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The importance of water in the HKH

Agriculture and food security for billions of people The economies of the HKH countries and the livelihoods of the majority of people within them are highly water dependent. Agriculture accounts for about 90% of all water withdrawals in HKH countries (higher than the world average of 70%). Although agriculture’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) is declining across South Asia and China, it remains an important component of the economies of HKH countries. Large proportions of the population are still based in rural areas and rely on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and livestock for their livelihoods. In Nepal,

The population of South Asia has tripled over the last 60 years and now accounts for around a quarter of the world’s population, with China alone accounting for around one-fifth. 29 An estimated 210 million people living within and 1.3 billion people living downstream of the Hindu Kush Himalayas rely on freshwater obtained directly or indirectly from the rivers and tributaries of the region. 30 There is an extremely high degree of dependence on these freshwater resources to sustain the livelihoods of rural communities and meet the food needs of urban populations. Water also supports navigation, energy production, and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. At the same time, the region experiences the largest loss of life and damage in the world from water-related natural disasters.

agriculture contributes about one-third of GDP and employs two-thirds of the labour force. 31 In Pakistan, agriculture contributes about one-fifth of GDP and employs just under half of the population. 32 In China, over half of the land is used for agriculture, which contributes almost one-tenth of the country’s GDP. 33 The agricultural sectors in all HKH countries remain central to the development of their national economies. However, agriculture is also the sector most vulnerable to climate change, because it is highly susceptible to climate and weather, and also because people involved in agriculture tend to be poorer than urban populations.

The food, water and energy security of individual countries in the region depends heavily on the


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