Hydroclimate hazards in the HKH region have the potential to affect the lives and livelihoods of large numbers of people. Although climate change may be just one of many elements in a complex system, it could also amplify existing political and security stress and push water systems over critical thresholds. In this chapter, we discuss risks and vulnerabilities related to natural hazards and provide an overview of water conflicts and political stresses in the region. Environmental change can contribute to violent conflict, especially where there is a history of such conflict and where governance institutions lack capacity or are still in the process of consolidating. It can also threaten political and social stability by creating obstacles to development, undermining public health, causing population displacement, creating problems for traditional livelihood and allocation systems, and affecting mediation tools.
It is useful to situate the risks associated with snow and ice hydroclimatology in the HKH region within the broader context of natural hazards patterns and trends in South Asia, which have varied in the region in both space and time. As of late 2011, some one-third to one-half of the populations of South Asian countries were reported to be food insecure1 due in part to flood, drought, and complex emergencies (World Food Pro-
gramme, 2011a). Monsoon flooding was affecting the plains and coastal areas of Bangladesh and India, cloudbursts and landslides were occurring in the mountains in northern India, floods and landslides were affecting Nepal, and monsoon flooding hit coastal Pakistan.2
In 2010, hydroclimatic hazards had a different spatial distribution in the region, but again with significant consequences. Twenty million people were impacted by what started as monsoon-related flash flooding in northern Pakistan and ballooned to one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the country as one-fifth of the country’s land area was submerged. In the aftermath of this flooding it is estimated that 90 million people were food insecure, an increase from 83 million in 2009 (World Food Programme, 2011b).
Although few of these recent incidents directly involved snow and ice hydroclimatology, questions were raised about the possible linkages of mountain hydroclimate change to, and long-term implications for, perennial and pervasive hazards in the region. Moreover, food insecurity in some areas is a chronic hazard not associated with disasters as much as structural political, social, and economic forces (e.g., Pakistan National Nutrition Survey (AKU and UNICEF, 2012), which indicated no improvement in the percentage of the food-insecure population over the past decade). This section examines these wider patterns of natural hazards, in space and time, to establish the context in which mountain hydroclimate hazards are experienced.
1 The World Health Organization defines food security as “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”
Twenty years ago, concerns arose about the perceived effects of upper basin deforestation (e.g., in Nepal) on catastrophic flood disasters in the Ganges River Basin downstream as far as Bangladesh, which are analogous to current concerns about Himalayan glaciers. A team of mountain scientists began to question these perceptions, and compiled a volume titled The Himalayan Dilemma: Reconciling Development and Conservation (Ives and Messerli, 1989). Research in The Himalayan Dilemma marshaled evidence that shed new light on processes of deforestation in the headwaters, refuted popular notions of mountain peoples’ responsibility for lower basin flooding, and refocused attention on mesoscale relationships among land use, land cover, flood hazards, and economic development in the mountains, foothills, and upper piedmont settlement regions. The snow and ice hazards of concern in this report differ from the issues of 20 years ago, for example, in their attribution of responsibility to global rather than mountain societies, but the focus on the mountains as a source of downstream hazards invites analogies with the types of rethinking that are needed. To what extent, and in what ways, do the unfolding mountain snow and ice risks in the HKH region relate to other natural hazards in the region? Five propositions may be considered:
• Mountain hazards can attenuate with distance downstream.
• Mountain hazards can cascade and amplify downstream (e.g., because of increased downstream vulnerability or “associated disasters” triggered by those upstream).
• Mountain hazards can concatenate with other hazards downstream. They can attenuate while also being amplified by independent disasters downstream (Butzer, 1982).
• Mountain hazards can be compounded by independent disasters in different subregions that divert relief efforts from one disaster to another.
• Mountain hazards can be eclipsed by other crises downstream.
These five scenarios defy simple generalizations across the region. They may occur in succession with or adjacent to one another. One way of approaching them is to examine the historical geographic record of natural disasters in South Asia. The following analysis gives a sense of the magnitude of mountain hazards relative to those of the plains and coasts. It complements other discussions in this report regarding historical and future linkages among the hazards of mountains, plains, and coasts—and it is supported by information from a variety of disaster databases that are discussed in further detail in Appendix D.
