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 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)

HKH part
Proportion of country60%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 AfghanistanBangladeshBhutanChinaIndiaMyanmarNepalPakistan

(per sq.km)

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

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

The ten major river basins of the Himalayan region

RiversBasin Area
(X 1000)
Population density
(per sq.km)
Amu Darya534,739Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan20,85539
Brahmaputra651,335China, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh118,543182
Ganges1,016,124India, Nepal, China, Bangladesh407,466401
Indus1,081,718China, India, Pakistan178,483165
Mekong805,604China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam57,19871
Salween271,914China, Myanmar, Thailand5,98222
Tarim1,152,448Kyrgyzstan, China8,0677
Source: IUCN/IWMI, Ramsar Convention and WRI, 2003.