Support for the conservation of high altitude wetlands through application of the Asian Wetland Inventory approach and stakeholder-led catchment management in Bhutan, China, India, Nepal

Wetlands buffer water flows in vulnerable high mountain catchments across the greater Himalayan region. They are crucial for sustaining biodiversity and for the livelihoods of people living higher up in mountains as well as downstream. To support the conservation and wise use of wetlands’ critical ecosystems, ICIMOD implemented this project jointly with Wetlands International, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UK) and ARGEOPS (The Netherlands).

Activities were selected to focus around a central concept of catchment management as the basis for wise use of wetland ecosystems. All functioning freshwater ecosystems form the basis for the generation of multiple goods and services that humans depend on, from clean water to fisheries and flood protection. Historical and current approaches to water management have been, and still are for the most part, fragmented and sectoral. An appropriate freshwater management regime needs to be based on an integrated ‘ecosystem approach’, which requires that ecological units be managed in their entirety, including the consideration of the different habitat types and ecosystems in a particular basin.

Within the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, experience and application of the catchment approach is extremely limited and resources to develop and implement it are scarce. The approach is complex. It requires stakeholder engagement to define and lead the development of the approach on a catchment by catchment basis and requires government and responsible agencies to engage with one another from a number of sectors (such as water, agriculture, and environment).  It is beyond the means of a project such as this to initiate the approach across the whole region even within one country. Therefore the project has selected a number of activities that will build the capacity for the approach through enhancing stakeholder knowledge and skills, providing examples of the technical protocols and approaches, developing networks amongst the key responsible agencies, and initiating key strategy and policy development processes.


Agencies and stakeholders are enabled to implement the conservation of high altitude wetlands through achieving the necessary information and capacity to work towards conservation and wise use of wetlands through stakeholder catchment management, and hydrological and strategic inventory support.

The project aims to

  • support the preparation of a strategic inventory of the Himalayan wetlands,
  • establish an Internet based wetlands information system as a regional platform to share the wetlands and water management knowledge base in the region,
  • prepare guidelines for risk-based wetlands conservation and wise use management plans to reduce impacts upon wetland ecosystems, and
  • assist in formulating an integrated strategy for the conservation of wetlands in the greater Himalayan region.


August 2005 - August 2008

Geographical coverage


Core financial partners/development partners/sponsor

  • Funded by the EU ‘Asia Pro Eco Programme’
  • Supported by the Wetlands International and the Ramsar Convention 

Implementing partners

  • Wetlands International, The Netherlands
  • ARGEOPS, The Netherlands
  • The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Oxfordshire, UK

Contact information

Hua Ouyang
Programme Manager
Integrated Water and Hazard Management