Natural Disasters in South Asia
Natural disasters in South Asia can involve meteorological, hydrological, and geophysical phenomena that are obviously not unique to the HKH region. In 2010, hydrological disasters were more common than other types of disasters in the region (Munich RE NatCatSERVICE).3 A similar pattern is observed over the past century, the frequency of natural disasters in the region being flood dominated when compared with other disasters (Figure 4.1), both in terms of the frequency of events and number of people affected by the occurrence of floods (Figure 4.2). However, the number of people killed over the past century by natural disasters was dominated by droughts and related famines; the number of people killed by floods in the 20th century is smaller (Figure 4.3).
It should be underscored that these national disaster data cover entire countries in the South Asian subcontinent over the past century, and not just the region affected by mountain hydroclimatology. This macroregional perspective over a century reflects the uncertainties of aggregate data analysis. For example, Several catastrophic drought and famine events occurred in South Asia during the first half of the 20th century. Thus, although the frequency of droughts and famines over the past century in the region is relatively low (Figure 4.1), Figure 4.2 and 4.3 reflect the major impacts of these events in terms of people affected and people killed.
3 The NatCatSERVICE database is a comprehensive natural catastrophe loss database. The statement in the text is based on statistics from this database on major global natural catastrophes in 2010. See http://www.munichre.com/en/reinsurance/business/non-life/georisks/natcatservice/default.aspx.
FIGURE 4.1 Disasters in the South Asia region have been dominated by floods over the past century (1900 to 2010) in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. SOURCE: Based on data from CRED (2011).
Focusing on the most recent 30-year period (i.e., the most recent climate “normals”) provides additional insight, although the patterns and trends seem less clear. Floods have had increasing significance in the numbers of people affected (Figure 4.4) while earthquakes have been associated with the highest number of
FIGURE 4.2 Number of people affected per event (bars; y-axis, left) and in aggregate (black triangles; y-axis, right) over the past century (1900 to 2010) in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Floods have affected the most people, while droughts have affected the most people per event. SOURCE: Based on data from CRED (2011).
FIGURE 4.3 People killed per event (bars; y-axis, left) and in aggregate (black triangle; y-axis, right) by type of hazard over the past century (1900 to 2010) in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Droughts and related famines have killed the most people in the region both in aggregate and per event. SOURCE: Based on data from CRED (2011).
people killed, including the 2005 Kashmir earthquake (Figure 4.5). On a yearly basis, the number of people killed and displaced spiked several times over the past 30 years due to significant flooding events such as the 2010 flood in Pakistan. Displacement of people in multiple countries appeared to start increasing in the
FIGURE 4.4 People affected per event (bars, y-axis, left) and in aggregate (black triangles; y-axis, right) by type of hazard over the past 30 years in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. In recent years, floods have been increasingly important in terms of the number of people affected. SOURCE: Based on data from CRED (2011).
FIGURE 4.5 People killed per event (bars; y-axis, left) and in aggregate (black triangles; y-axis, right) by type of hazard over the past 30 years in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. In recent years, earthquakes have been associated with the highest number of people killed, mostly due to the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. SOURCE: Based on data from CRED (2011).
late 1990s, but then dropped. Even economic damages seem more variable in the region than the aggregate global trend (Dartmouth Flood Observatory, 2011).
Examining flood hazards over the past 25 years as they occur in the Dartmouth Flood Observatory Database (Appendix D) provides additional insight. Several patterns stand out: first, the frequency of reported events is increasing; second, a significant number of these events are two-country and presumably transboundary events, which is relevant for this study; but third, deaths and damages do not exhibit clear trends in individual countries. These observations raise questions about the extent to which increased frequency and impacts are a function of improved disaster reporting, changes in human exposure, and/or changes in vulnerability Thus, while the above analysis brings forth information about the occurrence of natural hydroclimate hazards in the region, interpreting these data needs to be framed with additional points, including
• the number of people in risk zones has increased with population growth;
• the number of people affected by floods may be due to an increasing number of vulnerable people and increasing vulnerability of those people (e.g., by pressures to settle in hazardous floodplain and hill-slope areas);
• increasing flood hazards may be associated with land degradation in some settlements and watersheds; and
• the region is experiencing an increased reporting of disaster events.4
Mountain Environmental Hazards:
An Examination of Nepal
To gain a more specific sense of mountain environmental hazards it is useful to examine Nepal. Nepal has the highest proportion of mountainous terrain among countries in the region, and thus the most pervasive exposure to and experience with mountain hazards. It is also the one country in the region that has a detailed national disaster database examining hazards by types and subregions, maintained by the Global Assess-
4 The last of these issues is partially addressed by data on losses per event. The other uncertainties are well recognized, though increased awareness has not yet led to more explanatory database development.
