ICIMOD Issues Warning For Drought Management Strategies


ICIMOD issues warning for drought management strategies

PESHAWAR, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 18th Jun, 2024) Leading experts from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), have issued a warning for water management officials to initiate drought management strategies and pre-emptive emergency water supply measures as the snow was significantly lower than normal in Hindu Kush Himalaya region this year.

“Snow persistence, the fraction of time snow remains on the ground, is significantly lower than normal in the Hindu Kush Himalaya this year, with serious implications for downstream communities’ water security,” reads the annual Snow Update Report of ICIMOD issued here on Tuesday.

"Snowmelt is the source of approximately 23% of the total water flow of 12 major river basins that originate high in the HKH," the report explained.

But its contribution to water supply varies from river to river – representing 74% of river flow to the Amu Darya; 77% of the Helmand’s flow; and 40% of the Indus’ flow.

“We’ve seen a pattern of decreasing amounts and persistence of snow across the Hindu Kush Himalaya, with 13 of the past 22 years registering lower than normal seasonal snow persistence,” observed ICIMOD Cryosphere Specialist, Sher Muhammad, author of the Snow Update Report 2024.

“This is a wake-up call for researchers, policymakers, and downstream communities: lower accumulation of snow and fluctuating levels of snow pose a very serious increased risk of water shortages, particularly this year,” Sher cautioned.

Monitoring shows snow levels almost a fifth below normal across the region this year, with figures falling dramatically in the west, where its contribution to water supply was highest.

Helmand river basin shows the most dramatic fall in persistence at 31.8% below normal. Its previous lowest level was in 2018, when it saw a 42% reduction.

In addition, In the Indus River basin, there was a notable decrease in seasonal snow persistence in 2018, with a deviation of 9.4% from the average.

"The Indus Basin, world’s largest contiguous irrigation system supplying water to 2.2 million acres of land and whose more than 50 percent flow is contributed by snow and glacier, has fallen to 23.3% below normal, marking the lowest level in the past 22 years," the report added.

In the Amu Darya River basin, the percentage change in seasonal snow persistence previously reached its lowest point in the last twenty-two years in 2018, with a 17.7% reduction.

Miriam Jackson, ICIMOD’s Senior Cryosphere Specialist emphasized the need for proactive measures.

“We encourage relevant agencies to take proactive measures to address possible drought situations, especially in the early summer, update plans to accommodate water stress, and to notify communities of the risks."

“Beyond that, it’s clear that governments and people in this region need urgent support to help them adapt to changes in snow patterns that carbon emissions have already locked in."

“And that G20 countries need to cut emissions faster than ever before to prevent even more changes that will prove disastrous to major population centres and industries that rely on snow-melt in the mountains.”

Conversely, in 2008, the changes in snow persistence reached its highest level, peaking at 32.1%, suggesting a significant increase in snowfall during that period.

The current year exhibits the lowest snow persistence, with 28.2% below normal.

This assessment highlights the dynamic nature of seasonal snow in the region and emphasizes the need for continued dissemination of snow information to better understand and manage the impacts of these long-term changes.