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Earth Observation key to tackle climate change

KATHMANDU, Oct 5: Participants at a symposium Monday aired the view that Earth Observation was one of the keys to improving scientific knowledge and understanding of the climate change phenomena in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region.

Inaugurating the symposium, Chairman of the Constituent Assembly Subas Chandra Nembang acknowledged that the Earth Observation provides “unique opportunities for assessing key variables [of climate change]”. “The country should promote its use for improved scientific knowledge and assessing climate change in the region.”

Earth Observation is the spatial visualization of maps and spatial analysis which helps transform data into useful information. It can also track changes due to different climactic conditions, said Jose Achache, secretary of the Group on Earth Observations, an intergovernmental group of 83 member countries and 58 participating organizations coordinating Earth Observation.

“Space observation can be very important in disaster-mapping,” he said.

Andreas Schild, director general of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), said the symposium’s aim is to bridge the gap between technology and the community and to make connection between data users in order to better understand what is happening.

“This could develop specific mountain perspectives, develop niches and be particularly useful for stakeholders,” he added.

The Hindu Kush region, which stretches 3,500 kilometers across eight countries, is considered as the “third pole” and a major source of water for about 210 million people. However, experts said changing climate and rising temperatures have posed major threats for the region.

To observe these problems more efficiently, the USAID and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has partnered with ICIMOD to launch SERVIR-Himalaya today, which is expected to integrate satellite observations system and ‘predictive’ models with other geographic information system to monitor and forecast ecological changes. When installed, Nepal is going to be SERVIR’s third station after Central America and Africa.

Thakur Prasad Sharma, minister for Environment, said, SERVIR-Himalaya will be an important milestone and the data gathered from Earth Observation will help derive information and support in the decision-making.

Meanwhile, India’s Minister for Environment and Forest, Jairam Ramesh, said climate change in the HKH region is a ‘common concern.’ “India is keen on working with Nepal regarding climate change,” he said.

He said that India will be a part of the solution for global warming and take responsibility very seriously.

“India’s 60 percent of land is monsoon-dependent. More than 300 million live in peninsula area and are vulnerable to rising sea-level, and forest areas are depleting,” he added.

“The eco-restoration and biodiversity program initiated by India, Nepal and China in Mt Kailash is a good starting point for collaboration,” he said, adding, “The launch of greenhouse gases and aerosol monitoring system by 2012 and forestry satellite to measure and monitor on a real time daily basis by mid-2013 can benefit the region.”