Message from the Director General


Water for Sustainable Development

22 March 2015, Kathmandu, Nepal

World Water Day provides us an opportunity to join our friends and colleagues from the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region and the rest of the world in creating awareness about the important role of water in ensuring people’s welfare and achieving sustainable development. This year’s theme 'Water and Sustainable Development' reminds us of the significance of the region's water resources, and the need to manage these resources to ensure economic vitality, environmental integrity, and social equity. 

Water is integral to all aspects of life. Within the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, millions of people directly depend on water resources for their livelihoods and to sustain the functioning of many important ecosystem services. Downstream, more than one billion people rely indirectly on water from the Hindu Kush Himalayas for food, energy, and domestic use. Water directly contributes to national economies, as well as to income generation at the local level. Further, the region’s water resources play a significant role in global food security. They supply 75–90% of the water for over half of Asia’s cereal production and for nearly 25% of the world’s cereal supply. The Indus River system provides irrigation to about 144,900 hectares of land, while the Ganga basin supports the irrigation of 156,300 ha of agriculture land. 

Despite the paramount importance of water, water management in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region remains a complex and challenging task. For instance, the total hydropower potential of the HKH region is more than 500,000 MW. But several countries have been able to tap only a small fraction of their potential, while at the same time facing many hours of scheduled power cuts every day. A primary factor behind the region's sluggish hydropower development is that the majority of users do not live in the areas upstream with high hydropower potential. Strong technical and political barriers often separate upstream and downstream areas. However, recent trends in the SAARC forum, such as the 2014 agreement for energy cooperation, have signaled a positive change.

As part of our efforts to bring energy security, we have initiated an ‘energy portfolio’ at ICIMOD, under which we will develop knowledge products for sustainable hydropower development in the region that benefit upstream as well as downstream communities, and are environmentally sound. We are also leading an important study on the impacts of climate change on water availability and hydropower that takes into account climate change, cryosphere dynamics, and social and economic factors. 

The physical and social makeup of the Hindu Kush Himalayas makes the region highly vulnerable to natural hazards. Hazards that are often transboundary in nature, such as floods and flash floods, result in great loss of life and property. To help minimize the impacts of flood, ICIMOD, together with partners across the region, has developed a regional flood information system for sharing critical, real-time data across borders. Data from this system is now being used to produce a regional flood outlook, which can be used to help ensure timely decision making to reduce risks. The flood outlook was successfully piloted during the 2014 flood and landslide event in Nepal.  

The impacts of global climate change, combined with rapid socioeconomic changes, are likely to increase uncertainty in water availability and water security. In this context, we are carrying out research on current and future water availability and on the demand scenarios. Our research is geared towards improving water resources management and addressing water-related problems in the region. 

ICIMOD believes that regional cooperation is essential for the sustainable development of water resources. We are committed to generating and exchanging knowledge in order to strengthen cooperation among our regional member countries. We hope that our combined efforts will improve water management and help address the problems of water shortages and water-related hazards in the region and across the globe.  

On the occasion of World Water Day, I welcome you all to join our endeavour.

David Molden