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Finding future water solutions

upstream-downstream linkages into account. 112,113 Several early warning techniques already exist and can be more effectively used now and in the future to minimize losses in case of floods. Existing technologies are available, and pilots have been developed and successfully implemented in the region by ICIMOD and its partners (e.g., early warning systems, 114 climate smart villages, 115 regional flood information systems 116 and spring- shed development 117 ). Local people in the HKH have a history of successful adaptation to environmental changes, but the changing nature of water hazards in recent years has made people more vulnerable and rendered traditional adaptation practices less effective. This suggests that governments and communities would mutually benefit from collaborating on these issues. 118 Taking a longer-term perspective, in the context of sustainable development, increases the likelihood that more immediate adaptation actions will also enhance future options and preparedness. 119 To avoid maladaptation, planners should make local scenarios using the full range of possible climate and socioeconomic futures, and combine climate projections with already existing knowledge and best practices. Adaptation knowledge and experience already exists and can be shared to a greater extent across local, regional and international levels. Changes in the HKH are impacting on people on a large scale – including those living downstream. At the regional level, integration between upstream and downstream areas is critical for food, water and energy security. Transboundary cooperation on water resources development would bring political and social benefits to all countries involved by building trust, stimulating the sharing of data and knowledge, and increasing regional security and

economic growth. 120 Equal attention should be paid to the management of HKH ecosystems – especially watersheds, catchments and the headwaters of river systems – as well as to tapping the potential of collaborative gains in water, hydropower and other ecosystem services through coordination across HKH countries. Data gaps in the HKH are still very large and most of the analyses are based on modelled data. Countries should come together to share data and undertake more rigorous analysis with a high level of confidence. Comprehensive Himalayan glacier and river flow assessments need to be undertaken by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in cooperation with national governments and regional organizations working in water-related fields, keeping in mind the action required at various levels. Research at the micro level is also needed to understand the impacts of climate change on water sources, including farm and field-based research on water management. It is essential for the governments of the countries sharing the HKH to come together to understand the dynamics of change in the HKH to reduce the speed of change.

Water challenges arise from an imbalance between water availability and use. Changes in water availability can be caused by changes in glacier melt, precipitation, evaporation and other water balance components, while changes in consumption are governed by demographics, agricultural practices and many other factors. The current and projected changes in temperature, precipitation and extreme events pose many challenges to people in the HKH, mainly because they are changing water availability at a time when consumption patterns are changing and demand is rising. Changes in water availability due to climate are expected to affect climate and water-dependent sectors such as rain- and irrigation-fed agriculture and consequently food security, and the availability of drinking water and human health, and have large consequences for the functioning of ecosystems including forest and wetlands and the numerous services they provide. There are no internationally-accepted principles and conditions of sustainability with regard to water security. 110 There are, however, three critical scales of adaptation: local, regional and transboundary. Specific risks and challenges must be assessed and analysed at each level to produce appropriate answers. At the local level and in the immediate future, adaptation is key. In agriculture, crop diversification may spread the risks of droughts or extreme precipitation. Using a greater variety of crops, with different planting and harvesting times, will minimize the risk of ‘losing it all’ in case of disaster. 111 More sustainable water use, water conservation techniques and payment for ecosystem services can provide ways to improve water availability and livelihoods, which also take


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