Hindu Kush Himalaya region – the pulse of the planet – is most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change

Pema Gyamtsho

Distinguished guests from the ministry and government departments, USAID, our media friends, and ICIMOD colleagues.

A very good morning and a warm welcome to ICIMOD! I am pleased to welcome you to our headquarters to celebrate Earth Day 2022 and the launch of Nepal’s National Land Cover Monitoring System.

This year’s Earth Day campaign calls for courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, our livelihoods and “Invest in our Planet” together.

ICIMOD’s rally cry to “protect the pulse” underscores the importance of investing in our planet as the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region – the pulse of the planet – is most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. With 18.23% of its landmass under snow cover, the HKH region has the largest reserves of ice outside the polar regions. It is home to four global biodiversity hotspots and contains the headwaters of 10 major Asian river systems. The HKH provides essential resources, especially water and ecosystem services, to close to two billion people – or one-fourth of humanity.

The HKH region is also a climate hotspot. In a 1.5°C world, glaciers in the HKH are projected to lose one-third of their volume by 2100. This will exacerbate climate-induced disasters in the region and have negative impacts on river flows and lives and livelihoods in the region and beyond.

In response to this alarming climate crisis, the eight HKH countries signed the Ministerial Declaration and launched the HKH Call to Action to achieve – climate-resilient mountain communities; carbon-neutral mountain societies; and climate-aligned financial flows in the region.

This year’s Earth Day pledge “to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably) for a green and prosperous future” closely reflects the sentiment of our HKH Call to Action.

On this special day, we are also celebrating the launch of Nepal’s National Land Cover Monitoring System and the release of the national land cover data. The system will improve reporting on forest cover change and support Nepal in making evidence-based policies to improve related land management practices. The release of Nepal’s national land cover data will help fill the data gaps prevalent in our region, and support national and international reporting on national forest cover and carbon stocks.

Regular monitoring of land cover and land use change is important for land use planning, sustaining ecosystem services, and building resilience to climate change.  

Last year, we launched the Regional Land Cover Monitoring System (RLCMS), an operational service that provides annual land cover mapping and change analysis services for the entire HKH region. Adapting the same framework, we are working with line agencies in other ICIMOD regional member countries (RMCs) to develop national land cover monitoring systems that are customized to national needs.

Nepal is the first country in the region to institutionalize the NLCMS and officially endorse the datasets.

Let’s take this opportunity to congratulate the Forest Resource and Training Centre (FRTC) for achieving this major milestone.

It has been a pleasure for ICIMOD to collaborate with FRTC in this important endeavour. At this juncture, I want to assure that ICIMOD will continue extending technical support to FRTC to generate annual land cover maps and maintain the NLCMS.

I would also like to acknowledge the support from USAID and NASA, who have trusted us with hosting SERVIR’s Hindu Kush Himalaya hub for over a decade. Through this unique initiative, we have been able to promote the use of Earth observation and geospatial information technologies to address critical challenges in climate change, food security, water and related disasters, land use, and air quality in our region. We hope to continue this collaboration to improve resilience and sustainable resource management at local, national, and regional scales into the future.

(Pema Gyamtsho, Director General of ICIMOD's Remarks on the Land Cover Monitoring System for Nepal Launching ceremony)