Why in the News?

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has launched the Building Adaptation and Resilience in the Hindu Kush Himalayas Initiative.

About the Initiative:

  • Aims to address climate change adversities in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.
  • Utilizes advanced risk assessment and risk management tools, including insurance and risk transfer, to guide investment decisions for large-scale infrastructure.
  • Provides support to Bhutan and Nepal in climate adaptation efforts, particularly in the worst-affected regions.

About Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) Region:

  • Spans approximately 4.3 million square km across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.
  • Home to renowned peaks such as Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga.
  • Vulnerable to various hazards like earthquakes and landslides due to its young and rising mountains.
  • This region contains four of the world’s thirty-six global biodiversity hotspots: the Himalaya, Indo-Burma, the Mountains of Southwest China, and the Mountains of Central Asia.
  • Known as the Third Pole or the Water Tower of Asia due to its substantial ice reserves.
  • Asia’s “Water Tower”: This structure goes by this name. From HKH, at least 12 rivers spread out across the Asian continent in all directions:
    • The Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal are reached via the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra.
    • Syr Darya and Amu Darya in the direction of the deceased Aral Sea
    • Tarim heading toward Taklamakan
    • The Yellow River heading into the Bohai Gulf
    • Yangtze River heading toward the East China Sea
    • The South China Sea and the Mekong River
    • The Irrawaddy, Salween, and Chindwin flowing towards the Andaman Sea


Climatic Risks Faced by the Region:

  • Increasing intensity and frequency of climate change hazards like glacial lake outbursts and flash floods, posing significant risks to mountain inhabitants.
  • Declining snow cover and accelerated glacier melting leading to drying rivers, impacting hydropower energy and water quality.
  • Predictions suggest up to 75% glacier melt in parts of the Himalayas by 2100 if global warming reaches 3 degrees.
  • Economic losses in the region from disasters totaled $45 billion from 1985 to 2014, surpassing other mountainous regions worldwide.
  • Adverse impact on mountain-dwelling species, with some expected to decline in numbers, leading to biodiversity loss.

Other Global Initiatives for Protecting Himalayan Ecosystem:

  • The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Himalayan Adaptation Network by IUCN: Using a landscape perspective, a web-based network effort in Sikkim is developing climate resilient measures to lessen ecosystem and community vulnerability in the Indian Himalayan region (IHR).
  • Living Himalayas Initiative by WWF to protect Eastern Himalayan biodiversity.

India’s Initiatives:

  • National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) to continuously assess the health status of the Himalayan Ecosystem.
  • SECURE (Securing livelihoods, conservation, sustainable use and restoration of high range Himalayan ecosystems) Himalaya project by MoEFCC (India) and UNDP as part of the Global Wildlife Program (GWP), funded by GEF.

In conclusion, the Hindu Kush Himalayas represent a vastly important area in terms of geography, culture, and ecology. The nations that share this special and essential mountain range must work together to address the difficulties facing the HKH through coordinated efforts at sustainable management, conservation, and collaboration.