Resilient mountain cities?-A A +A
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
HOW do we build resilient cities from extreme weather events in this period of climate change? That's precisely what Darleen Gela asked me through a private message over Facebook. Funny how international events can be jumpstarted and coordinated via social media.
A Murciahanon, Darleen is now working for the ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and we are the sub-regional for Southeast Asia of the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network.
She contacted Nepali Tek Jung Mahat of Kathmandu-based ICIMOD, the thematic node for mountain requested them for a resource person who discuss Adaptation Technologies for mountains during the Conference on Adaptation Trends in Southeast Asia to be held on February 5-6, 2013 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Unfortunately for Darleen, ICIMOD cannot send a representative since it focuses on South Asia and Tek referred her to me to find an expert based here in Southeast Asia.
Tek, ICIMIOD's former deputy director Madhav Karki and I have worked on the 2011 e-conference on sustainable mountain development in Southeast Asia. I was the project coordinator for the Southeast Asia sustainable mountain development (SMD) process. We were together at the Asia Pacific Workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal where I headed the SEA delegation, and the Global Mountain Conference in Lucerne Switzerland.
Unfortunately, for Southeast Asia-and maybe the whole Asia Pacific judging on our regional discussions nearly two years ago-there is no mountain-based urbanization process, let alone on climate change resilient cities either among government and civil society circles.
I wrote Darleen that I got in touch with NEDA, as recommended by Mountain Partnership colleagues but I was disappointed with the Philippine delegation to the Rio +20 in Brazil and the civil society delegates who barely touched on SMD components, let alone green mountain urbanization.
I made a current survey of development literature focuses on SMD equals forest conservation or natural resource extraction in SEA, including the Philippines. Mountains urbanization is often lumped together with lowland cities but often gloss over their location in remote, fragile, and rugged terrain.
Then there are migration issues, where educated mountain youth tend to migrate to lowland cities to seek employment. The population outflow in the process leads to loss of indigenous knowledge in favor of lowland urban-based life skills. I mentioned a notable exception in Southeast Asia is Baguio and to a lesser extent the Cameroon Highlands of Malaysia. There, we can see reverse migration where lowlanders put up stakes in mountain areas.
Moreover, in these mountain cities, their urban populations expand because of mainstream tourism during the dry seasons of tropical countries. In fact, lowland tourist population explosions exert pressure of carrying capacity with the increased demand for housing during school openings and tourism peak seasons.
For models of mountain city resiliency, I had to look for experiences outside of SEA, such as in Cusco Perú, Adelboden in the Swiss Alps, and in East Asia, a few Mt. Fuji mountain cities that promote different aspects of the green economy.
I engaged the Society of Filipino Foresters for the e-conference but obviously their expertise is on tropical forestry concerns. In my case, community forestry was my entry point for SMD at the Northern Negros Natural Park and protected area management of the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park.
I tapped the Mt Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems for the SEA e-conference. Not surprisingly, their participation was a bit sparse when we got to talk of the mountain cities, tourism, non-timber forest products, organic agriculture, concerns that are off their forestry radar.
Can our SMD models go beyond forestry and encourage the green urbanization of say Don Salvador Benedicto or Candoni? If projects fly this year, those prospects might just be possible.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 24, 2013.