HI-WISE - Water, ice, society, and ecosystems in the Hindu Kush Himalaya

HI-WISE - Water, ice, society, and ecosystems in the Hindu Kush Himalaya

News: Rivers in eastern and northeastern India including the Brahmaputra, Ganga and Teesta will, like their counterparts in the rest of the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH), see a rapid increase in stream flow followed by water scarcity, a new report released by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

Why is HKH region important?
• The HKH region is a vast area, encompassing mountain ranges stretching from the Hindu Kush range in northern Afghanistan to the Arakan range in Myanmar, with the Himalayan range as its spine, and also includes the Tibetan Plateau.
• It is home to the world’s largest reservoir of ice and snow outside the polar regions, and the source of 12 major rivers that provide freshwater and other vital ecosystem services to 240 million people in the mountains and a further 1.65 billion people downstream.

Key Findings of the Report:
• Glaciers disappeared 65% faster in the 2010s than in the previous decade.
• On current emissions pathways, 80% of glaciers’ current volume will be gone by 2100.
• Availability of water is expected to peak in mid-century and then decline.
• Vulnerable mountain communities are already experiencing major adverse impacts: loss and damage to lives, property, heritage, infrastructure, leading to displacement and psychological impacts.
• 200 glacier lakes across these mountains are deemed dangerous, and the region could see a significant spike in glacial lake outburst floods by the end of the century.
• Permafrost is decreasing in the region, which will lead to more landslides and problems for infrastructure at high elevation.
• Biodiversity is under threat from habitat loss, invasive species, overexploitation, pollution, and climate change.
• Current adaptation efforts are wholly insufficient, and more support and finance are needed to enhance the resilience of the mountain communities and ecosystems

Key Recommendations:
• To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other drivers of climate change, such as black carbon and ozone, and to promote low-carbon and green development pathways in the HKH region.
• To enhance regional cooperation among the HKH countries to address the shared challenges of climate change and cryosphere loss, and to leverage the opportunities for sustainable development.
• To scale up adaptation and resilience measures for the mountain communities and ecosystems, such as early warning systems, disaster risk reduction, climate-smart agriculture, ecosystem-based management, and livelihood diversification.
• To support loss and damage mechanisms for unavoidable impact of climate change and cryosphere change.

About ICIMOD:
• It is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge-sharing centre serving the 8 regional member countries (RMCs) of the HKH region – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.
• It was established in 1983 and is headquartered at Lalitpur, which is located in the Kathmandu valley.
• ICIMOD promotes and fosters partnerships amongst the RMCs to secure a better future for the people and environment of the HKH region.

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