September 17, 2020 12:20:39 am
Recent data shows that significant areas of glaciers in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan (HKH) Region are retreating at an alarming rate, according to `Retreating Glaciers and Water Flows in the Himalayas: Implications for Governance,” a study published recently by the Observer Research Foundation.
The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is one of the most vibrant, distinct and intricate mountain systems in the world. An estimated 210 million people live within these mountain systems, and some 1.3 billion people who live downstream of the HKH rely on freshwater obtained directly or indirectly from rivers and tributaries of the region.
Dr Anjal Prakash, research director and adjunct associate professor of Bharti Institute of Public Policy at the Indian School of Business, who has authored the study, told The Indian Express that the study tries to understand the impact of glacial retreat on the region’s water regime, especially the river basins and Groundwater the Himalayan region supports.
The study investigates the relationship between glacier decline, and the changing surface water, with groundwater in the Hkh Region. It tries to understand how climate change influences groundwater systems, attempting to correlate glacier decline and water flows in the large river basins feeding the groundwater and spring sources.
Springs are the lifelines for people in the upper and middle riches of Himalayan region. They form the major source of water supply and are fed with a unique combination of surface and groundwater systems. Due to changing climatic conditions and lack of management and understanding of the interconnected systems, the springs are in decline, says the study.
Groundwater comes out as seepage through springs under a favourable situation, forming the main source of water supplies to rural and urban hamlets in the entire Himalayan range. Springs also contribute supplementary water to the surface drainage network of the area. Groundwater is decreasing in many locations in the HKH region where its overdraft is leading to a decline in water supply through springs.
The study shows that in higher altitudes, climate-induced changes are altering the water flow in rivers and springs. It shows implications for groundwater governance in the region.
The study reiterates the fact that the Himalayan region is trans-boundary in nature, with watersheds spread across various countries – eight to be precise. The trans-boundary administration of shared water has its challenges, especially when countries that fall in the watershed areas do not have mutual confidence. This leads to ineffective water management at virtually every level in the HKH region.
A regional approach and trans-boundary cooperation is necessary to protect the surface and groundwater resources in the region, said Dr Prakash.
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