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1 May 2019 | News

More research needed to understand the impact of cryosphere changes on mountain communities in the HKH

The role and importance of cryosphere services in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) remain largely undefined and consequently unrecognized, despite the growing demand as pointed out in a recent review by researchers at ICIMOD. The review identifies various knowledge gaps in the cryosphere’s contributions to high-mountain communities, which are among the world’s most vulnerable societies.

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The high mountains are home to some of the world’s most vulnerable societies. In picture, a woman in Darchula, far-west Nepal, struggles up the hill fetching water for domestic use. (Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya)

The review brings the much needed discussion on cryosphere services and their importance to the spotlight. The high-mountain societies that live in the vicinity (within approximately 30 km) of glaciers, ice, snow, permafrost, and glacier lakes are often directly dependent on the cryosphere for their livelihoods and affected by cryosphere-related hazards.

The knowledge about the physical basis of cryospheric change in the HKH has greatly improved in recent years. However, very little is known about which social groups are most affected and how, and how politics and power influence societal responses to changes in the cryosphere.

“Any research on cryospheric changes in the HKH is only partially useful if the information about impacts on mountain communities as well as downstream users of cryosphere services does not exist,” said Anna Sinisalo, an author of the review.

One of the key messages of the study is the need to facilitate more dialogue among scientists, users of cryosphere services, and decision makers to achieve a deeper understanding about cryosphere services and their resilience. Such dialogues are important in formulating ways to address the needs of the different types of users and ensure the sustainability of cryosphere services in the HKH.

Read in detail: Contributions of the cryosphere to mountain communities in the Hindu Kush Himalaya: a review

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