Climate Change: A Himalayan Odyssey

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The Himalayas are inherently vulnerable to heavy rains, flash floods, landslides, etc., as these are new mountains which are still growing and are seismically very active. Climate change has added another layer of vulnerability. It is acting as a force multiplier and making landslides, flash floods and cloudbursts more disastrous. The most widely reported impact is the rapid reduction in glaciers, which has profound future implications for downstream water resources. The impacts of climate change are superimposed on a variety of other environmental and social stresses, many already recognized as severe. The Himalayan region is the source of ten of the largest rivers in Asia. The basins of these rivers are inhabited by 1.3 billion people and contain seven megacities. Natural resources in these basins provide the basis for a substantial part of the region’s total GDP and important environmental services, which are also of importance beyond the region. Due to ill-thought human interventions – dams, hydropower projects, highways, mining, deforestation, buildings, unregulated tourism, and pilgrimage – the fragility of the mountains has increased.