14 Aug 2014 The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) received the ‘Special Achievement in Geographical Information System (GIS)’ award at the 2014 Esri User Conference. The award recognizes ICIMOD’s contribution in integrating geographical information into the policy making process in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. More specifically, it acknowledges the vision, leadership and hard work of ICIMOD’s Mountain Environment and Regional Information System (MENRIS) programme and its innovative use of Esri’s geographic information system (GIS) technology. Speaking during the event, Esri President Jack Dangermond highlighted the importance of the award. He said, “The SAG Awards identify the organizations and people that are using the power of geography to improve our world and drive change.” ICIMOD’s Director of Strategic Cooperation with other members of MENRIS at the Esri User Conference 2014Photo: ICIMOD This is the second time ICIMOD has been honoured at the Esri User conference. In 2001 ICIMOD received the Esri Presidential Award for strengthening GIS capacity building for mountain communities in the Himalayan region. In its 30 years of service to mountains and people, ICIMOD has witnessed the growing role of geographic information in explaining causes and effects of climate change to decision makers in the region. Commenting on the award,David Molden, ICIMOD’s Director General, said, “The award recognizes the accomplishments of ICIMOD in the field of geographic information systems, and its beneficial application to society. This greatly inspires us to put our work to good use to serve the people of Hindu Kush Himalayan region” MENRIS was established in 1990 as a regional initiative to disseminate GIS technology to the HKH region through a network of institutions. The programme was developed with the generous support of the United Nation’s Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Overseas Development Agency (ODA/UK) and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ). Since its inception, MENRIS focused on building the capacity of national institutions in HKH countries for using GIS system and technology. In its early days, MENRIS activities were mainly geared towards generating awareness about the technology among professionals, scientists and policy makers in the region, with a focus on bridging the human resources gap. The programme has received a lot of support for continuing its mission in the changing global altechnological context. MENRIS team 2001 with the Esri Presidential AwardPhoto: ICIMOD “MENRIS programme links geographic information, science and technology to address mountain development challenges, and Esri has provided valuable support to the programme since its inception,” said Basanta Shrestha, ICIMOD’s Director for Strategic Cooperation and one of the founding members of MENRIS. “We have had a wonderful long-term partnership with Esri to be able to leverage GIS technology solutions for the benefit of mountains and people,” he added. Although the programme initially faced challenges owing to lack of fund and skilled human resources in its member countries, it now takes the lead in providing GIS solutions to ICIMOD and its regional partners. In 2010, ICIMOD partnered with USAID and NASA to implement SERVIR-Himalaya, a programme that combines science, technology and development programmes hosted within MENRIS. SERVIR brings with it global experience and provides access to satellite imageries. As Birendra Bajracharya, Regional Programme Manager for Mountain Environment Regional Information System, says, “Connecting space to village is a guiding principle of SERVIR, and we are focusing on developing applications that use satellite-based information and geospatial analysis to support decisions that are relevant to the common people in our region.” MENRIS has come a long way since it was first established in 1990. The programme that began with focus on capacity building in GIS technology in the region, now develops tools and methods that integrates scientific knowledge to decision making process in the region. The tools developed are widely used in the member countries and generate information that enables people to make informed decisions. Receiving the Special Achievement in GIS award has further encouraged ICIMOD to promote the use of geographic information and remote-sensing technology and application for integrated mountain development in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.