ment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR)5 and described further in Appendix D. In this database, as in global ones, the frequency of disasters reported has increased from the 1990s onward, and so, looking at the impacts per disaster variable is important.6
Although the number of people killed by natural hazards in Nepal over the past 40 years has increased, the number of people killed per disaster has decreased somewhat. This could be due, in part, to improvements in medical care and disaster response. The number of people affected (in aggregate and per disaster) increased in the same time period, albeit with differently timed peaks and trends in response to specific events.7 However, estimated economic damages increased from the 1990s onward in an obvious trend (Figure 4.6) reflecting the same global trend.
A subregional breakdown of disaster frequency and analysis of losses of life and damages by disaster type in Nepal indicates that
• damages are highest in the more populated central and eastern regions (Figure 4.7);
• losses of life are cumulatively highest from floods and landslides, although individual earthquakes have caused some of the highest mortality rates;
• droughts have limited recorded impact as compared with other countries in South Asia; and
• fires and floods have caused some of the greatest economic losses.
When contemplating these points, several important questions occur: How do the different countries of South Asia address these types of mountain hazards? Do low-frequency high-mortality disasters such as earthquakes have greater impact on disaster policy in the region than higher-frequency lower-magnitude flood hazards? How do societies address multiple hazards and transboundary hazards, including those in lowlands that may compound or eclipse mountain hazards? To consider these types of questions, the next
FIGURE 4.6 Estimated damages per event (bars; y-axis, left) and in aggregate (black triangles; y-axis, right) from natural hazards in Nepal in local currency by year (1971 to 2009). Estimated economic damages increased from the 1990s onward. SOURCE: Based on data from DesInventar Disaster Information System, http://www.desinventar.net/DesInventar/profiletab.jsp?countrycode=np.
6 It is worth noting that the GAR database does not separate glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) from the aggregate flood data.
7 Analysis is based on data from the GAR database from 1971 to 2009.
FIGURE 4.7 Number of people affected, number of people killed, and estimated damages (in local millions of dollars) for the five regions of Nepal, in aggregate for events occurring between 1971 and 2009. Number of people affected, number of people killed, and estimated damages are all highest in the more populated central and eastern regions. SOURCE: Based on data from DesInventar Disaster Information System.
section shifts from historical disaster data to current disaster risk reduction programs at the international and national levels.
Natural Disaster Mitigation, Management,
It is important to consider the efforts that focus on natural hazards and disaster risk reduction in South Asia, as they offer different perspectives on and approaches to natural hazards across the region. This can also be useful when considering the specific impacts of glacial and snowmelt processes in the region. A variety of national, regional, and international intergovernmental organizations and programs and national disaster agencies exist that are relevant to this discussion. Each has differing missions, emphasis, and resources and thus different strengths and weaknesses in this context. Furthermore, geopolitical issues and governance structure have variable bearing on disaster management and response in the region. (For a more detailed discussion of these programs, see Appendix D.)
As a whole, regional organizations8 give particular emphasis to international cooperation, information sharing, and capacity building. One important aspect of these regional programs is their increasing emphasis on linking climate change with disaster risk reduction. Another important observation is that increasing emphasis on community-based approaches and on capacity building by these organizations is creating an international professional cadre of regional disaster risk reduction expertise.
In addition to the military role in disaster relief in each country, national disaster management agencies are key sources of planning, coordination, and information on hazards management.9 Most have had limited resources and capacity until recently, but that
8 Regional organizations discussed further in Appendix D include Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (Bangkok); Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (Kuala Lumpur); Duryog Nivaran (Colombo); ICIMOD: Integrated Water and Hazard Management Programmes (Kathmandu); SAARC—Disaster Knowledge Net work (New Delhi); and the U.N. ESCAP (Bangkok) Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction.
has tended to change in the wake of high-magnitude events.10 This is particularly the case in India, which is scaling up its public disaster management institutions and research centers (cf. Kapur, 2009, 2010).
