Two eyes on Asia - Living with too much and too little water in the Himalayan region

10 Sep 2010


Kathmandu and Stockholm

People’s current local responses to the challenges of dealing with too much water, and too little water, in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region were discussed at a side event organised by ICIMOD and IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development) at the World Water Week in Stockholm on Thursday 9th September. Participants stressed the importance of supporting adaptation to floods and drought in the region, which has been further highlighted by events during this monsoon season.

“The recent extreme floods in Pakistan have underlined the need for countries to be better prepared for extreme weather events”, says Andreas Schild, Director General, ICIMOD. “Adequate adaptation practices need to be strengthened and people’s local capacities to adapt need to be supported and enforced”, he stressed.

Even hardy mountain populations, adapted for centuries to survival in extreme environments, are faced with such unusual events that their traditional strategies are sometimes rendered inadequate, forcing them to focus on acute survival, rather than long-term adaptation, and jeopardising economic and social development.

“Policies that determine people’s access to resources when facing water stress and floods require review. Currently people rely on their own innovations”, says Simon Anderson, Head of the Climate Change Group at IIED. “Governments have to find ways to support adaptive livelihood strategies, and to increase local people’s influence in the governance of infrastructure, such as embankments”, he added. There is a need to close the gap between local, autonomous adaptation efforts, and national level planned support. The two are not always in line and therefore climate adaptation risks being ineffective.

The statements are based on a study performed by field teams who conducted field investigations under challenging conditions in Northern Pakistan; the Koshi Basin in Nepal and Bihar in India; the flood plains in Assam, India; and hill areas in the Mekong and Salween river basins in Yunnan, China. The study was financed by the Norwegian and Swedish Governments. The findings are available in a recent report presented during the event.

A chief finding of the study is the need for governments to prioritise the development and improvement of national and regional policies to provide better support for local adaptation against a more extreme climate, helping to shift planning from a focus on acute survival towards long-term resilience.
“We are likely to see more extreme events in the future, particularly in the Himalayan region, and the international climate, water, and development community need to ensure that adequate support is channelled to the region in a way that enforces ongoing best practices in adaptation”, says Mats Eriksson, senior water specialist, ICIMOD.

For more information, please contact:

Ms Nira Gurung
Communications Officer

A previous report from the first part of the study ‘Local Response to Too Much and Too Little Water in the Greater Himalayan Region’ can be accessed at