HIMALA: Climate Impacts on Snow, Glaciers, and Hydrology in the Himalayan Region

HIMALA is a four year project (2010–2013) for better understanding of how snow and glaciers contribute to river flows. The project is developing a prototype model for assessing water availability and will upscale it to pilot basins. The project will also look at various scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report to understand the impact of climate change on snow, glaciers, and hydrology in the region. The project is carried out jointly by ICIMOD, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development Office for US Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA).

The project builds on an earlier satellite rainfall estimation project carried out by ICIMOD and its partners from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan from 2006 to 2010, also with funding from USAID/OFDA and technical support from the USGS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That project built the capacity of the regional partners in utilising advanced technology for rainfall estimation and conducted tests of the USGS Geospatial Streamflow Model (GeoSFM) in pilot basins to enable timely flood prediction in the countries of the Hindu Kush-Himalayn (HKH) region which are highly vulnerable to flood disasters. The partners identified the need to incorporate a snow and ice component in the hydrological models, as many of the basins of the HKH region are snow fed. 

Goal and Objectives

The goal of the HIMALA project is to minimise the loss of lives and property via reduction in natural vulnerability in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region, in particular the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna (GBM) basins. The project seeks to strengthen regional cooperation in flood forecasting and information exchange and build capacity among the partner institutions.

Objectives

The objectives of the HIMALA project are 

  1. to introduce the use of NASA Earth Science products and models to ICIMOD and its member countries through collaboration with USAID and USGS; 
  2. to enhance the capacity of ICIMOD and its member countries for management of water resources (floods, agricultural water) in the short term (snow, rainfall) and the long term (glaciers); 
  3. to analyse the impact on water resources in the Himalayan region under the various IPCC scenarios using hydrological models.

The specific objectives of this project under the overall framework of HIMALA are

  1. to assess snow and glacier melt in pilot basins;
  2. to develop a prototype in selected pilot basins for flood and water resources management;
  3. to evaluate the impact of climate change in the pilot basins;
  4. to enhance the capacity of ICIMOD and partner countries in application of space-based technologies for flood forecasting and water resources management.

Geographical coverage

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan

Core financial partners/development partners/sponsors

Financial: United States Agency for International Development Office for US Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA)

Technical: National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA), United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 

Implementing partners

  • Bangladesh: Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD)
  • Bhutan: Hydro-meteorological Services Division, Department of Energy, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan
  • China: China Meteorological Administration, China Bureau of Hydrology, Tibet Meteorological Bureau, Bureau of Hydrology, Tibet AR
  • India: National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), North-East Centre for Environmental Research and Development (NE-CERD)
  • Nepal: Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), Department of Water Induced Prevention, Department of Meteorology – Tri-Chandra Campus (Tribhuvan University), Central Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (Tribhuvan University)
  • Pakistan: Flood Forecasting Division (FFD), Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD)

Contact information

Mandira Shrestha
Water Resources specialist
Integrated Water and Hazard Management 

Sagar Ratna Bajracharya
Satellite Hydrology Officer
Integrated Water and Hazard Management