Himal Hindu Kush

Because good water basin managers must understand the ecological linkages between upland and lowland areas, WANI’s  Himal-Hindu Kush project began with a survey of the environmental flows in each of the six countries in this remote Himalayan region. Based on this scientific assessment, WANI helped develop alternate policy roadmaps for discussion at a regional dialogue on water resource management.

India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, China and Bhutan

Mountain ecosystems and watersheds are particularly vulnerable to climate change and overuse: they are fragile environments, easily disrupted by increased variations in temperatures, precipitation, soil moisture, fire and the length of growing seasons.

Conflicts over water can erupt, especially among countries where tensions already exist, such as those in the watersheds of the Himal and Hundu Kush mountain rages.

People who make a living in the mountains and downstream often lack a say in watershed development projects. Dams for water storage, irrigation and energy development, can still be built in the face of local opposition rooted in concern over social, environmental and economic stability.  In Himal Hindu-Kush, traditional management systems  eroded and state institutions were struggling to fill the vacuum, resulting in uncontrolled access to resources and widespread degradation.

After participating in the  2006 South Asia Water Conference, which brought together governments and civil society to explore the possibility of a Himalayan water council,  IUCN partnered with the World Bank, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Global Water Partnership (GWP) to stage the 2007 South Asia Water Dialogue.  The dialogue aimed to develop a network of organizations to use innovative tools for water management. Partners such as ICIMOD, TERI and Winrock,  joined IUCN country offices in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and China in activities that introduced concepts such as environmental flows and payment for ecosystem services to local water institutions.

A comprehensive review of water management issues and environmental flows in the Himal region was undertaken. Syntheses and implementation roadmaps were prepared for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, China and Bhutan, as well as reviews of best practices in IWRM in Nepal and India. A multi-stakeholder workshop on the role of high-altitude Himalayan wetlands as “water towers” concluded that improving understanding of the drivers, pressures, impacts and response measures for Himalayan wetlands is an urgent priority.

Creating partnerships and linkages in the region has been further developed in the second phase of WANI in 2009, in partnership with the Asian Development Bank. This project focuses on strengthening River Basin Organizations (RBO), enabling managers to communicate and exchange ideas across the region.