South Asia is one of the Hardest-hit Regions with Climate Change, says Abhas Jha of World Bank in a PHDDCI Webinar

New  Delhi: In a re-set world with Covid-19 and prolong lockdown, accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is much more important now for the United Nation Member States like India and Nepal. Notwithstanding the challenges, the SDGs (Global Goals) should be redefined to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. With reimagining South Asian Cooperation at large, under aegis of its India-Nepal Centre and in association with the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) and Sterlite Technologies Ltd, PHDCCI organised the webinar: “Redefining SDG Enablers for India and Nepal”.

In his keynote address, Mr. Abhas Jha, Practice Manager (Climate Change & Disaster Risk Management), South Asia Region, World Bank said that climate change is one of the most focused SDG out of 17 SDGs. He reflected on the fundamental similarities between COVID-19 and Climate Change that included potential simultaneous exogenous shocks to supply and demand; renewed focus on the long-term resilience of the system for short and long term performance and, the need for global and regional coordination and collaborations.

Talking about climate vulnerabilities in South Asia, he shared that South Asia is one of the hardest-hit regions with climate change. He also cited about the effects of climate change on sectors like poverty; melting snow and glaciers, decrease in water levels, rise in sea level, flood-related damages, the decline in living standards, and many more. Mr. Jha emphasized the need to strengthen energy cooperation in South Asia and complement each other with resources and, there are a lot of positive developments for the same. The World Bank has estimated these corporations can help in the short run as it can address electricity shortages and, medium run, it can maximize climate mitigation benefits and strengthen resilience. He concluded on a note that the changing geo-strategic fundamentals in the region will have impact on the South Asian countries’ bid to achieve SDGs.

The pandemic has made us realize to look at technology-driven solutions for minimizing the obstacles in meeting the SDGs goals. Mitigating actions are important and, India has been in the lead, said Amb Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri, India’s former Ambassador to Nepal. Amb Puri mentioned that India lives in harmony with nature and, SDGs are a fundamental inter-governmental process. India has been a great leader in the solar power sector and climate disaster resilient infrastructure. Amb Puri highlighted that Nepal is a stable nation with the availability of resources and services. It has great institutions and, it now needs to emphasize on increasing wealth creation and growth. Nepal needs to collaborate with India in its projects and be more competitive for the world. COVID-19 is a wakeup call and, India-Nepal needs to grow with the support of each other.

Mr. Yugal Joshi, Director, Ministry of Jal Shakti, GoI mentioned that all SDG goals are interconnected and, public participation especially of women and children, are the keys to achieve these goals. He mentioned that the Swatch Bharat Mission was successfully implemented with the integration of 4Ps that was the political leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister; public finance; strong partnership and, public participation. During the pandemic, under Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, we build community toilets that gave employment to laborers. In Jal Jeevan Mission, we have been able to give water connection facilities to a greater share of the population. Our mission has been to integrate rural population, educate them, and create awareness within them, said Mr. Joshi.

Mr. Omair Ahmad, South Asia Editor, The Third Pole pointed on the need for inclusive developmental framework and how the global pandemic has made the economies, fragile and uncertain. He called for a more resilient economic structure. The transition that needs to happen between India-Nepal has been an energy transition and including local action across the ground for stable prosperity. We need to find partnerships between developing and developed countries to make energy transitions.

While talking about the role of the private sector towards SDGs, Ms. Akanksha Sharma, Head-Social Impact & Sustainability, Sterlite Technologies Ltd shared that we cannot deny the role of technology, which has gone hand in hand with economic development. We need to integrate technology solutions for mitigating the SDGs. She emphasized on the need for creating social impact with the deeper government and industry interface, with this, the SDGs goals can be attained in India. Similar actions would be imperative in Nepal as well.

Mr. Akhilesh Upadhyay, Senior Fellow, IIDS, Kathmandu mentioned that SDG’s are the natural evolution of MDG’s, so the priority is MDG’s. Growth and jobs are the focus for us along with clean and green energy are other focus sectors for us. Nepal will need continuous investment and, it has to rely on foreign investment. SDG goals need to be embedded in the policy-making from the grass-root level and, there needs to faster implementation. He added that contraction in the Indian economy and other major global economies will have adverse impact on Nepal, primarily so, as Nepal’s economy is remittance-drive and has exposure to the ongoing economic meltdown across the world.

Mr. Sanjay Aggarwal, Senior Vice President, PHDCCI stressed on the need to look upon SDGs along with the pandemic for the betterment of the world. While COVID-19 and lockdown have massively disrupted the economy and society, looking at solutions for SDG is a pivotal concern, he added. The SDGs goals should be redefined to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. We have to keep on stressing the issues of environment and, as part of the world, we need to work together to mitigate the challenges of climate change, said Mr. Aggarwal.

Amb Mr. K V Rajan, Chairman, India-Nepal Centre, PHDCCI and India’s Former Ambassador to Nepal chaired the Session and ruminated on the deep-rooted relationship shared by India and Nepal, growing itself in diverse verticals, encouraging business and trade between industries. Talking about SDGs, there is need to intensify actions across the society and strengthen the inclusive framework. He also said that the growth should have a humane face and the industry has to play a vital role for attaining it.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Saurabh Sanyal, Secretary-General, PHDCCI recounted about India-Nepal Centre’s unwavering commitment for strengthening India-Nepal relations and working for the crucial matters including SDGs. He said that along with PHDCCI’s Strategic Partner CNI, it aims to work for deepening the regional and sub-regional economic cooperation. Also, both the institutions are working under aegis of India-Nepal Centre, for promoting the integration among Asian Chambers.

The other panelists were Mr. Bishal Thapa, Economist & MD, Saral Urja; Mr. Atul K Thakur, Nodal Coordinator, India-Nepal Centre, PHDCCI;

Mr. Kedar Nuepane, Board Member, Nepal Policy Institute and Mr. Jayandra Shrestha, Development Management Expert.

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