Statement by UNDP Deputy Resident Representative at International Mountain Day

March 28, 2023


What a simple yet powerful message from a little girl living up in the mountains in Soe, Paro.  The highland communities like that of Soe are true witnesses to global warming. The 10-year-old Tandin’s message encapsulates the impact of climate change on water.   


Indeed, the climate crisis is a water crisis. 

More than half of the humanity rely on mountain freshwater for everyday life. The glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region, of which Bhutan is a part, feed 10 major rivers across South, Southeast and East Asia, providing water to 240 million people in the region and another 1.65 billion people downstream. 

Besides nurturing lives and biodiversity, water is a key driver of economic growth in the region. 

But if climate change continues unchecked, it won’t be long before water crisis, already plaguing many parts of the world, becomes a full-blown crisis. 

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPPC, reports paint an alarming picture of melting Himalayan glaciers. Home to 700 glaciers and 567 glacial lakes, Bhutan is all too familiar with retreating glaciers. Its glaciers are retreating fast, magnifying the risk of glacial lake outburst floods.


The theme for this year’s Mountain Day- Women Move Mountains- highlights the key role that rural mountain women play in safeguarding water resources and enhancing food security. As holders of traditional knowledge, mountain women contribute to climate change adaptation. 

But they are differentially impacted. They also lack access to information, technology and finance which are needed for them to adapt to the impact of climate change. We must put women at the centre of our action to address water challenges.  


And now allow me to share some of the critical work that Bhutan is doing in the water sector. 


Water for food security 

Bhutan in partnership with UNDP is promoting efficient and smart irrigation systems to ensure zero loss of water from source till the distribution points. 16 such schemes have been built in 11 districts. 11 more are being constructed. 

Bhutan together with UNDP is also looking into harnessing its groundwater reserve and rainwater for farming and other purposes. 


Innovative financing mechanism 

Bhutan is promoting an innovative financing mechanism, such as the Payment for Environmental Services (PES), to restore, conserve and manage watershed. Community engagement remains at the heart of this mechanism. 


IT-based solutions towards sustainable water management 

We are also working with Bhutan in tapping into the potential of the private sector to bring in innovative tools and IT based solutions for water management. 


Finally, before I end, let me thank Bhutan - the people, its government and the His Majesty the King, for immense contributions and sacrifices made to protect the Himalayan eco-system. 

UNDP remains committed towards amplifying Bhutan’s voice at the global climate forums, support efforts to enhance water security and adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

Thank you.