Climate Change and Security in South Asia
Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
8 December 2010, LalitpurReport Prepared by:
Ritu Raj Subedi
The Rising Nepal
The world has now wakened up to the consequences
of climate change albeit at slow pace. The humanity is facing
formidable challenges of climate change because of its own follies
and reckless actions. The utter disregard to the nature has put
its existence under threat. Human's avarice to exploit the natural
resources at inexhaustible level has invited unimaginable problems
seen in the melting of glaciers, rising in temperature, erratic
pattern of monsoon, rising level of sea, depletion of ozone, loss
of rain forest and flood havoc. These climatic changes occurred
earlier too but their intensity has now increased at alarming
scale, impelling people to raise ethical questions over the industrialisation
and modern civilisation that are to blame for the ever increasing
environmental degradation locally and globally.
The earth's third largest pool of glaciers
of Himalayas and Tibetan plateau that sustains South Asian civilisation
has also become the victim of climate changes. The drying of
headwater to changed land use is eroding the land's capacity
to support life and livelihood and risks inducing migration
of people with the potential to flash local and trans-border
conflicts. With the increasing population and decreasing natural
resources, the livelihood in South Asia has been strained. Climate
change has several implications for the people in the region.
To highlight these aspects coherently and intellectually, Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung Nepal chapter invited Dr. Christian Wagner, Head
of Research Division, German Institute for International and
Security Affairs (SWP), here on December 8, 2010. He spoke on
'Climate Change and Security in South Asia' at a programme where
a large number of experts and professionals from cross-cutting
fields shared their views as well as commented Dr. Wagner's
Dr. Wagner said the people and the countries
have been facing a lot of environmental problems for many years
in the form of deforestation, change in annual monsoon, rising
temperature and melting down of glaciers.
The German expert said, "The climate
change will add another dimension to the already existing environmental
problem. It aggravates the whole environmental situation and
affects development negatively."
Climate change in forms of floods forces the
rural people out of their land. They seek for better economic
opportunity in the city. "Therefore, it creates very new
dimension and aggravate economic and employment problems. Since
many years, migration may have also political implications.
For example, in India there is tension between the migrants
and local people, giving rise to violence in Assam, Maharastra.
Similar, cases are found in other South Asian countries including
Sri Lanka and Pakistan."
He noted that the climate change appears in
new form of migration- be it in national or translational level.
About 20 million people have been internally displaced, creating
new tension in the region. Indo- Pakistani conflict has displaced
Around 2.3 per cent migration, which happened
due to the rise in water level, will sharpen conflict in the
21st century, he argued and added that conflict in Kashmir is
related to resources.
Urbanisation is another factor to increase
climate change, he said.
He mentioned that positive developments have
also taken place in the region. Civil war in Nepal and Sri Lank
came to an end. Reconstruction works are underway in Nepal and
However, climate change impacts will intensify
conflict in South Asia, claimed the German scholar.
Dr. Wagner said that Koshi and Gandaki rivers
supply 6 per cent of water for Nepal and India and bilateral
cooperation was needed to check floods causing damages to the
"There is the need of regional cooperation
to protect people from long term and short term impact of climate
change. But, South Asia governments have failed to deliver goods
to public, invest in education, job creation and social security,
which have weakened the efforts to mitigate the climate change
consequences" he added.
He claimed that political reforms have taken
a back seat while corruption, poverty and unemployment have
risen across the region.
There should be international and regional
cooperation to help Nepal by providing it with resources, institution
and technology, he said.
The study has shown that advanced nations
are more responsible for high gas emission. "Therefore
there is the need of common understanding and the rich nations
have bigger responsibility to support the developing and poor
nations like Nepal to adapt to climate change."
Dev Raj Dahal, head of Nepal FES Office, said that sustainable
development path is the one way to shift from the consumption
of fossil fuels (coal, cold and gas) to alternative source of
energy (solar, water, wind and biogas).
"South Asia leaders have to upgrade the
policy making and institutional capacity to address climate
change by marking a transition to a low-carbon economy and scale
up interregional cooperation in hydropower, river management,
flood data monitoring, etc and strive do no harm to nature,"
Dahal further noted that when the environmental
security was translational in nature national separateness could
not be alone become a rational solution.