The governance structures of nation-states have an important bearing on disaster management and response. In more centralized systems such as Bhutan, the national agency has primary jurisdiction, authority, and capacity. In parliamentary federal systems of government such as India and Pakistan, by comparison, states may have primary or concurrent jurisdiction, with support from national agencies to address disasters that are beyond their capacity.
Federal systems and their states can undergo processes of devolution or centralization over time that in turn can affect disaster response. In Pakistan, for example, devolution to local governments a decade ago has been replaced by devolution to provincial governments under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of 1973 (an amendment passed in 2010). Under that amendment, many national agencies have been dissolved, and their authority devolved to provincial governments. For example, the Ministry of Environment, which might have advanced a national climate change policy, was devolved in 2011. The National Disaster Management Authority continues to operate at the federal level with an approach for devolving responsibilities to the provinces. Within this changing context, in March 2012 the federal cabinet division of Pakistan approved a national climate change policy, a new Ministry of Climate Change, and participation in the flood information program of the international Indus hydrology program convened by ICIMOD (KHK-HYCOS; Ghumman, 2012). It seems reasonable to consider in each country how policies for disaster risk reduction in the context of hydroclimatic and institutional change may be implemented. However, it is also reasonable to state that the general situation is one of uncertainty at the national level.
Although international, national, and state organizations are important, most disaster victims are rescued and assisted by their family members, neighbors, and local communities. This is particularly the case in remote and rural areas, whereas in urban disasters, reconstruction has historically been financed in part by national and external sources of capital as well (Vale and Campanella, 2005). The 2005 Kashmir earthquake marked an important benchmark for mobilization at multiple scales for mountain disaster relief (e.g., Halvorson and Hamilton, 2010).
Nongovernmental organizations have supported and helped shape an array of local, community-based approaches to disaster risk reduction in South Asia (see Appendix D for further discussion). Appraising the traditional coping and adaptive capacity of local organizations and communities, and the evolving efficacy of social media, cell phone, and humanitarian logistics technologies in modernizing regions are vital tasks (e.g., Gupta et al., 2010; IUCN, 2008). These technologies can provide people with very quick and accurate information about highly local conditions, facilitate mobilization and collaboration at different scales, and immediately connect affected people and their needs to friends and families. They can, however, also permit misinformation to circulate quickly and widely. Moreover, inexpensive and widespread access can result in systems being overwhelmed unless there is concomitant development of multiscale redundant social and information infrastructure for hazards mitigation, warning, emergency management, and vulnerability reduction.
Implications for Snow and Ice Hydroclimatic
Hazards in South Asia
As in The Himalayan Dilemma (Ives and Messerli, 1989), the greatest vulnerability to mountain snow and ice hydrology hazards is for mountain people and their immediate downstream neighbors. Disasters are most severe at their source—that is, mountain and hill-slope (e.g., terai) communities are most at risk from blizzards, snow avalanche, glacial retreat, GLOFs, and related geophysical extremes. At the same time, upland communities are presumably adapted to historical ranges of hydroclimate variability, and the more remote communities have historically received limited assistance from the state (Macchi, 2011). For example, Kreutzmann (2000) documents impressive examples of cooperative water management across the Hindu Kush, Karakoram,
10 Resource allocation trends can be assessed through national budgets and plans at annual and interannual timescales. Although economic analysis of this sort was not conducted for this report, expansion of government programs was evident on disaster agency websites over the course of the study.
and Himalayan ranges. They underscore the changes in mountain human-environment relations brought about by transportation, tourism, and socioeconomic development that reduce some risks while amplifying others (cf. also Derbyshire and Fort, 2006).
Physical impacts of mountain floods tend to attenuate with distance from the source, but local losses can increase as they encounter concentrations of downstream people and property at risk (e.g., in the district and provincial centers in mountain and foothill regions). Headwater flood events can also concatenate and compound with other hydroclimate hazards, for example, with monsoon rainfall on the plains as occurred in the massive 2010 Indus Basin floods in Pakistan, or with coastal cyclones in Bangladesh and eastern India. The spatial extent and magnitude of these lowland disasters can eclipse more localized hazards in mountain areas. Another open question is how large drought losses on the plains may be affected by future temporal variability and regional trends in snow and ice hydrology.
