Hindu Kush Himalayan Region

The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region extends 3,500 km over all or part of eight countries from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. It is the source of ten large Asian river systems -– the Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra (Yarlungtsanpo), Irrawaddy, Salween (Nu), Mekong (Lancang), Yangtse (Jinsha), Yellow River (Huanghe), and Tarim (Dayan), - and provides water, ecosystem services, and the basis for livelihoods to a population of around 240 million people in the region. The basins of these rivers provide water to 1.9 billion people, a fourth of the world’s population.

A considerable volume of water resources is stored as snow and glacier ice in the HKH. Cryosphere components including permafrost and glacial lakes provide various ecosystem services for mountain as well as downstream communities. The snow cover area during winter varies between 951,000 sq. km. and 1,390,000 sq. km. During summer, it ranges between 388,000 and 481,000 sq. km. The total glacier area can extend up to 87,340 sq.km.

Hills and mountains, particularly the HKH mountain system, have always constituted places where adaptation, mitigation, and resilience are hallmarks of the people and their livelihood and resource use strategies. Since time immemorial, the people of the Himalaya have maintained their rich cultural traditions and identity and have conserved agrobiodiversity within the parameters of their own traditional knowledge.

HKH regional area 

Total estimated area: 3,441,719 sq.km

Population of HKH region and adjacent hill and mountain areas

Countries Areas included in the HKH region Population of HKH in million (Year of data sources)*Population in 2017 (million) *Population in 2030 (million)
AfghanistanAll provinces except the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz, Farah, and Herat 22.85 (2016-17) 22.85A29.91
Bangladesh Chittagong hills 1.60 (2011) 1.78 2.27
Bhutan Entire territory 0.78** (2017) 0.78 A 0.96
China Parts of the provinces of Yunnan (Diqing, Nujiang & Dali prefectures), Sichuan (Ganzi, Aba & Liangshan prefectures), & Gansu (Gannan, Wuwei & Zhangye prefectures); Xinjiang autonomous region (Kashigar, Kezilesu, Hetian & Altai prefectures); Tibet (entire territory), and Qinghai province (entire territory) 32.51 (2015) 33.29 38.86
India Entire territory of 11 mountain states (Assam, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Jammu & Kashmir (Indian administered area), Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh), & Darjeeling district of West Bengal state 76.98 (2011) 86.27 110.44
Myanmar Chin, Shan, Rakhine & Kachin states 11.18 (2014) 11.70 14.24
Nepal Entire territory 26.49 (2011) 28.75 34.31
Pakistan Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 24 districts (out of 32) of Balochistan province (excluded districts are Kachhi, Gwadar, Jafarabad, Jhal Magsi, Lasbela & Sohbatpur), Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK), Gilgit-Baltistan & Federally administered Tribal Areas (FATA) 51.47*** (2017) 51.47A72.64
Total 223.86 236.90 303.63

* Exponential projections of populations. The periods of growth rate estimation for HKH areas were 2009-2017 (Afghanistan), 2001-2011 (Bangladesh), 2010-2017 (Bhutan), 2011-2015 (China), 2001-2011 (India), 1983-2014 (Myanmar), 2001-2011 (Nepal), & 1998-2017 (Pakistan). These growth rates are used to project populations for 2017 and 2030. 

** Projected population for 2017 procured from Statistical Year Book of Bhutan, 2016

A Population statistics for 2017 are directly collected from official sources of respective countries (Statistical Year Book of Bhutan 2016; Population Census of Pakistan 2017; Statistical Year Book of Afghanistan 2016-17).  

*** Projected population of Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan for 2017 was added to the population of HKH areas procured from Population Census of Pakistan 2017. 

Sources: (1). Data  for latest population statistics are collected from Statistical Year Book of Afghanistan 2016-17; Population and Housing Census (Bangladesh) 2011; Statistical Year Book of Bhutan 2016; Year Books of China, Yunnan Province, Sichuan Province, Gansu Province, Xinjiang Autonomous Region (China) 2016; Population Census (India) 2011; Population and Housing Census of Myanmar 2014 (The Union Report, Volume 2); National Population and Housing Census of Nepal (national report) 2011; Population Census 2017; Govt. of AJK 2014; Govt. of Gilgit-Baltistan 2013.

(2). Data for Base Year population (used for growth rater estimation) collected from  Statistical Year Book of Afghanistan 2008-09; Population and Housing Census (Bangladesh) 2001; Statistical Year Book of Bhutan, 2016; Year Books of China, Yunnan Province, Sichuan Province, Gansu Province, Xinjiang Autonomous Region (China) 2012; Population Census (India) 2001; Population and Housing Census of Myanmar 2014 (The Union Report, Volume 2); National Population and Housing Census of Nepal (national report) 2011; Population Census (Pakistan) 1998. 

Assumptions for Projections: In- and out-migration rates, fertility rate and mortality rate will remain stable. 

Major mountain ranges and peaks

Ten highest mountain peaks in the region

NameHeight (m)LocationLower slopesOther names
Everest8,848 (snow)
8,844 (rock)
NepalChina/NepalSagarmatha, Chomolungma
K28,611PakistanChina/PakistanMt. Godwin-Austen, Qialogeli
Kangchenjunga8,586Nepal/IndiaNepal/IndiaKanchenjunga, Khangchendzonga
Makalu8,462NepalChina/NepalKumba karna
Cho Oyu8,201NepalChina/Nepal-
Nanga Parbat 8,125Pakistan-Killer Mountain

Highest peaks in countries

CountryPeakHeight (m)
BangladeshTajingdong (Bijoy)1,280
BhutanGangkhar Puensum7,541
MyanmarHkakabao Raz 5,881
NepalEverest (Sagarmatha)8,848/8,844 (rock)

Mountain ranges

Ganhdise ShanChina
Hengduan Shan China, Myanmar
HimalayaBhutan, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan
Hindu Kush Afghanistan, Pakistan
KarakoramChina, India, Pakistan
Kulun Shan China
Nyainqentanglha Shan China
PamirAfghanistan, Pakistan, China
Qiantang Plateau China
Qilian Shan China
Tien Shan China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

Area and population of ten major river basins

River basins * Area (Sq. km) ** Population in 2010 (million) ** Population in 2015 (million)
Amudarya 645,870 27.19 30.18
Brahmaputra 528,083 64.63 68.07
Ganges 1,001,090 539.43 580.09
Indus 1,116,350 244.31 268.42
Irrawady 426,393 40.18 42.87
Mekong 841,337 74.58 77.31
Salween 363,898 18.19 17.88
Tarim 929,254 10.65 11.37
Yangtse 2,066,050 600.92 604.94
Yellow River 1,073,440 192.86 198.02
Total 8,991,765 1,812.95 1,899.14
* The area of individual basins have been calculated from basin boundary shapefile in Albers equal-area conic map projection developed by ICIMOD.

** The basin-wise population has been calculated from “Gridded Population of the World adjusted to UN country level population estimates for 2010 and 2015” dataset produced by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Columbia University