Freshwater systems in the HKH are undergoing natural and socioeconomic change. The changes are manifested in terms of the quantity and quality of water with strong temporal and spatial variation. The conservation of water, its sustainable development and management, and its negotiated future use are paramountly important for HKH river basins. Furthermore, taking into account downstream communities, water management and sustainability have ramifications for the prosperity and stability of the entire region and beyond. Water is not only the single most important resource and source of wealth, but also the potential source of catastrophic hazards.
ICIMOD applies an integrated river basin approach to water resources management taking into consideration the management and sustainable use of water and land resources for livelihoods, the impacts on environment, and the pressing need for disaster risk reduction and management of water-related hazards in river basins. ICIMOD works in multiple scales starting from the community (catchment) scale to the sub-basin and basin scales with national and transboundary issues. Our attempts have been to establish linkages between those spatial scales in terms of processes understanding and developing solutions.
The cryosphere constitutes an important subset of the hydrosphere (or the river basin regime). The Himalayan cryosphere is a significant contributor to the hydrological budget of large river systems in Asia such as the Indus, the Ganges, and the Brahmaputra. Significant progress has been made in monitoring essential parameters for the management and development of water resources. ICIMOD has facilitated cryosphere monitoring (particularly field-based glacier mass balance studies and snow cover area monitoring using remote sensing techniques) in Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan, and as a complement to the more established monitoring systems in China and India.
RMC policies, strategies, and development programmes highly critical to water resources management and disaster risk reduction in the HKH influenced through robust evidence from scientific research, gender responsive practices, and capacity building in the areas of river basins and cryosphere.