Management of these types of situations can be confounded by several groups of factors. First, there are sometimes perverse incentives that constrain efforts to attenuate or eliminate the adverse consequences of the physical impacts of mountain floods. Upstream flood control or flood management actions produce downstream benefits that are public goods in the sense that those downstream benefits cannot be withheld from those who refuse to pay for them. This means that there is reluctance to invest in upstream flood control works and schemes because the full returns from them cannot be captured (Ostrom, 1990). Such disincentives need to be surmounted by some form of collective action which may not always be easily negotiated or constituted precisely because they would eliminate the benefits to so-called free riders. The problems of securing collective action may be particularly vexing in international and other transboundary situations.
A second confounding element stems from human vulnerability that is in many ways a function of exposure and sensitivity, which in turn are linked to structural inequalities and inequitable power relations among ethnic, gender, and class groups in a society (Wisner et al., 2003). These relationships vary over temporal and across spatial scales. Short-term disaster effects are most acute and longest lasting in local areas of rapid-onset disasters and deep social vulnerability, as in flash flood impacts on poor mountain floodplain occupants. As noted above, local events may attenuate, cascade, or concatenate over time; they may be compounded or eclipsed by larger-scale regional socioeconomic processes. For example, the short-term impacts of flooding in one growing season can be offset by the following crop (see Government of Pakistan  for Pakistan and Yu et al.  for Bangladesh). Long-term macroeconomic disaster impacts are in part a function of country size: small countries such as Nepal and Bhutan may have proportionately larger and longer-term socioeconomic impacts than larger countries such as India (Noy 2009).
Modernization and globalization may reduce losses of life and long-term macroeconomic impacts of disasters, particularly when they include strong hazard mitigation policies (World Bank, 2010b). However, they can also increase the numbers of people affected and the economic damages they face. Macroeconomic disasters that stem from other causes can also increase vulnerability to hazards in and from the Himalayan region, especially for the poor and marginalized, upstream and down.
Multimethod and all-hazards research over multiple spatial and temporal scales will thus be increasingly important for analyzing these widening issues (e.g., Gearheard et al., 2011). New methods that are rapidly transforming the timeliness and efficacy of warning, evacuation, and relief include hydrometeorological services for flood warning (Hallegate, 2012; ICIMOD, 2012a); mass messaging (Coyle and Childs, 2005); near-real-time disaster GIS mapping and remore sensing;11 real-time evaluation and adjustment (Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action);12 civil-military coordination and the expanding humanitarian logistics cluster.13
Perspectives on Vulnerability and
Risk of Natural Disasters
The preceding sections have discussed the physical and human dimensions of hydroclimate hazards in the wider Himalayan region.
These processes cannot be forecast on interannual or decadal timescales with any level of confidence at present, but they pose credible risks that can be analyzed with basic methods of scenario and sensitivity analysis (Wescoat and Leichenko, 1992; Yu et al., 2010). Returning to the natural hazards propositions outlined above, it is important to anticipate and explore alternative perspectives on compound physical and social processes that can amplify individual hazards. These could include combinations of high-snowfall years with high temperatures, rapid runoff, and major monsoon storms in the foothills—as occurred in the Indus Basin floods of 2010 in Pakistan (Asian Development Bank and World Bank, 2010; OCHA, 2010). A glacial lake could breach and cascade downstream, triggering river channel change, levee failure, and inundation, for example, on the Kosi River alluvial fan or Indus River main stem (Hewitt, 1983). High flows in the Ganges/Brahmaputra Basin could coincide with large-scale processes of sedimentation, erosion, and coastal storm surge.
These complex geophysical events may become more common than isolated single-variable extremes, and require greater research and planning attention. Moreover, they always coincide with social processes that create, amplify, and/or mitigate environmental security risks (Wisner et al., 2003).
As illuminated throughout this report, to anticipate future hydroclimatic hazards and disasters in the Himalayan region, three major challenges need to be addressed: (1) high levels of different types of uncertainties about the measurement, modeling, forecasting, explanation, and capacity for reducing and responding to future hazards; (2) high levels of spatiotemporal variability in hazard losses at multiple scales; and (3) alternative frameworks for understanding social vulnerability and resilience. This section briefly describes these challenges, reviews a progression of models for addressing them, and analyzes several lines of evidence as first steps along what needs to become a long path of scientific inquiry, policy development, and effective hazards mitigation for the peoples and places that face these risks.
