Koshi Basin

The Future of the Koshi Basin

How much do we really know about one of the Himalaya’s most significant basins?

The Future of the Koshi Basin
A visual presentation of the transboundary basin

How much do we really know about one of the Himalaya’s most significant basins? What are the challenges that millions of people who depend on the Koshi Basin for water and their livelihoods face? What are the climatic threats to the basin, and what are the solutions?

Knowing the answers to these questions is crucial, especially for key stakeholders – from the people at the community level, to development practitioners, policy makers, and journalists – so that important knowledge is shared, and action policies are made and implemented on the ground.

The Koshi Basin Programme’s (KBP) new infographic highlights important details of the Koshi River Basin – its current status, and what is in store for the future. This significant basin and the services it provides are shared by the people of China, India, and Nepal. Millions depend on the Koshi Basin for water, ecosystem services, and livelihoods.

The predicted climate and water scenarios for the 2050s represented here have been obtained from the statistical downscaling of two representative concentration pathways (RCPs), RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 .

Hydrological simulations were carried out by ICIMOD KBP. The potential of infrastructure development for storage and power generation was investigated using a water evaluation and planning system adopted by ICIMOD KBP.

Future of Koshi Basin
This infographic, designed and implemented by the ICIMOD Koshi Basin Programme, contributes to the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio, and is supported by the Australian aid program.


Challenges and opportunities for Nepal
  • The transboundary Koshi River Basin is shared by China, India, and Nepal
  • The basin is one of the most significant flow contributors to the Ganges River
  • Nearly 45% of the basin lies in Nepal, 32% in China, and 23% in India
  • Over 40 million people depend on the basin for water, ecosystem services, and livelihoods
  • The basin is highly prone to natural disasters like floods, landslides, glacial lake outburst floods, and droughts
  • The Koshi Basin is one of those most vulnerable Himalayan basins where climate change will affect water availability, and consequently agriculture and livelihood options for millions of people. Disasters will further increase the basin’s vulnerabilities. Due to climate change, more than 50 percent of the basin is projected to experience frequent and devastating floods, and lower lean season flows by the 2050s.
Flood of opportunities
  • In Nepal, where the Koshi Basin is the largest of its Himalayan basins, the development of water infrastructure has the potential to make water availability more consistent and secure. The basin has great potential for expanding irrigated area, and generating hydropower to meet Nepal’s growing energy demand, which is increasing at a rate of nine percent per year.
  • Nearly 30,000 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy could be generated annually through the implementation of the11water infrastructures on the Koshi Basin proposed by JICA.
  • The infrastructures can also be used to regulate low-flow conditions during post-monsoon and winter months, and promote positive upstream–downstream connectivity. These water infrastructures can store 8.4 billion cubic metres of water, enough to meet the basin’s projected demand by the 2050s.
  • Simultaneous investment is needed to develop and nurture governance and institutional systems for the efficient, equitable, and sustainable governance and management of water-related services provided by water infrastructures.
  • Large upstream water storage facilities have long been considered the best way to control extensive floods that devastate the vast floodplains of the basin. A comprehensive study needs to be undertaken in order to evaluate the role of storage infrastructure to regulate floodplain flooding, and augment lean season water availability for hydropower and agricultural development.
  • Climate impacts need to be adequately addressed in existing policies, plans, and programmes. Knowledge-sharing efforts between research and management communities are necessary. Comprehensive information systems are need for investment decision sup-port, and disaster preparedness at the basin level.
  • A regional context of infrastructure development is crucial to ensuring investment, and the sharing of benefits. Umbrella mechanisms like the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) can help address regional knowledge issues, and provide new avenues to bring together diverse stakeholders on common platforms. These would be platforms for social action, basin-wide learning, and advising policymakers on how to arrive at more socio-ecologically robust and egalitarian governance transformations.
For more information 

Neera Pradhan Shrestha
Ad-Interim Programme Coordinator, Koshi Basin Initiative