6 February 2012, Kathmandu. The mountain ecosystems of the Hindu Kush–Himalayas have a pivotal role in protecting the environment and in providing goods and services essential for human wellbeing and prosperity. Yet while government, research and development institutions, and civil society groups have frequently convened to discuss approaches to sustainable development in mountains, the private sector has not often been at the table. On Friday, 3 February, a side event at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) invited business into the discussion.
The event ‘Business Opportunities in Mountain Ecosystem Management’ was organised by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). It provided a rare opportunity for scientists, economists, members of the business community, and policy makers to focus on the role and responsibility of businesses in sustainable mountain development and to look at the emerging investment opportunities. Companies attending included Dabar India, Infosys, Philips, Lavasa Corporation Limited, Tata Power, and World House. International non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) were also present.
After a welcome address by Dr Leena Srivastava, Executive Director of TERI, speakers addressed business opportunities in mountains through value chains (Anu Joshi Shrestha, ICIMOD); mountain ecosystem services and incentive mechanisms (Laxman Joshi, ICIMOD); Himalayan ecosystem products and local livelihoods (Dr Yogesh Gokhhale, TERI); and energy-efficient lighting systems, an example of a business opportunity that can also contribute to improving local livelihoods and environment (Harry Verhaar, Philips Electronics India Limited). The speakers emphasised the scope for achieving goals of both business and ecological sustainability through mechanisms such as value chains, payment for ecosystem services, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), and access and benefit sharing.
The presentations were followed by a panel discussion (moderated by Ardhendu Sen, Distinguished Fellow, TERI) and a lively question-and-answer session. Panelists included Krunal Negandhi (LAVASA, Land Development), Dr Naresh Malhan (Solar Energy), Ramesh Mumukshu (community representative), and Dr Giridhar Kinhal (ICIMOD). Dr David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD, chaired the special event.
The business sector is the missing link in the sustainable management of Himalayan ecosystems, the event showed. Participants recognised that these ecosystems provide products and services essential for many businesses in the region. Therefore being ‘green’ is not just a buzzword for business, but a survival strategy for future. Businesses can benefit from engaging in the value chains of high-value mountain products and services, and in so doing can also contribute to livelihood enhancement of local communities. Thus the session emphasised the importance of equitable profit sharing between business and local communities. A mechanism similar to the Clean Development Mechanism was suggested as a means of implementing payment for environmental services in the Hindu Kush–Himalayan region.
Knowledge centres such as ICIMOD and TERI can play an important role as matchmakers in developing, demonstrating, and promoting relevant mechanisms for business engagement in mountain ecosystem management. A final message of the event was that effective communication among institutions, businesses, and communities depends on their use of language that all can easily understand.
ICIMOD elsewhere at DSDS
Dr David Molden, Director General, spoke at a special session on ‘Water - Our Vital Commons’. He highlighted the impact of climate change on the amount of snow and ice in the Himalayas and the implications for uncertainty about the volume and seasonality of water supply in future.
On 2 February, ICIMOD, jointly with India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) and TERI, organised a special event on `Sustainable Mountain Development in the Context of Rio+20’. The event called for a new mountain agenda at global level to protect and sustain mountain systems for their vital services as a global commons – chiefly as sources of water for drinking, agriculture, industry, and hydropower, but also for their climate regulating and carbon-storage functions, their unique agro-biodiversity, and many natural products particular to mountain niche ecosystems. The new agenda should promote incentives to mountain people for conserving and managing the resources to ensure a continued flow of crucial goods and services for the benefit of all.
ICIMOD also participated in a side event on ‘Women and the Green Economy’ on 1 February, hosted by TERI and the Earth Day Network. Dr Ritu Verma, Gender and Governance Division Head, ICIMOD, presented on the role of women’s leadership in prioritising sustainability and green economic development. She emphasised the importance of increased attention to gender issues and equality in environment and sustainability debates, especially to make a difference to the poorest section of society