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India’s mountain states seek a better future


Aizawl: The 6th edition of the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS-VI) begins in the Mizoram capital on Wednesday with the goal of making the people of India proud of their mountains, recognizing the value of its mountain regions and enabling its people to realize their potential.

The three-day summit, September 20-22, is being organised by the Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), a civil society initiative involving the 10 Indian Himalayan mountain states and the hill districts of West Bengal and Assam.

In India, 10 mountain and hill states constitute almost 20.3 per cent of the total land mass of the country. As per the 2011 Census, approximately four per cent of the Indian population live in the mountain states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and the hill districts of Assam, Tripura and West Bengal.

Since 2011, IMI has been conducting the SMDS as a platform to bring together the Indian Himalayan region to discuss themes that are vital to the development and well-being of the region. The previous editions have been held in Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, in Nainital, Uttarakhand, in Gangtok, Sikkim, in Kohima, Nagaland and in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh.

IMI aims to integrate the knowledge and experience of multiple stakeholders working on diverse issues across Indian mountain states and use this to inform and influence policy, both at the national and state level.

The Aizawl summit will focus on themes of Climate Change and Sustainable Mountain Cities, both of which have become issues of regional and national priority. With the limitations in livelihood opportunities and access to jobs in mountain states, coupled with inadequate compensation for provision of ecosystem services, outmigration trends continue to rise and integrated effort are needed for action to make development sustainable, with engagement of all stakeholders, the IMI said.

Around 150 participants, comprising of distinguished legislators, central and state government representatives, civil society, field practitioners, academia, industry, media and communities are coming together in Aizawl to share experiences, discuss issues of sustainable development, identify gaps and collectively work to arrive at policy recommendations.

SMDS-VI at Aizawl is preceded by a Youth Summit, September 18-20, that will see the participation of 60 youth leaders from across the Himalayan region.