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Indian Himalayan Youth Summit

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) joined the Sustainable Development Forum of Nagaland (SDFN), YouthNet, and LEAD India to organize the first Indian Himalayan Youth Summit 2013 at Kisama, Nagaland. Chaired by Joshua Sheqi, Associate Director, YouthNet, the inaugural program witnessed a traditional welcome with the Alder group of Khonoma village presenting traditional folk songs and special presentation by the Ru’a group.

The Summit, which took place on September 22 and 23,  2013  was attended by over 90 young people from the Indian Himalayan states of Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, and West Bengal. Participants included young graduates, members of the State Administrative Service, representatives from NGOs, and resource persons from various organisations such as UNDP and Central Himalayan Environmental Association (CHEA).

The Youth Summit prepared a set of recommendations in agriculture, forestry, and water sectors to be presented at the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS) III 2013, planned in Kohima. Participants from Sikkim and Nagaland presented the recommendations in a special plenary attended by senior Indian government officials, and representatives of development organisations and the Hindu Kush Himalaya region on the second day of the Summit. Called Kohima Declaration, the recommendations received a very positive response from the panelists and participants.

After thorough deliberations on water, forest, and agriculture sectors and their sustainability challenges in the Indian Himalayan states, the two-day youth summit organized by Sustainable Development Forum Nagaland in partnership with YouthNet, ICIMOD and LEAD India drafted its recommendations to be presented during the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit III (SMDS-III) during the main event held from September 25 to 27, 2013 at Kohima.

In the agriculture sector, over seventy youths from across the Himalayan states proposed to have a youth committee set up at the institution of Indian Mountain Initiative to address issues of the mountain states apart from a combined steering committee for review of agriculture policies of mountain states.

It also recommended that the Himalayan states be declared as Organic Zone and focus on youth entrepreneurship through promotion of local food and eco-tourism.

With regard to forest sector, the youth summit arrived at a consensus for integrating mountain specific environment education of schools, colleges and universities, integrated tourism involving more youth, thus reducing the ever growing unemployment. Also to take the benefits of tourism for local people, reinforcement of wildlife and forest acts, in order to curtail bio-piracy and control poaching etc.

The recommendations for water sector included discouraging constructions of mega dams and the approach of government in enforcing the project advantage and disadvantage to be discussed on public forum, EIA to have more civil societies and representations, ensure clean drinking water for all “Equitable distributions.” It further called for declaration of the Himalayan region as safe drinking water zone with testing laboratories to check water quality and contamination.

The recommendations also suggested that water springs be identified and preserved for supply of water, lobby with government policy makers, create better coordination between private companies, NGOs and government and also form a Himalayan Committee inclusive of youth activists, researchers, expertise and legislatures, stakeholders to review water management.

The youths from the Himalayan states also discussed addressing waste management (e-waste and biomedical waste), unplanned urbanization and insurgency problem.

They called for safer public spaces, inclusion of local history in the educational curriculum, stringent regulation of economical migrants through strengthening labor laws, establishment of quality professional, technicians etc, higher educational institutes with locally relevant curriculum, settle state, national and international border disputes, stringent laws to prevent & curb crimes etc.

It may be noted here that the two day youth summit was one of the pre-events of the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit-III, which was held on September 25, 2013 at the NBCC Convention Hall, Kohima.

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