IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


22nd June, 2024 Geography


Copyright infringement not intended

Picture Courtesy: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/hindu-kush-himalaya-indus-ganga-other-river-basins-face-significantly-lower-than-normal-snow-persistence-says-icimod-96719

Context: A new report by the Indian Oceanographic and Meteorological Organization (ICIMOD) has revealed that the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra basins in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) have experienced below-average snow persistence.


  • The ICIMOD Snow Update Report 2024 highlights a concerning trend of significantly lower-than-normal snow persistence in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region, impacting major river basins such as the Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra, and others.
  • It poses imminent threats to water availability and necessitates urgent actions from governments and stakeholders to mitigate potential drought conditions and ensure sustainable water management.

Key Findings

Snow Persistence Decline

  • The Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra basins have experienced substantial decreases in snow persistence between November 2023 and April 2024. Specifically, reductions of 23%, 17%, and 15% respectively, compared to the historical average spanning from 2003 to 2023.
  • This decline marks a continuing trend over the past 22 years, with thirteen of those years recording below-normal snow persistence levels.

Regional Impact

  • The western HKH region has particularly low levels of snow persistence, which is critical as it contributes significantly to river water supply downstream.
  • The report notes a pattern of decreasing snow persistence from east to west across the HKH, underscoring the uneven distribution and severity of the impact.

Implications for Water Supply

  • Snowmelt from the HKH region contributes approximately 23% of the total water flow in 12 major river basins originating from these mountains.
  • The decline in snow persistence threatens water availability not only for the 240 million people directly reliant on these freshwater sources within the HKH but also for the 1.65 billion individuals downstream who benefit from these river systems.

Specific Basin Impacts

  • Indus Basin: Experienced the lowest snow persistence in 22 years, with levels 23.3% below normal, surpassing previous records set in 2018.
  • Brahmaputra Basin: Recorded below-normal levels, adding to concerns over water availability in the region.
  • Ganga Basin: Also reported a record low in 2024, reflecting significant variability in snow persistence over the past two decades.
    • Helmand and Amu Darya Basins: Showed dramatic declines in snow persistence, exacerbating water stress in these regions.


Proactive Measures

  • Governments are urged to activate drought management strategies immediately, especially as early summer water shortages loom.
  • Plans should be updated to incorporate adaptive measures that address water stress and communicate risks effectively to communities.

Drought Response Strategies

  • It is crucial to organise relief activities and ensure a continuous supply of clean water during emergencies caused by water shortages.
  • Promoting rainwater collection and other alternative water sources is emphasised to supplement reduced river flows.

Transboundary Collaboration

  • Collaborative efforts among countries sharing transboundary rivers are essential to update and strengthen water management laws.
  • Long-term resilience to climate change impacts can be achieved through improved cooperation and coordinated action.

About the Hindu Kush

  • The Hindu Kush is an extensive mountain range that stretches approximately 800 kilometres across Central and South Asia, west of the Himalayas.
  • It begins in central and eastern Afghanistan, extending into northwestern Pakistan and southeastern Tajikistan.
  • Geographically, it forms the western section of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region (HKH) and serves as a critical geographical and cultural feature in the region.

Geography and Features

  • The Hindu Kush runs southwest through Pakistan and into Afghanistan, where it merges with the Pamir Mountains near the borders of China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
  • Tirich Mir, at 7,708 meters, located in the Chitral District of Pakistan, is the highest peak in the Hindu Kush.

Historical Significance

  • Historically, the Hindu Kush region was a significant centre of Hinduism and later Buddhism, evidenced by sites such as the Bamiyan Buddhas.
  • It served as a vital trade route between Central and South Asia, facilitating cultural exchanges and movements of people.
  • The Hindu Kush has been a strategic passageway for various military campaigns and invasions of the Indian subcontinent throughout history.

Geology and Environment

  • Geological Formation: The Hindu Kush formed due to tectonic movements and collision of the Indian subcontinent with the Eurasian Plate.
  • Natural Hazards: It is seismically active, prone to earthquakes, and features diverse landscapes ranging from high peaks to deep valleys.


  • The ICIMOD Snow Update Report 2024 serves as a stark reminder of the escalating challenges posed by declining snow persistence in the HKH region. Immediate action is necessary to mitigate the risks of water shortages and ensure sustainable water management practices. By implementing proactive measures, updating water management plans, and fostering international collaboration, governments can enhance resilience to climate change impacts and safeguard the freshwater resources vital to millions of people in South Asia and beyond.

Must Read Articles:



Down to Earth



Q. The rate of glacier melt varies across different regions. Explain the factors that influence the rate of melt for a specific glacier and discuss the challenges in accurately predicting future glacier retreat under different climate change scenarios.