Back to news
30 Mar 2020 | Climate change

Celebrating World Water Day 2020: Water and climate change

Complex climate change-induced water issues demand regional solutions. And those solutions must be community-led and targeted at vulnerable communities.

David James Molden & Santosh Nepal

4 mins Read

70% Complete

Rivers have been the life force of civilizations from time immemorial. The Indus Valley, Ganges, and Mesopotamia civilizations all emerged and flourished around rivers that sustained and nourished them. The importance of water for our sustenance and progress has not diminished. And this only underlines the importance of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), given that it is the origin of 10 major rivers that support 1.9 billion people in the region. How we conserve and manage these water resources will define our own civilization.

Rapid climate and socioeconomic changes in recent decades are already altering the spatial and temporal patterns of the river systems in the HKH. Flow regimes are changing, flooding events are increasing, and water scarcity is felt across the HKH region. Alarmingly, extreme climate events have already started impacting different societal groups differently, with women and marginalized communities struggling the most with disasters and water stress.

Today, World Water Day is being celebrated across the globe to highlight the importance of protecting our water resources in the face of climate change. This year’s theme – “Water and climate change” – is very pertinent to ICIMOD’s commitment to improving understanding on how climate change is affecting the region’s water resources and how communities can accordingly adapt.

Climate change as a major threat

In the last two years, some important global assessments have highlighted the climate change threat in various mountain ecosystem components. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. This report predicts that global warming will lead to severe global calamities in the coming decades and that the impacts of global temperature rise by 2oC above pre-industrial levels would be much more severe than a 1.5°C rise. The 2019 IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate shows that the cryosphere is shrinking globally and impacts are being felt across major mountain systems. This will have serious implications for river flows and ecosystems in downstream areas and will adversely affect communities who depend on water for their livelihoods.

In 2019, ICIMOD published a comprehensive report – The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment –which assesses the current state of knowledge of the HKH region. The report highlights that even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C, the HKH region will warm by about 2.1°C because of elevation-dependent warming. Under these (conservative) scenarios, the HKH region will lose one-third of its glacier reserves by 2100. If greenhouse emissions follow current trends, the volume of glacier loss will rise to two-thirds. Under both scenarios, the downstream flow contributed by the many perennial rivers which originate from these glaciers would be seriously affected, with catastrophic impacts on sectors which depend on meltwater. For example, in the plains of the Indus and Ganges, these changes would impact 130 million farmers who partly depend on glaciers and snowmelt supply to irrigate their crops.

Mountain-specific water management challenges

Mountain communities in the HKH are already facing water stress because of various societal and environmental changes. Growing mountain towns and cities are unable to meet the increasing demand for water, and solutions fit for the plains may not work for the hills and mountains. It is clear that water security for urbanizing hills and mountains needs urgent attention.

Communities in the middle hills depend heavily on springs for their daily needs and there is increasing concern that many of these are drying up and discharging less water. A recent ICIMOD study in Kavre District, in Nepal’s middle hills, shows that about 15%–30% of springs have dried up within the last decade. Similar trends are reported from other HKH countries. In some countries like Bhutan, water scarcity has caused local communities to migrate seasonally or permanently. Climatic changes, including extreme weather events, are likely to aggravate such mountain-specific issues, making water availability more scarce and unpredictable. Water-related hazards such as floods and droughts are also likely to increase.

ICIMOD’s interventions

ICIMOD is committed to providing solutions to water-related issues in the HKH in the context of climate change. We work on two fronts to reduce the impact of climate change and enable mountain communities to better adapt to these changes. First, ICIMOD generates interdisciplinary knowledge about climate change science in mountain environments. Second, we work on co-developing and upscaling solutions to enhance water supply and demand management across multiple scales of landscapes and river basins. Our work on springshed management provides gender-responsive tools and approaches to revive springs and ensure better and more equitable access to water supply facilities for different community groups. Flood early warning systems (both local and regional) are being implemented at a local level across the HKH countries and have proven successful in reducing the impact of floods. In the transboundary Koshi basin, communities from both Nepal and India have together established a flood early warning system, with the upstream country (Nepal) providing crucial flood information to Indian villages downstream. ICIMOD is also facilitating a consortium of Himalayan universities for collaborative research and capacity building on mountain-specific topics, including climate change and water.

