IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


22nd August, 2023 Geography

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 The pressing issue of drying springs in the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH)


  • Springs are drying up across the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH), posing a significant threat to mountain communities that rely on spring water for their livelihoods.
  • In 2018, NITI Aayog reported that half of the estimated three million springs in the Indian Himalayan region had either dried up or experienced reduced flows.
  • Similar trends were observed in Bhutan and Nepal, where spring water scarcity affects millions of people.

Water Insecurity and Hard Engineering

  • Standard approach: Tapping nearby water sources and delivering water to users through hard-engineering methods.
  • Concern: Unsustainable approach as water sources continue to dry up.
  • Issues: Increasing costs and engineering efforts as projects struggle to meet demand, leading to "rings of dryness" around urban centers.
  • Solution: A shift towards springshed management focusing on resource sustainability and community stewardship.

Springshed Management: A Holistic Approach

  • Springshed management involves managing springs, recharge areas, and aquifers to ensure sustainable water supply.
  • Benefits: Promotes resource sustainability, anticipates future disputes, and focuses on community needs.
  • Challenges: Not all areas can rely solely on spring revival, large urban centers may require inter-basin transfers.
  • Kathmandu's dependence on inter-basin transfers vs. self-sufficiency of areas along the valley rim.

Demographic Change and Viability

  • Context: Outmigration from mountain settlements affects the scale and viability of engineering projects.
  • Solution: Appropriately scaled nature-based solutions like spring revival are more sustainable investments.
  • Benefits: Efficient restoration of water access, reduction of effort for communities, and potential cost savings.

Investing in Spring Revival: Multiple Benefits

  • Benefits: Improved water security, landscape restoration, biodiversity conservation, streamflow contributions, and more.
  • Opportunity: Combine spring revival with existing infrastructure to restore degraded sources and save on costs.
  • Guarding Against Maladaptation: Community-based approach prevents unsustainable practices driven by water availability.
  • Collective Action: Springshed management fosters community cooperation, forging landscape-level conservation partnerships.

Building Community Agency

  • Six-step protocol: Combining hydrogeology and social science to empower communities.
  • Knowledge Co-Creation: Interdisciplinary teams collaborate with communities to design Village Water Security Plans.
  • Para-Hydrologists: Community members trained in monitoring spring flows and leading restoration activities.
  • Water User Groups: Inclusive approach ensures participation of marginalized groups in spring revival and water use.

Results and Upscaling

  • Success: Bhutan, India, and Nepal demonstrate improved spring flow through community-based springshed management.
  • Benefits: Inclusive and sustainable model that enhances water security and social cohesion.
  • Contrast: Community-based approach vs. narrow interests and elite capture in hard engineering solutions.

Investing in Anticipatory Adaptation

  • Importance: Spring revival enhances water access, livelihoods, and contributes to Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Shift Needed: Focus should shift from source management to resource management with nature-based solutions.
  • Urgency: Many springs are drying up, indicating imminent water stress; long-term nature-based solutions are essential.

About World Water Week

  • World Water Week is an annual event that serves as a platform for experts, practitioners, policymakers, and organizations to convene, share knowledge, and address water-related challenges.
  • Organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), this event aims to promote collaboration, innovation, and the exchange of ideas for sustainable water management and development.
  • The theme of this year’s World Water Week is ‘Seeds of Change: Innovative Solutions for a Water-Wise World.’

Purpose and Focus

  • World Water Week focuses on addressing pressing global water challenges, such as water scarcity, pollution, climate change impacts, and access to clean and safe water.
  • The event emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration by bringing together professionals from various sectors, including water management, environment, agriculture, industry, and policy.

Key Components

  • Seminars and workshops cover a wide range of water-related topics, including water governance, sanitation, water-related disasters, ecosystem restoration, and sustainable development.
  • Each year, World Water Week revolves around a specific theme, fostering in-depth discussions and solution-oriented dialogues. Themes have included "Water for Sustainable Growth," "Water and Waste: Reduce and Reuse," and "Water, Ecosystems, and Human Development."
  • Scientific Presentations: Researchers, experts, and practitioners present scientific findings, case studies, and best practices that contribute to evidence-based water management strategies.
  • Innovative Solutions: The event showcases innovative technologies, approaches, and projects aimed at addressing water challenges and achieving sustainable development goals.

Participants and Engagement

  • World Water Week attracts participants from across the world, including government officials, researchers, NGOs, businesses, and international organizations.
  • The event includes plenary sessions, panel discussions, interactive workshops, and networking opportunities, promoting dynamic engagement and knowledge sharing.

Policy Influence

  • High-level policy dialogues facilitate discussions on water-related policies, strategies, and frameworks, leading to the formulation of informed recommendations.
  • World Water Week results in the creation of policy briefs and reports that provide actionable insights for policymakers and practitioners worldwide.

Outcome and Impact

  • World Water Week disseminates new research findings, innovations, and strategies to a global audience, contributing to improved water management practices.
  • The event encourages collaboration among diverse stakeholders, fostering partnerships that drive collective action for sustainable water management.
  • Insights and recommendations generated during the event influence the development of water-related policies and strategies at the local, national, and international levels.


Q) Discuss the challenges posed by the drying of springs in the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) region and the potential for community-based springshed management as a sustainable solution. (150 words)