tems as cap­i­tal as­sets and work­ing on their val­u­a­tion meth­ods. This is an evolv­ing sci­ence, but pol­i­cy­mak­ers must start look­ing at such val­u­a­tion of ecosys­tems se­ri­ously.

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