The Tibetan Plateau and the surrounding Hindu Kush-Himalayan regions, also known as the “Asian water tower,” is the source of 10 major Asian rivers. Abundant glacier ice reservoirs and alpine lakes feed an extended river system encompassing the Yellow, Yangtze, Indus, Mekong, Salween, Ganges, Yarlung Zangbo, Amu Darya, Syr Darya and Tarim rivers, supplying freshwater to downstream areas. Holding the world’s third-largest global reservoir of snow and ice after the Arctic and Antarctica, the area provides nearly 2 billion people with freshwater, meaning that around 25 percent of the Earth’s population depends on the region.
Recent studies demonstrate that climate change is significantly affecting the region, not just in the short term but also causing significant long-term hydrological, socio-economic, humanitarian, and security challenges. The region has warmed at rates considerably higher than the global average, disrupting the water cycle. Annual and seasonal temperatures have increased more at higher elevation zones, while precipitation patterns have shifted, rising in the northwest but decreasing in the south. At the same time, glaciers are shrinking, groundwater is depleting, permafrost is degrading, and snow cover days are dwindling.
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