The 11th Meet of the Mountain States (MoMS)

March 26, 2024

The 11th Meet of the Mountain States (MoMS) was organized by Integrated Mountain Initiative on March 22nd, 2024 coinciding with World Water Day on the theme of "Water Resources in the Himalaya – Disaster Resilience and Reduction". MoMS is an annual event of IMI that brings together policymakers, elected representatives, partners of IMI, and other relevant agencies to jointly work on priority actions related to key mountain issues.

In his opening address, Mr. Ramesh Negi, President IMI, outlined the objectives of MoMS 2024 to inform policymakers about the need for greater mountain sensitivity of policies on disaster and the allocation of appropriate financial resources to mitigate the collateral and multi-sectoral long-term damage. Mr. Roshan Rai, Secretary IMI set the context for the meet highlighting how disasters impact people in the mountains, with very little national focus. This year, the meet was supported by the Govt of Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand Council for Science and Technology (UCOST) and Sustainable Development Forum of Uttarakhand (SDFU).

The Chief Guest for the inaugural session focusing on Geo Hydrology of the Himalaya and Disasters was Smt Rita Khanduri, Hon’ble Speaker of Uttarakhand. The keynote address was delivered by Padmashree Dr. Eklabya Sharma who is currently the Strategic Advisor & Distinguished Fellow, ATREE. He highlighted how mountains face the brunt of climate change, and with a 1.5 degree C rise in temperature, Himalayan glaciers would lose 1/3rd of their volume by 2100. Evidence of this was also being witnessed by mountain states, he warned, remembering the recent Himachal and Sikkim and Darjeeling Kalimpong Disasters. Speaking on solutions, Dr. Sharma recommended the need for high altitude monitoring, early warning systems for disasters, river basin planning with zonal action, and an integrated approach for sustainability.

In her Chief Guest address, Smt. Khanduri spoke on the urgent need of bridging research with policy and practice, and there was a need to fall back on good traditional practices with strong community engagement. She highlighted that tourism pressures were also having a major impact in the Himalaya, and talked about the issue of limiting numbers in ecologically fragile areas. Himalayan communities were important stakeholders, and must be included in the policy spaces, she stated.

Technical session I on “Linkage between Himalayan geology, river system disaster and disaster response” was chaired by Dr. Durgesh Pant, DG - UCOST. In his address, he highlighted the Dehradun Declaration on Disasters coming out of the World Congress on Disasters organised in Dehradun in 2023.

Dr. Ashim Sattar- IIT Bhubaneswar shared his research experience from Sikkim of monitoring the glacial lakes. Dr. Smriti Basnett from Divecha Center for Climate Change, and Mr. Stanzin Chosphel, Exec Councilor from Ladakh Hill Council.

The second session that focused on evidence based DRR and way forward was chaired by Mr. Arvind Mehta, Ex Member Secretary - 15th Finance Commission. Panelists in this session highlighted the need to embed disaster risk reduction in planning processes. Mr. Anil Raj Rai, Secretary- Land Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Sikkim Government, Mr. PK Joshi from JNU and Dr. Nanda Kishore from ICIMOD were part of the session. In his remarks, Mr. Mehta spoke on the importance of having a river basin approach, with stringent mitigation measures with community participation put in place in all development interventions.

Presenting the summary of the meet, Mr. Sushil Ramola spoke on the need for having focused actions through common platforms engaging all stakeholders and investing in capacity building. He emphasised also on acknowledging the socio ecological fragility of the mountains that should reflect in devolution of funds in the 16th FC to mountains states.

Elected representatives of the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), key policymakers, government department representatives, academia, researchers, funding agencies and IMI members from the mountain states participated in the workshop. A photography exhibition on the recent Teesta Disaster was also put up on the sidelines of the meeting.

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