Kathmandu, Nepal, 11 December 2011. ICIMOD’s celebration of International Mountain Day this year highlights mountain forests. The day’s theme of ‘Mountains and Forests‘ bridges with the International Year of Forests 2011, which seeks to revive global consciousness among forest-dependent communities, the public, and policy makers of the central role of forests in addressing a wide range of conservation, socioeconomic, and climate change challenges. Annual global forest loss of 13 million hectares and massive forest degradation worldwide contribute to about one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. The loss of more than 4 million hectares of primary forest each year decimates biodiversity and constrains the livelihoods of millions dependent on diverse forest ecosystems across the planet.
One-fourth of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region is covered by forests. In combination with other ecosystems (e.g., rangelands, agriculture, wetlands), the region’s forests deliver a wide range of goods and services including water, food, household energy, timber, and fodder. They provide opportunities for recreation and spiritual inspiration. Thus, for the Himalayan people, forests are a source of livelihoods, culture, and development. Their use of many forest plant and animal species demonstrates the importance that mountain communities place on forest biodiversity. Furthermore, the role of forests in adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change is increasingly recognised.
Despite the immense environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural value of the region’s forest ecosystems and the wide range of national policies, climate-related initiatives, and development strategies created to conserve them, the region’s forests have become degraded and depleted over the years. Nearly two-thirds of the forest cover in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region is prone to forest fires, largely human-induced. Only three of the eight countries of the region (Bhutan, China, and India) have reported forest cover increase in recent years, mainly through forest plantation. Swelling human needs and haphazard development initiatives have not been matched by sustainable forest management, indispensable to secure and sustain forest environmental services and goods. Loss of forest cover affects biodiversity, reduces agricultural productivity, and constrains ecosystem services in the region, threatening the sustainable livelihoods of mountain people.
ICIMOD with its regional partners is making concerted efforts to meet the objectives of the International Year of Forests 2011. ICIMOD contributes to sustainable forest management by developing solutions in light of complex drivers of change and promoting these through knowledge sharing activities in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan Region. ICIMOD aims to raise global awareness through events such as World Environment Day and in preparatory work for Rio+20, by highlighting mountain forests’ role in promoting green economy and in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
On this year’s International Mountain Day, ICIMOD would like to send a loud and clear message to regional and national policy makers and practitioners, as well as to grassroots communities: Improvements and innovations are needed in governance and adaptive management of forests and landscapes, to secure and sustain forest ecosystems. The continued supply of mountain ecosystem goods and services to millions in the region is essential for poverty reduction, economic growth, and the environment.
Best wishes to all on this special day.
Director General, ICIMOD
Director General, ICIMOD