The Indus basin covers an area of about 1,140,000 sq.km. A large part of the upper basin lies within the Hindu Kush, Karakorum, and Himalayan mountains; Afghanistan, China, India, and Pakistan share the basin territory. Glaciers are a major landscape feature of the region. One third of the upper Indus basin lies above 5000m. Snow and glacial melt contribute more than half of the annual average flow of the Indus River and around 50% of its tributaries.
Irrigation is the backbone of the agricultural system in the basin and agriculture is a major contributor to local economies. During the dry season the flow from the mountains is particularly important, accounting for all the total flow in the uppermost parts of the catchments. The basin is already water stressed. Agriculture and other economic activities rely heavily on water, and climate change induced changes in water availability can have additional impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the millions of people living in the Indus basin.
The Indus basin initiative has been developed to help provide the basic information needed to support wise decision-making and planning to ensure water availability. In the long-term, the initiative aims to contribute to a safe environment and reliable access to water for household consumption, food production, power generation and other sectoral usages in the Indus Basin.
The immediate aim is to support detailed monitoring of snow, ice and water resources in the region through capacity building and establishment of appropriate systems. The information gathered is intended to help inform policy and decision makers, as well as scientists, and the public at large, in the region and beyond.
The focus of the project is the Indus basin. The first phase activities will be conducted in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The activities are anticipated to be extended to India and China at a later stage.
The first phase of the project will last until June 2011
German government through GTZ
Dr Arun Shrestha
ICIMOD Country Office Afghanistan
Abdul Azim Doosti