Basanta Shrestha Director - Strategic Cooperation ICIMOD, Nepal


GIS and Earth Observation – Responding to Mountain Development Challenges in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region

Situated in the South Asian region, the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) is youngest, highest and one of the fragile mountain system of the world. The HKH region signifies the 'water towers' of the Asia providing water not only to people in the immediate vicinity but also to more than a billion people in the downstream of South Asia. They act as reservoirs of biodiversity which include all or part of four global biodiversity hotspots. The region is also known for its vast cultural diversity and natural heritage. The region suffers from immense natural disasters every year and known as one of the disaster hotspot in the world.

Climate change combined with host of rapid socio-ecological changes are creating immense pressures on the mountain systems of the HKH region. The region constituting complex and diverse physical and ecological conditions present a formidable challenge to collect and manage data and information. Unprecedented development in earth observation, GIS, Internet and convergence of myriad of technologies including social media, crowd sourcing, cloud computing, spatial visualization are providing enormous opportunities to gain comprehensive understanding of the state of the mountain system and change processes that are taking place.The South Asian region can greatly benefit from the development of modern space and geospatial sciences which not only provide useful tools and instruments to perform integrated assessment and reporting of complex mountain system but also to feed into evidence based regional policies and practices.

With the increasing emphasis of geospatial science and technology and its potential benefits to society, ICIMOD is utilizing earth observation for the benefit of mountain and downstream communities by building regional and national capacity and fostering regional cooperation of key common concerns. As such, ICIMOD has successfully put into use a wide variety of decision applications in the areas of - assessing impact of climate change on snow and glaciers, determining water availability scenarios in river basins, devising sustainable conservation strategy for transboundarylandscapes, issuing timey flood/flash flood early warning, agriculture monitoring for food security analysis, estimating carbon financing for communities to benefit from REDD+ mechanism among others.Through regional and international partnerships, ICIMOD continually strives to serve as a regional Centre of Excellence on earth observation and geospatial