Wednesday, April 30, 2014

China and Nepal agree to cooperate on mountain science

Bhrikuti Rai in China has agreed to share scientific knowledge with Nepal on the effects of climate and environmental changes on the Tibetan plateau in order to spur sustainable development. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) signed memorandums of understanding earlier this month (7 April) with Nepalese research institutions the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and Tribhuvan University.

The agreement is part of the Third Pole Environment (TPE) initiative, a research programme CAS set up in 2009 to study the Tibetan plateau. The area is often referred to as the ‘third pole’ because it contains huge quantities of ice in the form of glaciers that feed major Asian rivers.

Glacial melt in Nepal has previously been a source of flooding: in 2008 a devastating flood hit northern India after a river breached flood defences, leading some to call for better cross-border monitoring of conditions in the mountain regions where the rivers begin.

ICIMOD could now become an important player in environmental research spearheaded by TPE in the Himalayan region, says Dong Qi of the bureau of international cooperation at CAS. The agreement will also open the way for government institutions to cooperate on environmental research, he says.

Areas for cooperation outlined in the memorandum include: monitoring air quality levels; studying high-altitude wetland and river systems to share information on water discharge and strengthen flood forecasting; and researching climate change impacts, for example the effect of pollutants such as elemental carbon on glacial melt and fresh water availability in the region....

Taboche (6367 m) seen from the same point in 2007. The clean, debris-free glaciers and ice nestled below the Taboche summit have been reduced considerably by recent warming trends. Shot by Alton Byers, Khumbu, Nepal, 2007, The Mountain Institute., Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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