Introduction to the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment

Publication / Report

This is the Introduction of an open access volume which is the first comprehensive assessment of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region. It comprises important scientific research on the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable mountain development and will serve as a basis for evidence-based decision-making to safeguard the environment and advance people’s well-being. The compiled content is based on the collective knowledge of over 300 leading researchers, experts and policymakers, brought together by the Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP) under the coordination of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). This assessment was conducted between 2013 and 2017 as the first of a series of monitoring and assessment reports, under the guidance of the HIMAP Steering Committee: Eklabya Sharma (ICIMOD), Atiq Raman (Bangladesh), Yuba Raj Khatiwada (Nepal), Linxiu Zhang (China), Surendra Pratap Singh (India), Tandong Yao (China) and David Molden (ICIMOD and Chair of the HIMAP SC).

This First HKH Assessment Report consists of 16 chapters, which comprehensively assess the current state of knowledge of the HKH region, increase the understanding of various drivers of change and their impacts, address critical data gaps and develop a set of evidence-based and actionable policy solutions and recommendations. These are linked to nine mountain priorities for the mountains and people of the HKH consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals. 

This book is a must-read for policy makers, academics and students interested in this important region and an essentially important resource for contributors to global assessments such as the IPCC reports.

 

Key Issues of the HKH

This assessment considers the key issues in the HKH region in the context of related questions that draws regional attention, cooperation and policy solutions. The HKH region is geologically fragile, with young and rising mountains, usually vulnerable to erosion and landslides, even without human interference. The region is undergoing rapid change driven by stressors such as climate change and human conflicts, and factors like globalization, infrastructure development, migration, tourism and urbanization. The outcome of interplay of these complex drivers of change is challenging to predict but will have major consequences, not just in the region but globally. There is a critical need to assess these drivers’ potential cost to the HKH environment and human wellbeing as well as the opportunities they may present. Per capita fossil fuel CO2emission from the HKH countries is one-sixth of the global average, however the region immensely suffers from the impact of climate change. Climate change is further enhanced by short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon, which is emitted in large quantities in regions upwind of the HKH where dirty energy sources also have a large impact on health. From a policy standpoint, achieving food, water, energy, and livelihood security in the region will require exploring scenarios based on different assumptions so that the scientific community, policy-makers, the private sector, and community stakeholders can come together and make optimal governance decisions to sustain this global asset. It will also require country-specific recommendations to guide national-level policy-making.

Overall Objective, Rationale and Key Questions

Overall Objective

This assessment aims to (1) establish the global significance of the HKH, (2) reduce scientific uncertainty on various mountain issues, (3) lay out practical and up-to-date solutions and offer new insights for development of this region, (4) value and conserve existing ecosystems, cultures, societies, knowledge, and distinctive HKH solutions that are important to the rest of the world, (5) addresses contemporary policy questions, and (6) influence policy processes with robust evidence for sustainable mountain development.

Key Questions

A set of questions relevant for the assessment was developed first by nalysing the key issues of the HKH region. The assessment was designed in a way that each chapter team considered relevant questions in writing their chapters. HIMAP has considered the following critical questions:
  • What are the most important drivers of change in the HKH, what is the role of climate change, and what are their potential impacts on biodiversity, ecosystem services, livelihoods, and water resources?

  • What are the most important strategies, policies, and governance arrangements for enhancing community adaptation to drivers of change, including climate change; how can they be out-scaled; and what are their impacts?

  • How do gender-equitable and inclusive approaches support sustainable mountain development, and how can these be realized?

  • What migration trends exist in the region, what are their present impacts on livelihoods and the environment, how climate change is inducing migration and should migration be taken as adaptive strategy, and what are the options for addressing migration and the likely consequences of those options?

  • What is the existing status of the cryosphere, what changes are likely, and what are the possible impacts of those changes?

  • What is the current and likely future quantity, variability, and quality of the water in the 10 major river basins of the HKH; what are the potential impacts of change on water availability; and how can negative impacts be mitigated?

  • What are the best means of reducing the risk of floods and droughts, and how can they be introduced at various scales, including on Transboundary Rivers?

  • Why is air pollution increasing in the HKH, how is the HKH affected by air pollution from within and beyond the HKH, and how can the problem be reduced?

  • What are the energy needs and possibilities for the people of the HKH, what are the positive and negative impacts of hydropower development, how effective and safe is hydropower generation as an economic enterprise, and how can hydropower best be sustainably developed in the region?

  • How can ecosystems be managed to support soil and biodiversity conservation, and improved livelihoods in the various contexts found in the HKH?

  • What ecosystem services do mountains provide, and how can management and supply of these services be compensated?

  • What watershed-, landscape-, and forestry-based approaches will best support ecosystem services, food and water security, and community resilience?

  • How can the HKH develop a green economy? What technologies (modern, traditional, and indigenous) and approaches are best suited for sustainable mountain development in the region, and how can they be out-scaled?

Share