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Ganges, Brahmaputra Among Major South Asian River Basins To Feel Impact Of Climate Change: Report

The monsoon season — critical for replenishing water resources — now brings devastating floods while dry seasons worsen water scarcity, especially in downstream areas

The NGT was hearing a petition seeking compliance of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 in all states and Union Territories
In the Brahmaputra basin, climate change -- coupled with dams and development work -- is poised to escalate flooding and droughts, states the report

New Delhi: The alarming impact of climate change will be felt on South Asia’s major river basins, including the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra, according to a new report. It also noted that the critical intersection of anthropogenic activities and shifting climate patterns can spell dire consequences for about a billion people in the area. According to the report — “Elevating River Basin Governance and Cooperation in the HKH Region” — on these three rivers, there is an immediate need for a climate-resilient approach to river basin management.

The Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) are the freshwater sources of South Asia and parts of Southeast Asia. Water originating from their snow, glaciers and rainfall feeds the 10 largest river systems in Asia.

The report said,

The Ganges basin, often regarded as sacred and essential to more than 600 million individuals across the Indian subcontinent, is facing mounting environmental threats. Rapid industrialisation, urbanisation and intensive agricultural practices have exacted a toll on the river’s ecological health. The indiscriminate discharge of sewage and industrial waste has severely polluted the water, posing significant risks to both human health and the environment. Alongside these anthropogenic activities, the impacts of climate change are exacerbating existing challenges, particularly in the form of escalating flooding and droughts.

Also Read, How Is Climate Change Impacting Our Health?

The monsoon season — critical for replenishing water resources — now brings devastating floods while dry seasons worsen water scarcity, especially in downstream areas such as Bangladesh. These climate-related hazards disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including women, people with disabilities and marginalised communities, the report added.

Similarly, the Indus river — a lifeline for more than 268 million people across Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and China — is under unprecedented stress due to climate change. Rising temperatures, erratic monsoons and environmental degradation are pushing the basin towards a crisis point.

The report said,

The scale of climate change impacts in the Indus basin is overwhelming, undermining food security, livelihoods and water security. Variations in the timing and intensity of monsoon rains are already having profound impacts on the health and sustainability of the basin. On top of that, environmental degradation, including increasing agricultural and industrial pollution, is degrading the riverine environment, adversely affecting freshwater fisheries and eroding the ecological health of the river.

These challenges are compounded by existing socioeconomic vulnerabilities, further exacerbating the plight of marginalised communities, it added.

In the Brahmaputra basin, climate change — coupled with dams and development work — is poised to escalate flooding and droughts, particularly in its lower basin.

The report stated,

Glacial melt rates are expected to rise, impacting water availability across the region. While currently there are no major water diversions in the basin, upstream dam construction and climate change projections are likely to reduce dry season flows in downstream areas, affecting millions of lives. The vulnerability of women, poor, indigenous and marginalised communities is set to escalate as changing socioeconomic drivers converge with projected climate impacts.

According to the report, despite the urgent need for collective action, governance within these basins remains fragmented, with limited multilateral agreements facilitating basin-wide collaboration. Existing treaties and agreements have often failed to address the broader impacts of climate change or involve marginalised stakeholders.

As these agreements approach expiration, there is an opportunity to adopt more inclusive and resilient approaches to basin governance, leveraging diverse perspectives and expertise, it added.

Also Read, Brushstrokes Of Change: Artists Unite To Paint The Reality Of Climate Change

The report advocates that long-term strategies must prioritise adaptive infrastructure, flexible governance structures and inclusive policies to ensure reliable water supply amid climatic uncertainties.

Recognising the transboundary nature of climate impacts, the report stressed on the paramount importance of regional cooperation. Initiatives such as the “HKH Call to Action” provide a framework for collaborative action, fostering trust among basin states and informing evidence-based decision-making.

It also called for a bottom-up approach involving local communities, deeming it essential for effective climate adaptation, with programmes such as “Indus Calling” empowering communities with information and tools for better water management and resilience building.

The report advocated for collaborative action and inclusive policies to address the urgent challenges posed by climate change on major river basins in South Asia.

Only through collective efforts can these regions navigate the complexities of climate change and safeguard the livelihoods of millions across the region, the report said.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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