India announced on Wednesday setting up of a fund that would help South Asia effectively meet urgent adaptation and capacity building needs posed by climate change and also proposed establishment of innovation centres in the region to develop sustainable energy technologies.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the announcement at the 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit that began in Thimphu with an apt theme -- Towards a Green and Happy South Asia.
"I am happy to announce the setting up of an 'India Endowment for Climate Change in South Asia' to help member states in meeting urgent adaptation and capacity building needs," Singh said.
He also proposed setting up of climate innovation centres in South Asia to develop sustainable energy technologies based on indigenous resource endowments and welcomed the conclusion of the SAARC Convention on Cooperation on environment.
Noting that India has already launched a national mission in sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem, prime minister said the initiative could serve as a nucleus for regional cooperation in this vital area.
Singh said there was perhaps no region more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than South Asia and lauded Bhutan's efforts in combining development with conservation of the environment.
"Regional cooperation can be a significant multiplier in improving the quality of governance in managing our natural resources, in preventing land and water degradation and in strengthening our food, water and energy security," he said.
Earlier, men and women dancers dressed in colourful attires welcomed SAARC leaders along the road to Tashichodzong, the main secretariat building that houses the National Assembly Hall, the office of the Bhutanese King and the throne room.
Besides Singh, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Nepal Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Maldives' President Mohamed Nasheed and Bhutan Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley are attending the two-day summit.
Key roads in the picturesque Bhutanese capital were decorated with national flags of Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan and pictures of the leaders attending the summit.
School children and residents stood along the road leading to the Tashichodzong, waving national flags of SAARC countries and singing songs.
The SAARC council of ministers on Tuesday agreed to seek observer status at the climate talks scheduled to be held in Cancun, Mexico in December to better articulate the concerns of the region.