Future outlook

As highlighted by this year’s theme for World Water Day, water and climate change are inextricably linked, so holistic solutions to water issues must be developed with all relevant stakeholders.  It is time to act decisively to better understand the impact of climate change on water resources and related sectors from an upstream–downstream perspective. Such an understanding is crucial for designing adaptation and mitigation strategies for different sectors. Climate change impacts are transboundary, and solutions require transboundary cooperation. ICIMOD is committed to facilitating regional collaboration on climate change, water, and related impacts.

Our solutions must be community-led and targeted at impacted communities, especially women and marginalized groups. And everyone has a role to play in securing our water resources. We must combat water-related issues – disasters, scarcity, pollution – and climate change itself through community engagement and regional collaboration. We cannot afford to wait.

With this thought, we wish you all a very happy World Water Day 2020.

Celebrating World Environment Day 2015

As the world celebrates World Environment Day, central Nepal, where ICIMOD is headquartered, is still recovering from a large earthquake ...

International Mountain Day 2021

This year, we celebrate the 18th International Mountain Day, with the theme ‘sustainable mountain tourism’. In the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), ...

World Water Day 2014

The theme of this year‘s World Water Day is ‘Water and Energy’. The theme aims to raise awareness ...

Our biodiversity, our food, our health: Celebrating the International Day for Biological Diversity 2019

Biodiversity is a global asset of tremendous value, recognized as “natural capital” necessary for the survival of all species that ...

ICIMOD Director General Dr David Molden’s Statement to the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, Paris, France

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is a regional intergovernmental knowledge centre dedicated to sustainable development in the ...

8 Mar 2024 IWD
为什么在气候变化和逆转兴都库什-喜马拉雅地区生物多样性损失方面,投资于女性对于其加速进展至关重要,以及ICIMOD正在采取什么措施

Read in english 显而易见的是,无论从事何种工作,未能克服性别不公不仅在道德上是错误的,而且对行为底线有害。 在我们迫切需要取得进展的领域,以及国际山地综合发展中心(ICIMOD)所涉及的领域,投资于女性尤为关键,包括发展、科学、气候和自然等方面。 根据世界经济论坛发布的最新研究,仅在印度,性别平等就能为国内生产总值增加7700亿美元;而在孟加拉国,这一数字将达到300亿美元。 尽管存在如此明确的经济激励,但兴都库什-喜马拉雅地区的八个国家仍然面临巨大挑战。 在ICIMOD,我们将性别平等作为2030年战略的核心组成部分,全力改变这一状况,并为国家、社区和自然环境带来回报。 在我们的运营中,我们正在充分利用我们的平台,与妇女团体、青年和原住民关系网络建立更紧密的合作关系;我们承诺通过专家团队和活动来鼓励她们发声,并为她们的职业发展和公共演讲提供支持,同时监测和解决性别不平衡的问题。 我们也致力于在招聘、晋升和行政职能方面推动公平,特别关注增强各个员工层面的性别和多样性代表性,尤其是在决策、专业和领导职位上。 性别问题现已贯穿在我们的各类项目中,每个战略小组内都设有相关专家和分析师。 目前,我们的创业工作优先考虑为由女性或主要雇佣女性以及边缘社会群体的企业提供技术支持和财务资源。 此外,考虑到地方政府和国家政府对于制定自然资源管理(NRM)计划的至关重要性,ICIMOD已经举办了培训,以支持制定能够充分利用妇女见解、技能和专业知识的NRM行动计划。 身处同一地区,我们需要更进一步。 研究表明,女性-包括妇女和女孩-首当其冲受到气候危机的影响。气候危机导致流离失所的受害者中有80%是女性。 从2025年开始,每年预计有1200万女孩受气候危机影响,无法完成学业。到2050年,将有多达1.58亿女性陷入贫困,其中2.36亿女性面临更加严重的粮食不安全状况。 这种性别不平等是由于长期存在的资金流动严重不足,以及政策针对性不够所导致的。 在国际性资金支持中,仅有0.01%用于应对气候变化和促进妇女权利的项目。 全球范围内,只要不到2%的国家气候战略考虑到了妇女和女孩的不同处境和需求。 也许,考虑到女性在决策过程中的代表性不足,这并不足为奇。 在 COP27 上,只有 6% 的世界领导人是女性,这一比例在 COP28 上上升了 10% 以上。直到今年早些时候出现强烈反对之后,今年的 COP 主席才在此前全员男性的组织委员会中增加了 ...

Time for Third Generation reforms in forest management

Frequently, from all across the Hindu Kush Himalayas, we hear disturbing stories of forest fires, devastating floods, drying springs, loss ...