The mountains of Asia, including the Himalaya, are facing accelerating threats from a rapid rise in roads, settlements, overgrazing and deforestation that could worsen the impact of climate change and threaten water supply in China, Southeast Asia and northern India. The region’s water supplies, fed by glaciers and the monsoons and vital for around half the world’s population, may be harmed along with the area’s abundant and rich wildlife. A new report points to a critical gap in water security to billions of people in Asia and the crucial role of sound environmental management for sustained development. Comparing satellite images from the 1960s to today reveal that deforestation and unsustainable land use practices make the region’s rivers carry the largest sediment loads in the world causing increased flood-related disasters in China and India.
The report, The Fall of Water, was published by the IUCN and UNEP with support from the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The study is based on a new way of assessing the direct and cumulative impacts of infrastructure development called Global Methodology for Mapping Human Impacts on the Biosphere (GLOBIO). It has been developed by UNEP’s GRID Arendal centre in Norway, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre in the UK and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.