Hindu Kush Himalayan region’s water atlas released

Kathmandu, December 11

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, GRID-Arendal and the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo today released ‘The Himalayan Climate and Water Atlas: Impact of Climate Change on Water Resources in Five of Asia’s Major River Basins’ in Kathmandu.

According to ICIMOD, global water resources are facing increasing pressure from climate change and rising consumption.

This problem is especially acute in the Hindu Kush Himalayan mountains, which are home to 210 million people and provide water to over 1.3 billion people – more than the entire continent of Europe. “To help address this problem, three organisations came together to produce the region’s first climate and water atlas, a guidebook for policymakers who are tackling crucial adaptation issues,” a press released issued by ICIMOD read.

The first of its kind atlas offers a comprehensive, regional understanding of the changing climate and its impact on water resources in five of the major river basins in the region – the Indus, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Salween and Mekong.

It uses maps and infographics to show how the region’s climate is changing now and into the future, with severe consequences for populations, both local and downstream.

David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD, stresses the importance of the new research study. “This atlas sheds light on the state and fate of the water resources of the Hindu Kush Himalayas, a region that is highly vulnerable to climate change and one of the poorest regions in the world,” Molden says. “The information in the atlas presents science-based information that will help develop solutions and take necessary action to deal with changes in the region”.

The atlas contains new findings about the impacts of climate change on the region.

They include temperatures across the mountainous Hindu Kush Himalayan region will increase by about 1–2 degree Celsium (in some places by up to 4–5 degree Celsius) by 2050, precipitation will change with the monsoon expected to become longer and more erratic, extreme rainfall events are becoming less frequent but more violent and are likely to increase in intensity, glaciers will continue to suffer substantial ice loss, with the main loss in the Indus basin, communities living immediately downstream from glaciers are the most vulnerable to glacial changes, changes in temperature and precipitation will have serious and far-reaching consequences for climate-dependent sectors, such as agriculture, water resources and health.

Despite overall greater river flow projected, higher variability in river flows and more water in pre-monsoon months are expected, which will lead to a higher incidence of unexpected floods and droughts, greatly impacting on the livelihood security and agriculture of river-dependent people, it said.

The atlas also includes a number of key recommendations for policymakers.