Himalayan hydroclimatology encompasses all of the forms of uncertainty described in the NRC report on Risk Analysis in Flood Damage Reduction Studies (NRC, 2003b). When these uncertainties of data, models, and knowledge are aggregated—and when analogous uncertainties of social processes and damage datasets are included—they raise profound questions about the prospects for long-term scenario-driven simulation, let alone forecasting, of future hazards.
This is not to dismiss scenario analysis, but rather to say that it must be complemented by other types of risk assessment and risk reduction. In the field of scenario analysis, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently summarized the state of scientific evidence, agreement, and perceived likelihood of extreme events and losses associated with climate change at the global and regional scales (IPCC, 2012; Climate and Development Knowledge Network, 2012). Selected trends and projections relevant for this report include
• Climate extremes and impacts: (a) medium confidence in a warming trend in daily temperature extremes over much of Asia; (b) low to medium confidence that droughts will intensify; (c) limited to moderate evidence regarding “changes in the magnitude and frequency of floods at regional scales,” low agreement, and low confidence regarding these changes.
• Disaster losses: (a) high confidence about increasing economic losses; (b) high confidence that losses as a proportion of GDP are greater in small and middle-income countries; (c) high confidence that increased exposure of population and settlements has been the major cause for increasing losses; and medium confidence that future economic losses related to climate extremes will be socioeconomic in nature.
• Disaster management and adaptation to past events: (a) high confidence about the major role of exposure and vulnerability; (b) high confidence about the aggravating impact of flawed development practices and policies; (c) high agreement about the inadequacy of local disaster data for vulnerability reduction; (d) high agreement about the aggravating effects of socioeconomic inequalities on adaptation; (e) high agreement about the need for humanitarian relief in small and less-developed countries; (f) high agreement about the importance of postdisaster opportunities for increasing adaptive capacity through long-term planning and reconstructions; and (g) medium confidence about the role of risk-sharing mechanisms at multiple scales; and (h) high agreement about the need for inte-
grated disaster risk management, climate adaptation, and development.
• Future climate extremes, impacts, and disaster losses: (a) very likely that heat waves will increase in most regions; (b) likely that heavy precipitation events will increase; (c) likely that tropical cyclone wind speeds will increase but that cyclone frequencies may decrease or remain unchanged; (d) low confidence in future drought projections; (e) low confidence in future flood projections at a regional scale; (f) high confidence that current coastal hazards would be aggravated by future sea level rise; (g) low confidence in projections of changes in monsoons.
• Human impacts and disaster losses: (a) high confidence that climate change could seriously affect water systems; (b) medium confidence that socioeconomic factors will be the main drivers of future losses; (c) medium agreement that future climate extremes would affect population mobility and relocation (IPCC, 2012).
These conclusions indicate the currently limited ability to project future hazard losses, or resilience in quantitative terms, especially at local to regional scales or on timescales on the order of decades, and at the same time, increasing scientific agreement about the types of hazards likely to be faced in different contexts in qualitative terms. This combination of findings underscores the importance of examining a broad range of historical evidence, current plans, and plausible analogies for anticipating possible futures.
One approach focuses on “critical water problems” as currently defined and asks how past variability, climate change scenarios, and plausible future hazards such as the probable maximum flood affect the range of future choices for redefining and addressing those critical water problems (Brown, 2012; Wescoat, 1991). Comparing losses in one place, time, and context with the current situation in another context, and with a range of possible futures in other places can benefit from the analysis of hydroclimate “analogues and analogies” (Glantz, 1998; Meyer, 1998). For example, Hewitt (1983) examines the historical record of flood disasters on the Indus, including a 19th century GLOF event that cascaded into the middle reaches of the river, within a human ecological framework for assessing the changing character of disaster losses and management,
which can be useful for water managers today. One issue with such an approach is whether contemporary social structures, populations, and capacities have useful working historical analogues.
Impacts from the Attabad landslide-impounded lake in the Hunza Valley of northern Pakistan in 2010 were vastly compounded by monsoon rains in northern plains later that year, which cascaded in river flooding downstream to the delta. The latter event eclipsed the former and disrupted relief supply chains as well as funding for resettlement and reconstruction. The 2011 monsoon, by comparison, was normal in the northern plains but caused severe rainfall damages in the lower delta. Analysis of the similarities, differences, comparability, and linkages among these damage and recovery processes—as well as their implications for future disaster risk reduction policies and programs at different scales—is still under way. Independent of these events, however, disaster management is being devolved along with many other federal ministries to the provincial level of government, which will make analogies, vis-à-vis strict comparability, between past and future hazards all the more important.
