World Water Council predicts grim future of glacier-fed water resources in Kashmir

Srinagar, Apr 12: Rapid and unplanned urbanisation taking place in ecologically fragile mountainous region of Kashmir may lead to grim future as far as the supply of potable water is concerned, a recent study has shown.
The study ‘Urbanisation and water insecurity in the Hindu Kush Himalaya: Insights from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan’ collectively carried out by four environmental researchers Sreoshi Singh(Nepal), S M Tanvir Hassan (Bangladesh), Masooma Hassan (Pakistan) and Neha Bharti (India), was published in ‘Water Policy’, the official journal of the World Water Council, in February this year.
The study reflected the impact of urbanisation and activities like migration, tourism and religious pilgrimage in the Himalayan regions of their respective countries.
It said the urban areas in the mountains of Kashmir and that of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal largely depend on springs and river water, the source of which is snow and glaciers.
“But as these sources are snow and glacier-fed, the impact of climate change may affect the quantity of water available from these sources, leaving groundwater sources as more critical for these cities in different seasons,” the study reads.
“The entire Himalayan region is spread across an area of 4.2 million square km across eight countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan, sustains the livelihood of 240 million people. It is also the source of 10 major river basins and home to four of 36 global biodiversity hotspots,” it added.
In Kashmir, the study claims that well-established tourism sector enforced migration of people from rural areas, thereby exerting tremendous pressure on these urban centers.
“Housing demands are increasing and this necessitates acquisition of agricultural lands and forests, which leads to environmental damage and affects other natural resources, particularly water,” it said.
The study said that the smaller settlements, market towns remain unclassified as urban centers in the Himalayan regions due to which no proper planning is done to tackle environment disasters.
“In the mountains, smaller settlements like district headquarters or market towns perform a number of functions typical of an urban center. However, they are not formally classified as urban centres because they do not meet the nationally set criteria. This calls for a mountain-specific definition of urban areas, which takes into cognisance mountain specificities like fragility, limited water sources and remoteness,” it said.
The study highlighted that the water crisis becomes eminent during dry season particularly in cities of touristic importance.
“As local water sources have shrunk over the years, urban authorities have been compelled to augment supplies by developing planned water supply systems from other distant sources, like rivers, surface water bodies, etc. Several parts of these urban centres are also unserved due to lack of sufficient water in the sources,” it added.
The study called for long-term strategies such as mountain-specific urban planning which takes into account “the myriad fragilities of mountain ecosystems and ecological restoration of forested uplands that feed the urban water systems.”
“Without long-term and sustainable urban planning and accountability of the stakeholders, many of these urban centers in the Hindu Kush Himalayas are poised for a grim water future, which will only be exacerbated by climate change,” it added.

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Self-help believer, a gadget lover and nature's admirer.
Presently Senior reporter at The Kashmir Monitor with an experience of nine years in reporting business, crime, defense, politics and environment.Have also contributed to reputed media organizations including First Post, India Spend, Forbes India

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