Challenges in Understanding the Variability of the Cryosphere in the Himalaya and Its Impact on Regional Water Resources

Bramha Dutt Vishwakarma*, R. A.A.J. Ramsankaran, Mohd Farooq Azam, Tobias Bolch, Arindan Mandal, Smriti Srivastava, Pankaj Kumar, Rakesh Sahu, Perumal Jayaraman Navinkumar, Srinivasa Rao Tanniru, Aaquib Javed, Mohd Soheb, A. P. Dimri, Mohit Yadav, Balaji Devaraju, Pennan Chinnasamy, Manne Janga Reddy, Geetha Priya Murugesan, Manohar Arora, Sharad K. JainC. S.P. Ojha, Stephan Harrison, Jonathan Bamber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The Himalaya plays a vital role in regulating the freshwater availability for nearly a billion people living in the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra River basins. Due to climate change and constantly evolving human-hydrosphere interactions, including land use/cover changes, groundwater extraction, reservoir or dam construction, water availability has undergone significant change, and is expected to change further in the future. Therefore, understanding the spatiotemporal evolution of the hydrological cycle over the Himalaya and its river basins has been one of the most critical exercises toward ensuring regional water security. However, due to the lack of extensive in-situ measurements, complex hydro-climatic environment, and limited collaborative efforts, large gaps in our understanding exist. Moreover, there are several significant issues with available studies, such as lack of consistent hydro-meteorological datasets, very few attempts at integrating different data types, limited spatiotemporal sampling of hydro-meteorological measurements, lack of open access to in-situ datasets, poorly accounted anthropogenic climate feedbacks, and limited understanding of the hydro-meteorological drivers over the region. These factors result in large uncertainties in our estimates of current and future water availability over the Himalaya, which constraints the development of sustainable water management strategies for its river catchments hampering our preparedness for the current and future changes in hydro-climate. To address these issues, a partnership development workshop entitled “Water sEcurity assessment in rIvers oriGinating from Himalaya (WEIGH),” was conducted between the 07th and 11th September 2020. Based on the intense discussions and deliberations among the participants, the most important and urgent research questions were identified. This white paper synthesizes the current understanding, highlights, and the most significant research gaps and research priorities for studying water availability in the Himalaya.

Original languageEnglish
Article number909246
JournalFrontiers in Water
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • climate–change
  • glacier mass balance
  • himalayan glaciology
  • himalayan hydroclimate
  • third pole environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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