He said that there was the need of paradigm shift from resource-intensive
production to knowledge intensive one for just and sustainable
development. "The architecture of humanity is not artificial
creation; it is built on the ethical foundation of social life
intrinsically embedded in nature."
Udo Weber from German embassy said that climate
change had cross-cutting impacts and the nations should forge
global and regional cooperation to deal with it.
He informed that Germany supported Nepal in
energy, renewal energy, solar system, biogas, which helps rural
population to contribute to diversification of rural economy
so that they are not vulnerable to climate change impacts.
The German government is supporting ICIMOD
for building regional network here for scientific research.
From the floor
Journalist Narendra Upadhaya asked how water
stress lead to conflict and wars in South Asia? Wagner indicated
that water dispute could trigger conflict that eventually could
take the form of war.
Sambhu Rana said Dr. Wagner's paper lacked
comprehensive security concept, which excluded Nepal.
Rana added that leadership, good governance
and justice delivery were vital for security.
He expressed doubt on the capacity of Nepalese
leadership to restore peace following the departure of UNMIN
Dr. Hari Bansa Jha held the view that Dr.
Wagner only focused on negative aspects.
"All South Asian countries, except Nepal and Afghanistan,
are witnessing economic growth. Rural India is also changing."
Jha claimed Dr. Wagner failed to highlight
the conditions of the climate change.
"What will happen in South Asia if China
diverts the Brahmaputra River to Westward region?"
Lal Babu Yadav said that Dr. Wagner kept mum
on human security. "Although the state grants rights to
people, they are not in position to exercise them."
Yadav said, as there is the identity crisis,
there is need of its global definition.
Journalist Dhruba Hari Adhikari enquired about
the condition of land reforms and landholding in South Asia
where 70 per cent people live in rural areas.
Adhikari also sought Wagner views as to why
corruption occurred at same ration in democratic and authoritarian
states as well?
Dr. Tulasi Pathak dwelt on the implication
of nuclear accident in Nepal since it is surrounded by the nations
with nuclear power.
Khadga KC asked Dr. Wagner to see climate
change issue from consumer perspective.
He said priority needed to be shifted towards
poverty reduction from climate change. He insisted that advanced
countries are more responsible for gas emission than the poor
countries, so the former have greater responsibility to fight
Pravash Devkota called for establishing cultural
linkage with climate change issue.
Adarsa Pokharel said whether Mr Wagner put
all the problems in the basket of climate change. How can corruption
be linked to Climate Change? There should be seperation of issues.
Dr. Bishnu Bhandari said that it had become
difficult to distinguish between the climate change and change
in the weather pattern.
"Climate change is a perpetual phenomenon.
It happened and will happen, for example, glacierslakes appear
and reappear. We should learn to adapt to it," he said
and added that there was indigenous way to adapt to it.
Dr. Prabal Raj Pokharel raised the issue of
climate change from the perspective of communication, research
Dr. Birendra Mishra asked how since Indian
independence, commission to settle question and security in
south Asia are handled?
South Asia is grappled with a lot of problems
relating to water, weather and good governance. What I mean
to say that the alteration in water structure invites common
problem in the region. There is the problem of governance and
leadership that affects all.
Recently, in Indian state of Bihar, Nitesh
Kumar raised governance issue in the polls and clinched a thumping
I admit Nepal is left out in the concept of
comprehensive security in my dissertation.
Inclusive GDP growth and investment in education
is necessary. Human security is as important as the issue of
climate change. For the adaptation to climate change and mitigation
of its effects huge flow of money will be diverted. In the absence
of accountable mechanism there is a risk of corruption and diversion
of moeny to corrupt elites.
Climate change is a regular phenomenon. We
are now talking about its global impacts.
I do not see the possibility of nuclear accident.
Nuclear deterrence has not increased in the region. It is true
that the western nations have bigger duty to cut gas emission.
However, it should be the national agenda of all countries.
Public awareness about the negative effects of climate change
and proper policy to address them is necessary.
The people have right to protect property
in democratic society. The elements of transparency and accountability
remain high in democracy. It has structural mechanism to better
control corruption but these are lacking in authoritarian state.
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