PESHAWAR    -          International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), an international organization working towards sustaining resources,enhancing livelihood and valuing culture across HKK has published a policy paper on COVID-19 impacts and policy response in the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

According to a press release issued here on Monday, the policy paper addressed critical issues for the mountains including impacts across mountain economies,food and nutrition security,social,gender and environmental dimensions as well as climate actions and resilience,regional and international cooperation.

As governments around the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region reel from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic immediate, medium and long-term responses must be inclusive of mountain realities to be truly effective and meaningful and to concurrently addressed the region’s significant climate change challenges.

Climate change has left HKH mountain environments and communities vulnerable and the pandemic has exacerbated these vulnerabilities.The dramatic economic decline and loss of livelihoods as a result of the pandemic has impacted mountain communities across the region particularly hard. Remittances and tourism-based income – economic lifelines for mountain people – have been severed, reads the paper.

Since poverty and malnutrition rates were higher in the mountains than in other parts of the HKH countries, the pandemic threatened to exacerbate hunger and to push large numbers of mountain people into poverty. If environmental connections and ecosystem restoration were neglected, the likelihood of more zoonotic disease outbreaks and pandemics increased, it added.

The policy paper argued for an inclusive and resilient recovery through scaled-up social protection systems, nature-based solutions, an inclusive and robust financial landscape, a resilient entrepreneurial ecosystem, resilient infrastructure development and a sustainable and inclusive labour market.

The recommendations were meant to guide HKH governments in planning their resilient recovery and to build back better for a more prosperous future.

This inclusive and resilient recovery would assist mountain communities to recover from the current shock of the pandemic while also addressing the imminent threats posed by climate change in the region.

Eklabya Sharma, ICIMOD’s Deputy Director General pointed out that “It is clear that sooner or later we will have a vaccine for COVID-19, but there’s no vaccine for climate change.”

Since the impacts of climate change on the environments and peoples of the HKH would remain even after the pandemic was over, it was important that post-pandemic recovery plans focus on climate action, resilience, and sustainable mountain development.

Healthy mountain ecosystems and economies were essential for the overall prosperity and well-being of the region and of the globe, continues the policy paper.

The HKH region is the pulse of the planet. It provides water, biodiversity and other ecosystems resources to nearly two billion people living in the mountains and downstream and serves as a measure for the overall health of the planet, since what happens here impacts what happens across the globe, “Working together,the HKH countries can be more effectively address trans boundary issues of labour migration and remittance, cross-border trade, disaster management and protection of ecosystems while also harnessing international funds to address climate change,”he added.

Just as mountain and other marginalized communities must remain at the center of responses to this pandemic, climate change must also remain at the center of global, regional, and national responses, the paper stressed.

“A more humane, inclusive, sustainable, and equitable global order is the need of the hour. We can together ensure a prosperous future for the HKH and when the pulse of the planet in the HKH beats strongly, we know that the planet is healthy,”it concluded.