International Conference on Climate and Environmental Change Impacts on the Indus Basin Waters

Organizer(s) World Bank, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development International Water Management Institute


The Indus River Basin is shared by four countries Afghanistan, China, India, and Pakistan, with the largest portions of the basin lying in Pakistan (52%) and India (33%). The main river originates at Lake Ngangla Rinco on the Tibetan Plateau in the People’s Republic of China and includes the tributaries Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej in India, Swat, Chitral, Gilgit, Hunza, Shigar, Shyok, Indus, Shingo, Astor, Jhelum and Chenab in Pakistan and Kabul River draining parts of Afghanistan.

The Indus Basin ranks among the most important basins of the world in terms of human dependence. The river supports a population of about 215 million people, whose livelihoods are directly or indirectly dependent on it. This leads to a very high population density in the basin and an approximate water availability of 1,329 m3 per head In total the Indus River Basin is estimated to have a total hydropower potential of 55,000 MW, out of which about 35,700 MW are technically feasible. At present, only 6,444 MW, i.e., about 12% of the potential are harnessed. Socioeconomic development of the countries in the basin, thus, largely depends on optimal utilisation and prudent management of the precious water resources of the Indus River basin.

High rate of population increase in the region and associated socio-economic problems have been further aggravated by recent climate change impacts which has produced more stress on the water supply from the Indus River Basin system. The lower part of the Basin particularly, is now one of the most water-stressed areas in the world and the situation is going to further to deteriorate in future to reach permanent water scarcity. Anomalous weather episodes may increase the risk of flooding and/or droughts in the region. Extreme events such as intense rainfall and prolonged droughts are expected.

In addition to these issues, the impact of climate change looms across the region. One of the key areas where climate change impact is likely to be severe is the cryosphere and dependent water supply. In the Indus basin the runoff is generated predominantly due to melting of snow and ice. Disruption in the hydrological regime can have serious impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the people living in the basin. It is important to understand the possible impact of climate change on the hydrological regime of river basins for better planning and implementation of adaptation measures. Policy and decision makers are increasingly stressing the need to improve the monitoring schemes of snow, ice and water resources in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region to support evidence based adaptation planning. Several initiatives are being implemented in the basin coming from national and international agencies and academia, proper sharing or information could result in more effective support to the policy environment.

Objective of the conference:

The main aim of the international conference is to build better understanding of ongoing research and interventions related to climate change and adaptation, cryosphere and water in the Indus basin. It will provide the latest understanding of physical processes related to climate, cryosphere and water availability and current and future trends in water demand. The conference will attempt to develop a framework to synergise the research and implementation efforts of various institutions and individuals.

The conference will be focused on presentation of current programs and status of research in the style of a Scientific Conference. Pre and post-conference workshops will be organised on 16 and 19 February with smaller number of the participants. The post-conference workshop on Day 4 (19 February) will be dedicated to Upper Indus Basin (UIB) Network and Indus Forum discussions on how the available research can inform policy and how to fill research gaps. UIB/Indus Forum discussions will be informed by international scientists invited to the conference.

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