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Hindu Kush- Himalayan region and the climate change

Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Hindu Kush- Himalayan region and the climate change


What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: All about third pole, its location, significance and climate change issues associated.


Context: To better gauge the impact of climate change on the Hindu Kush mountains, which includes the Himalayas, and spruce up data-gathering, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) will collaborate with meteorological agencies in China and Pakistan, among others, to provide climate forecast services to countries in the region.


About Hindu Kush-Himalayan region:

The Hindu Kush-Himalayan region spans an area of more than 4.3 million square kilometres in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.

The region stores more snow and ice than anywhere else in the world outside the polar regions, giving its name: ’The Third Pole‘.

It contains the world’s highest mountains, including all 14 peaks above 8,000 metres, is the source of 10 major rivers, and forms a formidable global ecological buffer.



  • The Third Pole region has enormous socioeconomic and cultural diversity; it is home to many different ethnic communities speaking more than 600 languages and many more dialects.
  • It is endowed with rich natural resources and contains all or part of four global biodiversity hotspots.
  • The mountain resources provide a wide range of ecosystem services and the basis for the livelihoods to the 210 million people living in the region, as well as indirectly to the 1.3 billion people — one fifth of the worlds’ population — living in the downstream river basins.
  • More than 3 billion people benefit from the food and energy produced in these river basins that have their origin in the mountains.


The Third Pole and Climate Change:

  • Climate change has become a major concern in the Third Pole.
  • Mountain systems are particularly sensitive to climate change and the Third Pole region is home to some of the people most vulnerable to these changes in the world.
  • Changes in the river systems and their basins have impacted directly on the wellbeing of millions of people.
  • The rate of warming in the Third Pole region is significantly higher than the global average, and the rate is higher at higher altitude, suggesting a greater vulnerability of the cryosphere environment to climate change. This trend is expected to continue.
  • Climate change projections suggest that all areas of South Asia are likely to warm by at least 1°C by the end of the century, while in some areas the warming could be as high as 3.5-4°C.
  • The life and livelihoods of the people in the Third Pole region is challenged due to climate change, and the stability and prosperity of the region affected by the Third Pole is at risk, which will have implications for all of Asia and for the world.


The threats and challenges faced by the biodiversity in the Hindu Kush region are:

  1. Biodiversity is in steep decline driven by human development, pollution, overexploitation of resources and climate change.
  2. With the growing impacts of climate change, along with new infrastructure development, trade routes and hydropower dams planned for the fragile region, the effects on the biodiversity is set to worsen further.
  3. Along with species loss this will mean the loss of the key environmental services the region provides – such as water and carbon storage – to the rest of Asia.
  4. As temperatures rise with climate change, large areas of grasslands, alpine meadows, wetlands and permafrost will disappear on the Tibetan plateau by 2050.
  5. Human impact has led to a loss of wildlife populations, plant productivity, changes in growing seasons and plants and entire ecosystems shifting to higher altitudes.
  6. Hydropower is a big threat, with over 550 large projects in existence or under construction.
  7. New trade routes under China’s Belt and Road initiative – such as new rail and roads cutting through fragile landscapes – will bring new opportunities to remote regions, but could facilitate greater resource extraction and illegal wildlife trade.
  8. About 40% of the HKH region is designated as protected areas, but actual implementation of conservation measures is patchy.
  9. Many of these areas are remote and authorities have little control over border regions sometimes plagued with ongoing conflict. Example: Indo-Burma hotspot.


Facts for Prelims:

The Third Pole Environment (TPE): TPE, an international research program, was launched in 2009 and focuses on the Tibetan Plateau and surrounding mountain ranges.


Sources: the hindu.