Hindu Kush Himalayan Region

The geographic qualifier 'Hindu Kush Himalayan' is not very precise. ICIMOD's target area includes the Karakorum, the Pamir, and other neighbouring ranges. 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 210.53 million people in the region. The basins of these rivers provide water to 1.3 billion people, a fifth of the world’s population.

The Himalayan range alone has the total snow and ice cover of 35,110 sq.km containing 3,735 cu.km of eternal snow and ice (Qin 2002). The total for the region is not yet calculated. Hills and mountains, particularly the Hindu Kush Himalaya mountain system, have always constituted places where adaptation, mitigation, and resilience are hallmarks of the people and the landscape they inhabit. Since time immemorial, the people of the Himalaya have maintained a rich cultural identity, and have maintained food security and biogenetic diversity within the parameters of their own tradition.

HKH regional area
(Total estimated area: 3,441,719 sq.km)

Estimated Afghanistan Bangladesh Bhutan China India Myanmar Nepal Pakistan
HKH part
390,475 13,189 38,394 1,647,725 482,920 317,640 147,181 404,195
Proportion of country 60% 9% 100% 17% 14% 47% 100% 51%
Source: Sharma. P,, Pratap, T., 1994, Population, Poverty, and Development issues in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, Development of Poor Mountain Areas, ICIMOD
* Estimate based on earlier definition of the HKH region, which is smaller than the area used for population estimates.

(Total estimated population: 210.53 million)

Estimated Population Afghanistan Bangladesh Bhutan China India Myanmar Nepal Pakistan
(millions) 28.48(2) 1.33(3) 0.71(1) 29.48(4) 72.36(5) 11.01(2) 27.8(1) 39.36(2)

(per sq.km)

73 100 15 17 150 34 189 97
Sources: (1) Population Reference Bureau, 2007 World Population Data Sheet. (2) Estimated based on data and information from Population Reference Bureau, 2007 World Population Data Sheet and Banskota, m. 2004. The Hindu Kush Himalayas: Searching for Viable Socioeconomic and Environmental Options, pp. 57-105, In: Banskota et al. (eds.) Growth, Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Resource Management in the Mountain Areas of South Asia, ICIMOD, Nepal. (3) Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2004. (4) China Population Information and Research Centre (CPIRC): (accessed on 5 June, 2008). (5) Census of India, Population Projection, 2007.

[HKH region and adjacent mountain areas include: Afghanistan – all provinces except Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz, Farah, and Herat; Bangladesh – Chittagong Hill Tracts; Bhutan – whole country; China – parts of Yunnan (Diqing, Nujiang, Dali prefectures), Sichuan (Ganzi, Aba, Liangshan prefectures), Gansu (Gannan, Wuwei, Zhangye prefectures), Xinjiang (Kashigar, Kezilesu, Hetian, Altai prefectures), whole of Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai; India – the 11 mountain states (Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand; Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura) and Darjeeling district of West Bengal; Myanmar – the states of Kachin, Chin, Shan and Rakkhain; Nepal – whole country; Pakistan – North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Northern Areas, Ajad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and 12 districts of Baluchistan]

Major mountain ranges and peaks

Ten highest mountain peaks in the region

Name Height (m) Location Lower slopes Other names
Everest 8,848 (snow)
8,844 (rock)
Nepal China/Nepal Sagarmatha, Chomolungma
K2 8,611 Pakistan China/Pakistan Mt. Godwin-Austen, Qialogeli
Kangchenjunga 8,586 Nepal/India Nepal/India Kanchenjunga, Khangchendzonga
Lhotse 8,516 Nepal China/Nepal -
Makalu 8,462 Nepal China/Nepal Kumba karna
Cho Oyu 8,201 Nepal China/Nepal -
Dhaulagiri 8,167 Nepal - -
Manaslu 8,156 Nepal - Kutang
Nanga Parbat 8,125 Pakistan - Killer Mountain
Annapurna 8,091 Nepal - -

Highest peaks in countries

Country Peak Height (m)
Afghanistan Nowshāk 7,482
Bangladesh Tajingdong (Bijoy) 1,280
Bhutan Gangkhar Puensum 7,541
China Xixabangma 8,010
India Kangchenjunga 8,586
Myanmar Hkakabao Raz 5,881
Nepal Everest (Sagarmatha) 8,848/8,844 (rock)
Pakistan K2 8,611

Mountain ranges

Range Countries
Ganhdise Shan China
Hengduan Shan China, Myanmar
Himalaya Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan
Hindu Kush Afghanistan, Pakistan
Karakoram China, India, Pakistan
Kulun Shan China
Nyainqentanglha Shan China
Pamir Afghanistan, Pakistan, China
Qiantang Plateau China
Qilian Shan China
Tanggula China
Tien Shan China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

The ten major river basins of the Himalayan region

River Basin
Rivers Basin Area
Countries Population
(X 1000)
Population density
(per sq.km)
Amu Darya 534,739 Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan 20,855 39
Brahmaputra 651,335 China, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh 118,543 182
Ganges 1,016,124 India, Nepal, China, Bangladesh 407,466 401
Indus 1,081,718 China, India, Pakistan 178,483 165
Irrawaddy 413,710 Myanmar 32,683 79
Mekong 805,604 China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam 57,198 71
Salween 271,914 China, Myanmar, Thailand 5,982 22
Tarim 1,152,448 Kyrgyzstan, China 8,067 7
Yangtze 1,722,193 China 368,549 214
Yellow 944,970 China 147,415 156
Total 8,594,755 1,345,241
Source: IUCN/IWMI, Ramsar Convention and WRI, 2003.