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Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) Region

By Amigos IAS

Why is it in the news?

  • The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has urged for ‘bold action’ and ‘urgent finance’ to avert the collapse of nature in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH)

 About Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH)

  • The HKH region spans across eight countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. Stretching over 3,500 kilometres, it is renowned for its ecological, geographical, and socio-economic significance.
  • The HKH region harbours the largest volume of ice outside the polar regions, earning it the moniker “Third Pole.” Its glaciers, snowfields, and permafrost are crucial sources of freshwater for downstream regions.
  • The region’s complex topography influences weather patterns, climate systems, and water cycles across South Asia and beyond.
  • It is home to a remarkable array of ecosystems, ranging from lush forests to alpine meadows and barren highlands. These diverse habitats support rich biodiversity, including numerous endemic and endangered species.
  • The HKH region hosts four of the world’s 36 global biodiversity hotspots and encompasses several globally significant ecoregions and protected areas.
  • Approximately 241 million people reside in the HKH region, many of whom rely directly on its natural resources for their livelihoods. These communities depend on the region’s forests, rivers, and pastures for food, water, fuel, and fodder.
  • The rivers originating from the HKH, such as the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Yangtze, are lifelines for millions of people downstream, supporting agriculture, hydropower generation, and urban water supply.

 Despite its ecological and socio-economic importance, the HKH region is confronted with numerous challenges that threaten its sustainability

1) Climate Change:

  • The HKH region is highly vulnerable to climate change, experiencing rapid warming, glacial retreat, altered precipitation patterns, and increased frequency of extreme weather events.
  • These changes have profound implications for water availability, food security, biodiversity, and the livelihoods of mountain communities.

 2) Biodiversity Loss:

  • Anthropogenic activities such as deforestation, habitat fragmentation, overgrazing, and poaching have led to the loss of biodiversity in the HKH region.
  • Many species, including iconic wildlife such as snow leopards, Himalayan tahr, and red pandas, are at risk of extinction due to habitat degradation and climate change.

 3) Water Scarcity:

  • Changes in precipitation patterns and glacial melt pose challenges to water availability in the HKH region, affecting both upstream and downstream communities.
  • Increasing water demand for agriculture, industry, and domestic use exacerbates water stress in many areas, leading to conflicts over water resources.

Despite these challenges, efforts are underway to promote sustainable development and resilience in the HKH region:

 1) International Collaboration:

  • Organizations like the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) facilitate regional cooperation and knowledge sharing among HKH countries.
  • Collaborative initiatives focus on climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, disaster risk reduction, and sustainable livelihoods.

 2) Policy Interventions:

  • National governments have formulated policies and strategies to address the unique challenges faced by mountain communities and ecosystems.
  • These policies often emphasize ecosystem conservation, sustainable resource management, disaster preparedness, and climate resilience.

 3) Community Engagement:

  • Local communities play a crucial role in conservation efforts, often serving as stewards of natural resources and traditional knowledge holders.
  • Community-based conservation initiatives empower local people to participate in decision-making processes and implement sustainable practices.

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