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FIGURE 3.1 Population distributions in the HKH region. Population data were taken from the Global Rural/Urban Population Mapping Project. Dashed lines indicate disputed political boundaries, following the guidance issued by the U.S. State Department, and this Committee takes no position on these boundary disputes.

TABLE 3.1 Shares of National Populations Living in Hindu-Kush Himalayan Region Water Basins

Country Basin Population in Basina National Populationb National Population Living in Basins (%)
Afghanistan Indus 10,636,154 31,412,000 33.9
Bangladesh Gang/Brahm 103,326,928 148,692,000 69.5
Bhutan Gang/Brahm 699,847 726,000 96.4
China Gang/Brahm 1,712,145        
    Indus 35,585 1,348,932,000 0.13
India Gang/Brahm 466,738,395        
    Indus 36,074,708 1,224,614,000 38.1
Nepal Gang/Brahm 28,951,851 29,959,000 96.6
Pakistan Indus 148,104,460 173,593,000 85.3
a Landscan (2010).
b United Nations (2011a).

600 million people in the Ganges/Brahmaputra Basin live at elevations below 1,000 m.2 Most of those living below 1,000-m elevation are in India (79 percent) and Bangladesh (18 percent; Table 3.3). Even in Nepal, where 29 million people live in this basin, almost two-thirds live below 1,000-m elevation. Even in mountainous Bhutan, more than one-quarter of its population in the Ganges/Brahmaputra basin lives at an elevation below 1000 m.

On a global scale, the countries of this region encompass some of the world’s poorest and least developed areas, alongside areas that are also experiencing rapid economic growth. The region is characterized by relatively low shares of the population living in cities.

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2 In Bangladesh, furthermore, nearly 60 percent of the population lives within 10 m of sea level and contiguous to the seacoast.

3 One thing that makes Asia stand out, particularly the subregions dependent on the water resources of the Indus and Ganges/ Brahmaputra deltas, is the number of extremely large cities, or the phenomenon of urban “giganticism” (Preston, 1979).



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