Water Insecurity Reaches New High With Urban Himalaya Running Dry

HKH Water Insecurity

On Sunday, a study published in a journal came up with some worrisome reports of increased water insecurity in the Hindu Kush (HKH) region, which is predominantly known for its high water availability. The study was based on 13 towns across 4 countries, sharing borders with each other and also analyzed the reason behind the urban Himalaya running dry. 

Among the Indian towns, Devprayag, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Mussoorie, and Singtam were the towns included in the study. 8 other towns from 3 neighboring countries include; Kathmandu, Bharatpur, Tansen and Damauli in Nepal; Murree and Havelian in Pakistan; and, Sylhet and Chittagong in Bangladesh, have been on the radar for water insecurity. 

The study was the first of its kind, conducted in the HKH region, revealed a few reasons behind the water insecurity, which includes, water supply system, interlinkage of water availability, rapid urbanization and a subsequent rise in demand. Increased population and tourist flow in this region have also added to the misery. 

The study was led by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which is an intergovernmental body in Nepal, Kathmandu, working in eight countries namely, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal, Myanmar, and Pakistan. The study focused on several aspects, like, demand-supply gap, availability of water sources, the projected population, climate change challenges in the case of weather extremities, in the HKH region. 

The entire HKH region evidently showed degradation and encroachment of natural water bodies, such as ponds, lakes, canals, and rivers, and even a gradual decrease in the usage of traditional water systems like wells and local water tanks. Through these findings, a critical analysis of water management in urban Himalayan was documented. 

Keeping in mind the future demands and the measure ought to be taken, the study showed only 3% of the population living in larger cities while 8% in small towns, but that is expected to increase up to 50% of the population living in large cities by the year 2050. 

On a brighter note, the study gave away some crucial steps to acquire in order to prevent water insecurity in the coming days by protecting springs, increased water harvesting and equal distribution of water among all. 

When the water supply is faced with a challenge the first to suffer are the poor and marginalized people. Many underlying reasons play as a catalyst for water insecurity in the HKH region, and with time it will only grow, if not a mountain-specific solution is introduced, according to David Molden, director general of ICIMOD.

Sukanya Chakraborty

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