Volume 31, Issue 2

June 2015
Special Issue on Himalayan Waters at the Crossroads the Crossroads

Editorial »

Himalayan Waters at the Crossroads: Issues and Challenges

Aditi Mukherji, David Molden, Santosh Nepal, Golam Rasul and Patrick Wagnon

Research Article

The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas: current status and observed changes from the 1980s to 2010

Samjwal Ratna Bajracharyaa, Sudan Bikash Maharjana, Finu Shresthaa, Wanqin Guob, Shiyin Liub, Walter Immerzeelc and Basanta Shresthaa
aInternational Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal; bCold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, China; cDepartment of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Contact: Samjwal Ratna Bajracharyaa | Email: sabajracharya@icimod.org


The fate of the Hindu Kush Himalayan glaciers has been a topic of heated debate due to their rapid melting and retreat. The underlying reason for the debate is the lack of systematic large-scale observations of the extent of glaciers in the region owing to the high altitude, remoteness of the terrain, and extreme climatic conditions. Here we present a remote sensing –based comprehensive assessment of the current status and observed changes in the glacier extent of the Hindu Kush Himalayas. It reveals highly heterogeneous, yet undeniable impacts of climate change.

Pages: 161-173

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2015.1005731 (Open Access)

Research Article

A comparative high-altitude meteorological analysis from three catchments in the Nepalese Himalaya

J.M. Sheaa, P. Wagnona,b, W.W. Immerzeelc, R. Bironb, F. Brunb and F. Pellicciottid
aInternational Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal; bIRD/UJF–Grenoble 1/CNRS/G-INP, LTHE UMR5564, LGGE UMR5183, Grenoble, France; cDepartment of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, the Netherlands; dDepartment of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

Contact: J.M. Shea | Email: joseph.shea@icimod.org


Meteorological studies in high-mountain environments form the basis of our understanding of catchment hydrology and glacier accumulation and melt processes, yet high-altitude (>4000 m above sea level, asl) observatories are rare. This research presents meteorological data recorded between December 2012 and November 2013 at seven stations in Nepal, ranging in elevation from 3860 to 5360 m asl. Seasonal and diurnal cycles in air temperature, vapour pressure, incoming short-wave and long-wave radiation, atmospheric transmissivity, wind speed, and precipitation are compared between sites. Solar radiation strongly affects diurnal temperature and vapour pressure cycles, but local topography and valley-scale circulations alter wind speed and precipitation cycles. The observed diurnal variability in vertical temperature gradients in  all seasons highlights the importance of in situ measurements for melt modelling. The monsoon signal (progressive onset and sharp end) is visible in all data-sets, and the passage of the remnants of Typhoon Phailin in mid-October 2013 provides an interesting case study on the possible effects of such storms on glaciers in the region.

Pages: 174-200

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2015.1020417 (Open Access)

Research Article

Impact of climate change on the hydrological regime of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins: a review of the literature

Santosh Nepal and Arun Bhakta Shrestha
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal

Contact: Santosh Nepal | Email: santosh.nepal@icimod.org


The Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins support 700 million people in Asia. The water resources are used for irrigation, drinking, industry, navigation and hydropower. This paper reviews the literature on the impact of climate change on the hydrological regime of these river basins and suggests that the different basins are likely to be affected in different ways. Climate change will have a marked affect on meltwater in the Indus Basin and may result in increased flood risk in the Brahmaputra Basin. The overall impact on annual discharge is likely to be low, but more studies are required to understand intra-annual changes and the impact of extreme events.

Pages: 201-218

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2015.1030494 (Open Access)

Research Article

A comprehensive approach and methods for glacial lake outburst flood risk assessment, with examples from Nepal and the transboundary area

Narendra Raj Khanala, Pradeep Kumar Moola, Arun Bhakta Shresthaa, Golam Rasula, Pawan Kumar Ghimireb, Rajendra Bahadur Shresthaa and Sharad Prasad Joshia
aInternational Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal; bGeographic Information System and Integrated Development Centre, Kathmandu, Nepal

Contact: Narendra Raj Khanala | Email: narendra.khanal@icimod.org


Like other mountainous areas, Nepal is highly vulnerable to glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), and this vulnerability has increased due to climate change. Risk reduction strategies must be based on a comprehensive risk assessment. A comprehensive methodological approach for GLOF risk assessment is described and illustrated in case studies of the potential GLOF risk posed in Nepal by four glacial lakes, one located in China. People, property and public infrastructure (including hydropower plants, roads and bridges) are vulnerable, and there is a need to integrate GLOF risk reduction strategies into national policies and programmes.

