Water

Water Crisis in Himalaya

A report in the journal Water Policy flags rising dependence on freshwater springs in Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region.

About HKH region

It is a mountain system of Central Asia and one of the great watersheds of the world.

This region spread across eight countries- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Myanmar, and Pakistan.

The region that encompasses the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau is widely known as the Third Pole. Its ice fields contain the largest reserve of fresh water outside the polar regions.

This region is the source of the ten major river systems that provide irrigation, power and drinking water for over a billion people in Asia- nearly 20% of the world’s population.

Report findings

Himalayan towns are facing increased water insecurity due to inadequate urban planning and rapid climate change.

Reasons for water insecurity are,

Rapid urbanization

Development of urban clusters is taking place because of rapid rural-urban migration in the region.

More than 50% of the population in the region will be living in cities by 2050. It will place tremendous stress on water availability.

Increase in water demand

The gap between water demand and supply in eight of the surveyed towns is 20 to 70%.

Poor water governance

There is a lack of long-term strategies for water sustainability in urban centres.

So, Communities are coping through short-term strategies such as groundwater extraction.

Lack of urban planning

There is a high dependence on springs for water supply in three-fourths of the urban areas.

Other factors

Poor tourism management

Climate-related risks

Encroachment and degradation of natural water bodies and disappearance of traditional water systems such as stone spouts etc. have become evident.

Degradation and reclamation of water bodies affect wetland ecosystems and reduce retention capacities that prevent flooding. Consequently, urban drainage and flood management systems are being impaired. A holistic water management approach that includes spring shed management and planned adaptation is necessary for securing safe water supply in the urban Himalaya.

Source- Indian Express and The Hindu