Changing Perspectives on Flood Risk Management in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region - 6th World Water Forum

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Mountains are the Earth’s natural freshwater reservoirs. The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) mountains are referred to as the ‘water towers of Asia’, providing vital water resources to the 1.3 billion people living downstream in the basins of the ten major rivers that originate there. However, recurrent flooding of these rivers poses major hazards to a vulnerable population and often leads to disasters. The frequency and intensity of floods are expected to increase as a result of climate change. Furthermore, potential glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) pose a definite risk.

At the First Asia-Pacific Water Summit held in Beppu City, Japan in 2007, distinguished speakers – heads of government and their representatives – stressed the need for regional cooperation for managing water-related disasters and noted the instrumental role of ICIMOD in the HKH region. Towards this end, ICIMOD has been undertaking work on climate change, glaciers, and water resources, together with partners in the Himalayan region. Regional efforts have included cryosphere monitoring and assessment, the development of a real-time regional flood information system, and vulnerability assessment at the community level. ICIMOD has prepared an inventory of glacial lakes and assessed potential risk of GLOF events in selected basins. Case studies on local responses to too much and too little water have been analysed to support development of adaptation policies and institutional strengthening.

These activities form the basis for the development of a regional strategic flood risk management framework, as envisioned in ICIMOD’s target proposal for the 6th World Water Forum. ICIMOD commits to work with partners to develop such a framework by 2015 as a basis for appropriate policies and practices in the region. The session will address how this objective can be met, with a focus on emerging technologies and strengthened regional information systems for enhanced community resilience and adaptation. Lessons for flood risk management will be drawn from the experience of recent extreme floods in the region.