Source: Assam Tribune Relevance: GS Paper I (Indian Geography-Biodiversity)

Context: The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) experts have labelled the Hindu Kush Himalaya region as a biosphere teetering on the edge of collapse, emphasising the need for decisive measures and immediate financial support to avert further loss of nature.

Why in the News:

  • Scientists have characterised the Hindu Kush Himalaya region as a biosphere on the verge of collapse, emphasising the necessity for bold action and immediate financial support to mitigate nature loss in one of the world’s most biodiverse regions.

  • This call to action was articulated by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) during a significant gathering of over 130 global biodiversity experts in Kathmandu, Nepal.

  • The assembly marked the Third Lead Authors meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) nexus assessment, aimed at exploring the interconnections between food and water security, health, biodiversity, and climate change.

  • Commencing on Monday, the meeting is scheduled to run until February 9, with a policymaker summary slated for February 10-11. Notably, this marks the inaugural IPBES assessment meeting held in South Asia.

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD):

  • Purpose: ICIMOD is an intergovernmental organisation serving the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region’s people.

  • Establishment: Founded and inaugurated on December 5, 1983.

  • Mission: The mission involves creating and disseminating knowledge to shape regional policies, foster action, and attract investments. This aims to facilitate the transition towards greener, more inclusive, and climate-resilient development in the HKH.

  • Membership: Comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan, these member countries collaborate to address common challenges and promote sustainable development in the region.


  • The highest governing body of the centre is its Board of Governors, which includes one representative from each of the eight regional member countries.

  • Additionally, independent members, chosen for their acknowledged professional expertise and experience, are nominated by the ICIMOD Support Group.


  • Information and Knowledge Dissemination: ICIMOD’s primary role involves generating and sharing information and knowledge to address crucial challenges in mountain regions.

  • Facilitating Science-Policy-Practice Integration: It facilitates the integration of scientific findings into policy frameworks and practical applications on the ground, fostering effective solutions.

  • Regional Collaboration Platform: ICIMOD provides a platform where experts, policymakers, planners, and practitioners can collaborate, exchanging ideas and perspectives to advance sustainable development in mountainous areas.

  • Headquarters: Located in Kathmandu, Nepal, ICIMOD’s headquarters serves as the central hub for coordinating its activities and initiatives across the region.

Key Points about the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) Region:

  • Spanning 3,500 km across eight countries from Afghanistan to Myanmar, the HKH region covers a vast expanse.

  • It serves as the origin of ten major Asian river systems, including the Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra (Yarlung Tsanpo), Irrawaddy, Salween (Nu), Mekong (Lancang), Yangtse (Jinsha), Yellow River (Huanghe), and Tarim (Dayan).

  • The region plays a vital role in providing water resources, ecosystem services, and supporting livelihoods for the people residing within its boundaries.

Geography and Topography:

  • Varied Terrain: The HKH region exhibits a diverse landscape, featuring snow- capped peaks, glaciers, alpine meadows, forests, and river valleys.

  • Prominent Mountains : Notable peaks in the region include Mount Everest, K2, Kangchenjunga, and Nanga Parbat.


  • River Sources: It serves as the starting point for ten major river systems like the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers, which are vital for sustenance and energy for over a billion people in South Asia.

  • Biodiversity Hub: The area boasts rich biodiversity and unique ecosystems, harbouring numerous endemic species. Additionally, it hosts four of the world’s 36 global biodiversity hotspots, along with 575 protected areas and 335 important bird areas.

Climate and Environment:

  • Vulnerability to Climate Change : The HKH region faces high susceptibility to climate change, evidenced by rapid warming, glacial retreat, and consequent impacts on water resources, agriculture, and livelihoods downstream.

  • Challenges Presented: Challenges such as altered precipitation patterns, heightened frequency of extreme weather events, and glacier melt pose significant threats to communities in the area.

Challenges and Conservation Efforts:

  • Diverse Obstacles : The region grapples with various challenges including deforestation, habitat loss, soil erosion, water scarcity, and natural calamities like landslides and floods.

  • Need for Holistic Approaches : Tackling these challenges demands holistic strategies that emphasise sustainable development, natural resource conservation, climate resilience, and fostering collaboration among the countries sharing the HKH landscape.

Way Forward for Sustainable Development in the HKH:

  • Climate Resilience Programs: Implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing climate resilience within communities, with a focus on adopting sustainable agricultural practices and effective water management strategies.

  • Poverty Alleviation Measures: Introduction of poverty alleviation programs designed to economically and socially empower communities, thereby improving their adaptive capacity to climate change impacts.

  • Disaster Preparedness: Strengthening of infrastructure, early warning systems, and community-based disaster preparedness measures to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and enhance resilience in vulnerable areas.

  • International Cooperation: Foster collaboration among nations, organisations, and communities to develop and implement sustainable strategies for climate resilience, poverty reduction, and disaster management across the HKH region.

  • Research and Innovation: Investment in research and innovation endeavours to deepen our understanding of the complex interactions between climate change, poverty, and natural disasters.

·         This will facilitate informed decision-making and the development of effective solutions for sustainable development in the HKH region.

In conclusion, the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region stands as a critical and diverse landscape, hosting some of the world’s highest peaks and serving as the source of vital river systems. However, it faces significant challenges, including climate vulnerability, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation. Addressing these challenges requires integrated efforts focusing on sustainable development, conservation, and regional cooperation. By implementing holistic approaches and fostering collaboration among stakeholders, we can work towards safeguarding the HKH region’s unique biodiversity and ensuring the well-being of the millions of people who depend on its resources.

Advait IAS