Indus Basin Initiative

Focus areas

Scientific knowledge production

Knowledge is essential to understanding climate change issues in the basin and generating evidence for policy influence. Knowledge production and exchange are therefore at the heart of our initiative.


We try to understand the effects of climate change that the basin will experience in the future, and based on that, design adaptation strategies to minimize the impact.

We are working to select relevant global climate models for Upper Indus basin areas that can best represent historical climate cycles. The selected models will be downscaled to high resolution. The downscaled high-resolution data can be used to predict future climate change trends and patterns, and their impact on hydrological regime, floods, agriculture, and vegetation. The downscaled products will be made available in our HI-CHAP portal when they are ready.

Climate scenarios available for the HKH region poorly capture major features such as monsoons and westerly regimes. This uncertainty is due to limited model outputs and lack of multi-model ensemble results. To plan adaptation and risk mitigation measures, we need better data on how the climate will evolve in the future.

Under HICAP, climate outputs from the general circulation model were downscaled and used for robust glacio-hydrological modelling. This allowed us to understand the future water availability scenario of the Indus and other rivers basins. We gained a comprehensive view of the contributions of various hydrological components (snow, glacier, groundwater, and rainfall) to river flow and how it is likely to change in the future. This work was further enhanced under HI-AWARE with an improved methodology and data for climate downscaling and hydrological modelling. Future scenarios of changes in extreme flows were developed. We are now enhancing these analyses further and plan to use the outputs are planned to improve understanding of the impacts of hydrological components on ecosystems and hydropower potential in the Indus basin.

Many human settlements in the Indus basin lie very near to areas covered in permafrost. It is uncertain how changes in permafrost will affect local livelihoods in the future. We are developing a remote sensing-based preliminary map of the permafrost extent – relying on geological expertise and field validation – to allow us to assess changes in permafrost in the context of global warming. Our work will help identify changing permafrost density zones, which may directly or indirectly affect livelihoods and infrastructure in the region. We can also use this data to assess permafrost-related hazards (slope failure, debris flow, and rock fall), particularly in areas where infrastructure is being developed – around the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and near high-altitude villages.

In collaboration with the SustaIndus project, we are exploring the water–energy–food nexus to identify sustainable pathways for hydropower development in the Indus basin. We are cataloguing existing hydropower development plans and engaging with hydropower stakeholders to understand existing practices.

To quantify various classes of hydropower potential in the basin, we are developing a hydropower estimation model. Using the latest global climate projections, we will assess the impact of future climate change on water availability and hydropower potential. Once we identify potential hydropower sites under current and future conditions, we will have a better estimate of the overall hydropower potential in the basin. We will also set up models to estimate future energy demand. These data will be combined with data on water and food demand to develop sustainable hydropower development pathways where there is a balance between demand and supply of water, energy, and food.

Related reading
  1. Beyond Hydropower: Towards an Integrated Solution for Water, Energy and Food Security in South Asia
  2. The role of hydropower in South Asia’s energy future

Every year, floods cause extensive damage in large portions of the Indus basin, including in the Chenab. The Chenab River is a major tributary of the Indus and flows in India and Pakistan. To better prepare communities for floods and mitigate their impacts, we have developed a flood outlook system in collaboration with the Flood Forecasting Division (FFD) at the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD). Using data provided by the PMD, and other satellite and weather forecast data, the system provides three-day flood forecasts along with flows at key locations in the Chenab River basin. It uses the MIKE11 River Modelling system with integrated hydrological, hydrodynamic, and data assimilation modules. The forecasts generated help government agencies and community organizations take timely action for disaster preparedness and response.