Two major advances in disaster research in recent years have focused on vulnerability and resilience (Adger, 2006; Cutter, 2006; Cutter et al., 2010). “Vulnerability” can be as much a characterization of potential future losses, as it is an assessment of documented historical losses. When used as a planning or policy concept, “resilience” can also be projective, imagining alternative pathways for relief, recovery, reconstruction, and mitigation.
Insight into these possible futures can be gleaned in part from critical research on historical and contemporary hazards. For example, Kapur (2009, 2010) has prepared major reviews of disaster research and policy in India that document the rich cultural heritage of ideals and practices for adjusting to hazards, while lamenting the belated development of modern hazards research and policies in the late 20th century. Those studies indicated the highest levels of vulnerability in the extreme northeast and northwest districts of India (e.g., Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, due primarily to inadequate infrastructure and access to services), followed by subareas of northern Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh (due more to disadvantaged groups and fragile living conditions). Recent Indus Basin hazards
research has likewise shed light on conditions of social vulnerability related to unequal and marginalizing power relations that have been driving forces of past, present, and likely future losses (e.g., Halvorson, 2003; Mustafa and Wrathall, 2011).
Resilience research focuses on the complementary processes of coping, recovery, and reconstruction. In physical terms, the concept of resilience draws upon ecosystem and systems analysis by analyzing the time required for human-environmental systems to rebound to their predisaster status; in recent years, however, the definition of resilience has been expanded to include the possibility of learning, reorganizing, and redeveloping into an improved state in the longer term. However, much more is intended in the hazards field where resilience also connotes preparedness, capacity building, and ways for “building back better” in the future. For application across South Asia, Moench and Dixit (2004) provide an array of examples in an edited volume on Adaptive Capacity and Livelihood Resilience: Adaptive Strategies for Responding to Floods and Droughts in South Asia. Other studies of community-based planning methods for multihazard resilience in the HKH mountains can serve as blueprints for future planning, as well as assessments of past losses (e.g., ICIMOD, 2012b; Interworks LLC, 2010).
In light of these critical perspectives on patterns of vulnerability, challenges of resilience, and the limitations of historically technocratic approaches to hazard mitigation in South Asia, it is also worth mentioning here the perspective of sociologist Ulrich Beck on “risk societies.” Beck (1992, 2009) argues that developed countries in the West have placed ever-increasing emphasis on risk, but not on its root causes (e.g., poverty, social inequality, governance failures, and domination and marginalization of some groups by others). These “risk societies” are destined to be evermore anxious about and adept at managing symptomatic, sometimes catastrophic, losses, but not in ways that dramatically reduce the driving causes and experience of vulnerability. Under conditions of uncertainty, governments may prefer a combination of decentralizing risk toward the individual and the private sector and then paying for rescues and bailouts when required, as opposed to a society-wide strategy of building resilient capacity and safety nets. The economics and the political economy of these options require further attention, because at almost any given time, building resilience may seem like the more expensive, and hence less politically attractive, choice.
In assessing the hydroclimate risks of the Himalayan region, it seems vital to understand regional traditions, adaptation, and innovations for addressing the root causes of climate, water, and food insecurity (Moench and Gyawali, 2008; Ul Haq, 2007), as well as the frontiers of international scientific and technical risk management. An area that is understudied and perhaps of critical value is understanding local adaptation and innovation, and hence what local mechanisms could be supported and scaled up, and additionally, which actions at different scales may actually be counterproductive when viewed from a broader perspective and should therefore be replaced.
Although water conflict per se has historically been kept within bounds, the region is characterized by a high level of risk for political security problems, compared with other parts of the world. It has a mixture of political regimes ranging from strongly and consistently democratic (India) to strongly and consistently autocratic (China), with many regimes (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan) exhibiting high levels of instability in their domestic political systems and failing to consolidate as either strongly democratic or autocratic. Regime type may be a significant variable conditioning war proneness, with evidence suggesting that emerging or unconsolidated democracies (e.g., Afghanistan and Nepal) may be particularly vulnerable to initiating conflict (Gartzke, 2007; Krain and Myers, 1997; Mansfield and Snyder, 2005).
