Urbanization is leading to water scarcity for millions of people in the growing cities of the Hindu Kush Himalayas. The massive river systems that supply the water for a range of daily needs, from drinking water to electricity generation, can’t keep up with the pace of demand in a region where a number of cities, including Kathmandu and Lhasa, are doubling their population every 10 to 15 years.
Many countries are undergoing a demographic transition that puts severe pressure on water services. A third of Nepal’s districts, for instance, lost population between 2001 and 2011 as rural populations migrated to booming urban areas in search of opportunities and amenities. Cities with more than a million residents now include Kabul, Afghanistan; Xinning, China; Srinagar and Dehra Dun in India; Peshawar and Quetta in Pakistan; and Kathmandu, Nepal.
But these expanding cities are challenged by unplanned urbanization, poor infrastructure management and limited investment in natural resource conservation. Demand for water far exceeds the municipal supply and many people cope with shortages on a daily basis. Through research and programming, ICIMOD is looking at ways to secure urban water supplies for the future.