HomeEnvironmentHimalayan Communities Staring At Water Shortage

Himalayan Communities Staring At Water Shortage

Himalayan Communities Staring At Water Shortage

Himalayan Communities Staring At Water Shortage

Photo: Wikipedia

NEW DELHI (News Agencies) – The Hindu Kush Himalaya region is facing a significant drop in snow persistence this year, raising serious concerns over water security for downstream communities, according to a new report.

The region heavily relies on the cryosphere—frozen water on Earth’s surface, including snow, permafrost, and ice from glaciers, lakes, and rivers. This frozen water is a crucial source of freshwater for around 240 million people living in the region and benefits approximately 1.65 billion people downstream.

Snowmelt contributes around 23 percent of the total water flow of 12 major river basins originating in the Hindu Kush Himalaya. However, its contribution varies by river, representing 74 percent of the Amu Darya’s flow, 77 percent of the Helmand’s flow, and 40 percent of the Indus’ flow.

Monitoring indicates that snow levels are nearly a fifth below normal across the region this year, with the most dramatic declines in the west, where its contribution to the water supply is the highest.

Snow persistence has dropped 17 percent below normal in the Ganga basin and 14.6 percent below normal in the Brahmaputra basin, according to the Snow Update Report – 2024, released on June 17 by Nepal’s International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

The Helmand River basin shows the most significant decline in snow persistence, at 31.8 percent below normal. Its previous lowest level was in 2018, with a 42 percent reduction.

The Indus basin has fallen to 23.3 percent below normal, the lowest level in 22 years. The previous lowest year for this basin was 2018, with a 9.4 percent shortfall. The Mekong basin had the smallest variation from normal, with snow persistence around 1 percent below normal.

To ensure long-term resilience to climate change, countries sharing transboundary rivers must collaborate to update their water management laws. Such actions are crucial to addressing water shortages in South Asia, which heavily relies on snowmelt, researchers said.

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