Conservation Initiatives in the HKH

The HKH region

Extending over an area of 4.3 million and parts of eight countries, the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region is among the most fragile and biodiversity-rich areas in the world. The region is home to millions of people, many of them members of poor and marginalised communities who depend on the biological resources of the region for their subsistence livelihoods. The environmental services provided by the glaciers, rivers, forests, rangelands, and wetlands in the region impact on the lifelines of many downstream communities, and areas beyond the region.

The biodiversity significance of the region has been realised by the countries sharing the region, and their commitment to protect and conserve biodiversity is well reflected in the establishment of 488 protected areas covering 39% of the region’s geographical area. Their commitment to the conservation of biodiversity is further formalised and strengthened by the Convention on Biological Diversity, to which all the RMCs are signatories. However, spatial coverage alone is inadequate to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. This is especially true when biodiversity resources form an integral part of the support system of local people and where species are spread beyond the confinement of one protected area or of national boundaries. In addition, there are various drivers of change – climate change, land use change, habitat fragmentation, population growth, use of resources by poor and marginalised people, fragmentation of families, external market forces, and globalisation – that constantly challenge the sustainable management of biodiversity in the region.

Approach to biodiversity management

ICIMOD has adopted the Convention for Biological Diversity’s (CBD’s) ecosystem approach to biodiversity management as it balances the conservation of biodiversity resources with sustainable use, while considering the possible impacts of climate change on biodiversity. The ecosystem approach recognises people and their cultures and traditions as an integral part of ecosystems and protected area management. The approach envisages landscape level planning to establish and maintain contiguous habitats for the long-term protection and sustainability of biodiversity and for human wellbeing. In line with CBD’s Programme of Work on Protected Areas and Programme of Work on Mountain Biodiversity ICIMOD has identified seven globally significant, transboundary conservation landscapes in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas, namely (from west to east): i) Wakhan, ii) Karakoram, iii) Kailash, iv) Everest, v) Kangchenjunga, vi) Brahmaputra Salween, and vii) Cherapunjee Chittagong (View Map). ICIMOD has initiated Transboundary Biodiversity Management (TBM) in these landscapes, which refers to coordinated conservation action by many actors and stakeholders in more than one country for the cumulative and long-term conservation and management of an entire landscape.

Conservation pathways

ICIMOD began landscape conservation in 1994 in the Everest region. The Everest experience demonstrated the acceptance of the Transboundary Biodiversity Management concept by protected area managers, scientists, and local people. It also provided an opportunity for cooperation between China and Nepal for the management of the Everest Landscape. The next initiative was the Kangchenjunga Landscape. Bhutan, India, and Nepal joined in a regional dialogue on the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Ecosystem Approach to conservation for the management of Kangchenjunga Landscape. The Karakoram Landscape initiative in the western Himalayas was of immense importance as it led to a political agreement at the highest level for the development of a common management plan for the conservation and socioeconomic development of two protected areas located adjacent to each other in the landscape: Khunjerab National Park in Pakistan and Taxkorgan Nature Reserve in China. More recently, under the Kailash Sacred Landscape conservation initiative , among China, India and Nepal, a regional cooperation framework is being developed for research and monitoring towards the development of a knowledge base on the impact of climate change on biodiversity, as well as an adaptive strategy for people vulnerable to climate change (link to its web page). In the Brahmaputra Salween Conservation Landscape, the three countries sharing the landscape (China, India and Myanmar) have discussed their strategic direction and action . A feasibility assessment for developing this complex as a transboundary landscape is underway.