Third Pole

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The Asian High Mountain region or the "Hindu Kush - Karakoram - Himalayan" (HKKH) region spans an area of more than 4.5 million square kilometers (1.7 million square miles) in ten countries, i.e. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The region stores more snow and ice than anywhere else in the world outside the polar regions, giving its name: ’The Third Pole‘. The Third Pole contains the world’s highest mountains, including all 14 peaks above 8,000 meters (5 miles), is the source of 10 major rivers, and forms a formidable global ecological buffer.[1]

The Third Pole region has enormous socioeconomic and cultural diversity; it is home to many different ethnic communities speaking more than 600 languages and many more dialects. It is endowed with rich natural resources and contains all or part of four global biodiversity hot-spots. The mountain resources provide a wide range of ecosystem services and the basis for the livelihoods to the 220 million people living in the region, as well as indirectly to the 1.3 billion people—one fourth of the worlds’ population—living in the downstream river basins. More than 3 billion people benefit from the food and energy produced in these river basins that have their origin in the mountains.

The Third Pole and Climate Change[edit]

Climate change has become a major concern in the Third Pole. Mountain systems are particularly sensitive to climate change and the Third Pole region is home to some of the people most vulnerable to these changes in the world. Changes in the river systems and their basins have impacted directly on the well-being of millions of people. The rate of warming in the Third Pole region is significantly higher than the global average, and the rate is higher at higher altitude, suggesting a greater vulnerability of the cryosphere environment to climate change. This trend is expected to continue. Climate change projections suggest that all areas of South Asia are likely to warm by at least 1 °C by the end of the century, while in some areas the warming could be as high as 3.5 to 4 °C. The life and livelihoods of the people in the Third Pole region is challenged due to climate change, and the stability and prosperity of the region affected by the Third Pole is at risk, which will have implications for all of Asia and for the world. However, there is still little knowledge of this situation, and its potential implications, outside the immediate vicinity; a special effort is needed to raise awareness of the fragility of the mountain social-ecological system.

Efforts for monitoring Climate Change and its Impacts in the TP Region[edit]

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has planned to setup a Network of Regional Climate Centers in this region and named this as TP-RCC Network. A "Scoping Meeting on the Implementation of Third Pole Regional Climate Centres Network" has been held during 27th March to 28th March 2018 at WMO Headquarters Office in Geneva, Switzerland. [2] In this meeting it was decided that China, India and Pakistan will be the leading Nodes for this Network. While another meeting "Implementation Planning Meeting of the Third Pole Regional Climate Centre Network" was also conducted during 13th December to 14th December 2018 in Beijing, China. [3]

TP-RCC Network Establishing Group at WMO HQ Geneva Switzerland

An international scientific programme called the Third Pole Environment or TPE has set up 11 ground stations and tethered balloons since 2014, working with the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing. This monitoring network is already larger than similar efforts in Antarctica and the Arctic, and almost doubles the number of such stations around the world. [4]

Another proposed Programme named "Enhancing Climate Resilience in the Third Pole" by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) seeks to strengthen the use of weather, water and climate services in the Third Pole region to adapt to climate variability and change and to apply well-informed risk management approaches and will be implemented under the umbrella of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). The proposed Programme reflects the recommendations stemming from the “Regional Consultation on Climate Services for the Third Pole and other High Mountain Regions”2 that was held on 9-11 March 2016 in Jaipur, India. The consultation brought together experts from the NMHSs and key decision-makers and practitioners from the five priority areas of the GFCS (agriculture and food security, energy, health, water and disaster risk reduction). The Programme’s objectives will be achieved by strengthening regional support networks and institutional capacities, developing tools and products that are needed for anticipating climate variability and change. The primary measurable benefits include approximately 260 million direct and 1.3 billion indirect beneficiaries from the region who will gain access to critical weather and climate information, which will result in reduced disaster risk, improved water resources management and improved agricultural productivity. The regional component is complemented by a continuum of synergistic national components in each of the countries within the Third Pole region. The activities that will be implemented at the national level will demonstrate the value of effective application/integration of the enhanced capacity at regional level that will result in improved agricultural production, reduced disaster risk and improved water management in least developed countries (LDCs) in the Third Pole (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar). The Programme is aligned with the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) of LDCs in the Third Pole (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar) which place agriculture followed by disaster risk reduction and water as top priority sectors for adaptation actions. [5] The Programme has three main objectives:

  1. Enhance climate information services to better anticipate the effects of climate change on the cryosphere for vulnerability and adaptation assessment and planning;
  2. Improve early warning for extreme weather/climate events (i.e. heatwaves, droughts, GLOFs, landslides, etc.) to reduce the impacts of disasters on human lives and livelihoods;
  3. Strengthen the provision and use of weather and climate services for agricultural risk management and water management.

A comprehensive inventory of Glaciers and Glacial Lakes in the Pakistani part of the Third Pole has been successfully completed. [6]


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  6. ^ Senese, Antonella; Maragno, Davide; Fugazza, Davide; Soncini, Andrea; d'Agata, Carlo; Azzoni, Roberto Sergio; Minora, Umberto; Ul-Hassan, Riaz; Vuillermoz, Elisa; Asif Khan, Mohammed; Shafiq Rana, Adnan; Rasul, Ghulam; Smiraglia, Claudio; Diolaiuti, Guglielmina Adele (2018). "Inventory of glaciers and glacial lakes of the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP – Pakistan)". Journal of Maps. 14 (2): 189–198. doi:10.1080/17445647.2018.1445561.