Making the invisible visible: Groundwater issues in the HKH
River Basins and Cryosphere
Water and air
22 March 2022
Arun Bhakta Shrestha & Sanjeev Bhuchar
The theme for World Water Day 2022 year is “Groundwater: Making the invisible visible”. It aims to spotlight the invisible resource that is groundwater, enhance knowledge exchange on issues surrounding this resource, and improve collaboration to increase awareness on the importance of conserving groundwater.
To mark the day, we will be bringing together regional experts and practitioners to talk about the issues related to groundwater in the mountains. Our theme for World Water Day at ICIMOD – “Making the invisible visible: Groundwater issues in the Hindu Kush Himalaya” – feeds into the wider international theme and goes beyond to recognize the precious water resources of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region threatened by climate change impacts and development activities.
The HKH supports the lives and livelihoods of 1.9 billion people, among which close to a billion live in the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra River basins. The main source of water in these three basins are snow and glacier melt and rainfall–groundwater runoff processes.
Groundwater is fundamental to life in the HKH and adds enormous value to the wellbeing, livelihood, and cultural practices of mountain communities and environment. Groundwater levels are a key factor in issues such as the reduction of low river flows, the drying up of wetlands, seawater intrusion, and soil salinization. Mountain aquifers and groundwater hydrology are relatively neglected fields but seemingly have great importance for the livelihoods of mountain communities. By recognizing and better understanding groundwater resources with a gender perspective, we can safeguard them effectively for the present and future generations.
Host: Arun Bhakta Shrestha, ICIMOD
Understanding groundwater issues and opportunities in the HKH
Reflections on science, policy, and practice aspects for advancing groundwater management in the HKH
*Each panelist will speak for seven minutes, including their introduction
Muhammad Ashraf, Pakistan
Salem Hussaini, Afghanistan
Lu Wang, China
Sara Nowreen, Bangladesh
Key highlights and take away points
Himanshu Kulkarni leads ACWADAM, a not-for-profit knowledge institution and think-tank working on groundwater since 1998. He is a hydrogeologist by qualification and has been working on aquifers and groundwater across India’s diverse groundwater typology for more than 35 years. ACWADAM’s work under Kulkarni has followed the principle of bringing communities closer to their aquifers and managing groundwater as a common pool resource through the process of aquifer-based participatory groundwater management. He has, through ACWADAM, steered the concept of hydrogeology-based springshed management that has now become so important from local to national levels in India and its neighbouring regions.
Pramila Shrestha works as a Senior Divisional Hydrogeologist at the Department of Water Resources and Irrigation (DoWRI), Nepal. She is currently involved in the Integrated Energy and Irrigation Special Program under DoWRI and leading groundwater exploration and lift irrigating projects, especially in the hills and mountain region of Nepal. Her areas of research include river dynamics, morphology, and geomorphology. She is an active and founding member of the Nepal Hydrogeological Association in Nepal.
Muhammad Ashraf is the Chairman of the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR). He is an agricultural engineer with over 25 years of research and development experience in water resources management in arid and semi-arid areas and has over 100 publications to his credit.
His expertise includes integrated management of water resources, particularly surface and groundwater resources in the irrigated and dry (rainfed) areas.
He is the editor for the journal Paddy and Water Environment published by Springer. He is also the Coordinator of the Upper Indus Basin Network (UIBN) – Pakistan Chapter.
Mohammad Salem Hussaini is a lecturer and researcher at the Department of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology at Kabul Polytechnic University. A geologist and geotechnical engineer by profession, his current research area is groundwater management for Kabul City and other districts in Afghanistan. He is working on artificial groundwater recharge and climate change impacts on groundwater resources, depletion of groundwater potential zones, and ground subsidence in Kabul.
A hydrologist by profession, Lu Wang worked on the Sino-Swiss groundwater management project (funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) as a postdoctoral researcher in Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. She has published several papers on groundwater issues in China and climate change impacts on river floods, among other topics.
Sara Nowreen is currently working as an Associate Professor at Bangladesh University for Engineering and Technology (BUET), where she teaches water, recharge, and sustainable development in Bangladesh. She has published many peer-reviewed papers in international journals. She is an associate editor for Frontiers, review editor for Water and Climate and Water and Human Health, and international editorial member for