Pages: 219-237

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2014.994116 (Open Access)

Research Article

Establishment of a regional flood information system in the Hindu Kush Himalayas: challenges and opportunities

Mandira Singh Shresthaa, Wolfgang E. Grabsb and Vijay R. Khadgia
aInternational Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal; bFederal Institute of Hydrology, Koblenz, Germany

Contact: Mandira Singh Shrestha | Email: mandira.shrestha@icimod.org


Rapid advances in communication technology are making access to information faster, more reliable, and cheaper. At the same time, hydrological and meteorological monitoring technologies continue to improve significantly. These technological advances can be exploited to promote regional cooperation for flood risk reduction in the Hindu Kush Himalayas by providing an end-to-end flood information system. The system will function as a decision support tool for decision makers to alert vulnerable communities in a timely and accurate manner. This article provides an example of how regional cooperation has been achieved and is being promoted in the Hindu Kush Himalayas through the development of a regional flood information system.

Pages: 238-252

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2015.1023891 (Open Access)

Research Article

Governance and management of local water storage in the Hindu Kush Himalayas

Ramesh Ananda Vaidya
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal

Contact: Ramesh Ananda Vaidya | Email: ramesh.vaidya@icimod.org


The people of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region face severe seasonal water shortages due to the high variability in rainfall, and the problem is likely to be exacerbated under climate change. Small-scale local water storage options offer a means of collecting monsoon precipitation to provide for agricultural and household needs over the entire year, and they help build community resilience. Proper watershed management, with due consideration of upstream–downstream linkages, and appropriate institutional arrangements are vital for this adaptation measure to work. Active participation of local users in decisions related to water allocation and community services is essential. Planned interventions should preserve the institutional arrangements of reciprocity and cooperation among community members.

Pages: 253-268

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2015.1020998 (Open Access)

Research Article

Farmers’ responses to climate change impact on water availability: insights from the Indrawati Basin in Nepal

Neera Shrestha Pradhana, Suman Sijapatib and Sagar Ratna Bajracharyaa
aInternational Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal; bINPIM, Kathmandu, Nepal

Contact: Neera Shrestha Pradhan | Email: neera.pradhan@icimod.org


There is a need to assess the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture in order to plan appropriate adaptation measures. Farmers are already adapting to these changes to a certain degree. This article presents a case study of rainfed and farmer-managed irrigated agriculture in the Indrawati Basin, Nepal. It describes farmers’ perceptions of climate change, an analysis of historical water availability, and future projections of temperature and precipitation. Adaptation strategies already being used by farmers are identified and new ones are recommended based on primary information collected from farmers and an in-depth analysis of the climate data.

Pages: 269-283

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2015.1033514 (Open Access)

Research Article

Integrated water resources management in Nepal: key stakeholders’ perceptions and lessons learned

Diana Suhardimana, Floriane Clementb and Luna Bharatib
aInternational Water Management Institute, South East Asia Regional Office, Vientiane, Lao PDR; bInternational Water Management Institute, Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur, Nepal

Contact: Diana Suhardiman | Email: d.suhardiman@cgiar.org


Integrated water resources management (IWRM) has been prescribed in the global water policy literature for decades. This article looks at how the concept has been applied in Nepal. It highlights the normative approach in IWRM policy formulation, the existing institutional barriers to apply it and how these resulted in the framing of IWRM ‘implementation’ as merely a compilation of donor-funded projects. Current discourse on IWRM highlights the need to shift the emphasis from national policy formulation to local adaptive, pragmatic approaches to IWRM. This article brings to light the need to identify potential entry points to scale up locally rooted water management approaches towards the development of nested institutional set-ups in water resources management.

Pages: 284-300

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2015.1020999 (Open Access)