This is a policy review and capacity building needs assessment for integration of High Altitude Wetlands into River Basin Management in Bhutan, China, India and Nepal.
The Hindu Kush Himalayas is replete with wetlands distributed throughout the region at different latitudes, longitudes and altitudes. Fed primarily by melting glaciers, these wetlands play an enormous role in ecological and economic security of the region through their wide range of ecosystem services, including supporting local livelihoods, regulation of hydrological regimes, carbon sequestration and support to biodiversity.
Threat of degradation
Despite their significant role, these wetlands are under threat due to degradation of catchments, water diversions, unsustainable tourism and other pressures. Climate change has severe implications for these wetlands through changes in hydrological regimes, biodiversity and unmanaged mitigation and adaptation responses. Integration of wetland restoration and sustainable management in adaptation strategies would enhance effectiveness of regional response to climate change.
One of the key initiatives of Wetlands International for conservation of the high altitude wetlands is support to Himalayan Initiative (a multi-country initiative for these wetlands supported by Wetlands International, WWF and IUCN) through application of Asian Wetland Inventory Approach and stakeholder led catchment management in Bhutan, China, India and Nepal. Implemented as a project supported by European Union, one of the key activities was to establish the basis for integrated strategy for conservation and wise use of High Altitude Wetlands through capacity building needs analysis in Bhutan, China, India and Nepal.
National level reviews
The assessment was carried out through a series of national level reviews culminating into a regional consultation workshop held in New Delhi, India during 26 – 28 March 2008. The workshop provided a forum for establishing a baseline of the current degree of integration of wetland wise use in river basin management; identifying practices and tools most appropriate to integrating river basin management and wetland wise use sharing European and Himalayan experiences; and , specifying policy development needs in the context. The consultation workshop was attended by 37 participants from government and non government agencies from the four focal countries, representatives from Ramsar Convention and experts.
The present publication summarizes the outcomes of the review and consultation process and outlines the capacity building framework in the context of integration of high altitude wetlands into river basin management. High altitude wetlands within the Hindu Kush Himalayan region are discussed with emphasis on their ecosystem services, role in river basin management and ways in which the current policies and strategies within wetland and water resources sectors could best achieve this integration.