The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region, the source of ten large river systems of Asia, provides water and other ecosystem services to more than 210 million people living in the mountains and over 1.3 billion living in the plains. That is why these sources in the HKH region are also known as the ‘Water Towers of Asia’.
Characterised by the youngest, highest and some of the most fragile mountain systems in the world, the HKH region and its glacier- and snow- fed river basins are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Climate change-induced shifts in the timing and pattern of rainfall, especially monsoon rainfall, and of glacier and snow runoff in the region, are already having an impact on water resources, including water availability and energy security across the region. As most of the HKH region, including the Indo-Gangetic plains, is dependent on monsoon rain for agriculture, any changes in the monsoon cycle are going to have implications for food and nutritional security in the region. The impacts of climate change can be especially difficult to cope with for vulnerable populations, many of whom are dependent on subsistent farming. The impacts created by changing weather patterns, for example, can adversely impact agricultural output.
Because of climate change, the frequency and intensity of extreme events such as floods, heat waves, and droughts are projected to increase, with implications for human health and safety, making disaster preparedness and management all the more imperative at all levels. Coupled with demographic and socioeconomic changes, the climate change impacts will affect the lives and livelihoods of over 1.5 billion people living in urban, peri-urban and rural communities in the region and downstream plains in ways that are still little understood. It is the more vulnerable populations –comprising the marginalised, the poor and the women and children – who are usually the hardest hit by extreme events.
Although the people in the region have been coping with or adapting to climate change impacts in their own ways for centuries, this is clearly not enough. Planned adaptation is also needed in addition to the ongoing coping strategies and autonomous adaptation – measures that communities have come up with on their own. Adaptation measures and strategies, based on traditional and indigenous knowledge, and informed by modern science, are needed. However, we do not know enough about the local, seasonal, and sectoral impacts of climate change; nor do we know enough about how people are adapting, and what adaptation measures work – when, for whom, and at what scale.
This is where HI-AWARE comes in, to:
• address some of these knowledge gaps as well as
influence policy and practice to improve the resilience of people and their systems most vulnerable to climate change.