The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is one of the greatest mountain systems in the world, encompassing an area of over 4.3 million km2. Outside of the North and South Poles, the region contains the largest area of permanent ice cover in the world, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the ‘Third Pole’ of the earth. Its terrain encompasses the source of 10 major river systems, 4 global biodiversity spots, 330 important bird areas, and hundreds of mountain peaks over 6,000 masl. The region provides water, ecosystem services, food, energy, and livelihood to 210 million people directly. An additional 1.3 billion people living downstream benefit from its resources indirectly and more than 3 billion people rely on energy produced in the basin catchment area of the Himalayan river systems. The region is also home to some of the most diverse cultures, languages, religions, and traditional knowledge systems in the world. For these reasons, the HKH region is clearly a major global asset, critical to the planet as a whole.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report-4 announced that climate change will be the most prominent force of global change in the modern era and that the HKH region is seen as ‘a data gap’ area, lacking consistent long-term monitoring. The report calls for national, regional and global attention towards filling this data gap. Unfortunately, not much progress has been reported in IPCC 2014 AR-5 on the HKH region in this regard. While initial progress has been made by universities, NGOs, and science organizations in the region, in assembling and consolidating existing data, the information remains too fragmented and incomplete to derive any meaningful conclusions about trends and scenarios. The need for an evidence-based assessment which brings together hundreds of scientists and policy experts persists. A comprehensive assessment could greatly assist in addressing threats, acting on opportunities, and scaling cutting edge approaches. At the same time, looking to the success of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a regularized system of monitoring which can generate powerful data about the key trends and scenarios in the region is needed.
HIMAP is gearing up to produce a Comprehensive Assessment of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) Region. This assessment will assess the current state of knowledge of the HKH region, address critical data gaps and increase the understanding of various drivers of change and their impacts. Based on this, HIMAP will recommend a set of practically oriented policy recommendations.