The region also has several ongoing international security problems. China, India, and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, with India and Pakistan doing so primarily as part of an international rivalry involving each other. The China-India border is under dispute, with territory in Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh claimed by both countries; a war was fought in 1962 over this territory. India and Pakistan also contest their border, with conflicting claims to Kashmir; they have engaged in military conflicts over this border in 1947 and 1948 at partition, and in 1965 and 1999. The two countries
maintain a military presence on the Siachen Glacier and have engaged in armed combat there. Afghanistan and Nepal are both emerging from war and in a fragile peace-building phase in which the probability of conflict recurrence is significant. Collier et al. (2003) provide extensive statistical data showing that past conflict is a good predictor of future conflict. Past conflict combined with growing environmental stress may be a particularly volatile combination ( Collier, 2007).
As the 21st century unfolds, concerns over the real and imagined risks of conflict over environmental problems and access to resources have risen on the global list of security challenges (e.g., Deudney and Matthew, 1999; Homer-Dixon, 1999).14 These concerns now include the area of water resources, requiring experts and policy makers to consider and evaluate the connections between water resources and conflict—and to do so against the backdrop of existing political and security risks and vulnerabilities. Water supply and treatment in modern and developing countries is dependent on complex water infrastructure. Yet access to reliable water is vulnerable to disruptions from intentional human actions or from changes in natural conditions, including climate changes. In the HKH region, water resources are already a scarce and valuable resource in many communities. Because water is such a fundamental resource for human and economic welfare, threats to water availability and water management systems or conflicts over access to water need to be viewed with concern, and care taken to both understand and reduce those risks (cf. the various perspectives of Falkenmark, 1990; GCISC, 2007; Gleick, 1993, 2000, 2006; Lal et al., 2011; Michel and Pandya, 2009; Moench, 2010; Monirul Qader Mirza and Ahmad, 2005; Postel, 2000; Postel and Wolf, 2001; Ringler et al., 2010; Swain, 2004; Uprety and Salman, 2011; Yu et al., 2010). Such conflicts can occur at international, subnational, and local levels.
Political boundaries rarely coincide with watershed boundaries, often bringing politics into water policy. Indeed, approximately half of the land area of the planet is in an “international river basin”—shared by two or more nations (Wolf, 2007), and almost all of the watersheds of the HKH region are international in nature.
At the international scale, water disputes are often addressed at the political and diplomatic level, and water can be an effective source of international cooperation and negotiation through bilateral or multilateral treaty agreements or standards of international law. Hundreds of water treaties have been negotiated and implemented around the world (Oregon State University, 2012b). Wolf (2007) argues that these are often highly effective at reducing the risks of water conflicts, although few of these agreements have incorporated new concerns that might be caused by climate changes or other pressures. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of agreements were crafted at a time when the world population was much smaller and there were far fewer states and other political actors. Most bargaining theory suggests that strong and effective agreements are more difficult to reach as the number of actors increases (e.g., Oye, 1986).
There have been a range of promising multitrack initiatives that focus on transboundary water issues in South Asia (cf. the various perspectives of Aman Ki Asha, 2012; Bandyopadhyay and Ghosh, 2009; Crow and Singh, 2008; Gyawali, 2011; Iyer, 2003, 2007; Jin-nah Institute, 2012; Moench and Dixit, 2004; Verghese, 2007). These have broadened in scope and significance over time, with the leadership of influential water experts from the region. Their effect on relationships and negotiations is difficult to discern, but has potential in light of the substantial water policy experience, public intellectual, and civil society roles of leading participants.
Cooley et al. (2012) argue that even in areas with a precedent of cooperation, population growth, economic factors, and climate change could increase tensions over water. As they note:
For countries whose watersheds and river basins lie wholly within their own political boundaries, adapting to increasingly severe climate changes will be difficult enough. When those water resources cross borders, bringing in multiple political entities and actors, sustainable management of shared water resources in a changing climate will be especially difficult (Cooley et al., 2012).
There are clear needs for regionally coordinated planning for water sharing, management, and storage in the HKH region. Yet the political, economic, and
14 These authors were pioneers in raising the issue of possible links between conflict and the environment, but the issue remains one of active debate in the literature.
social conditions in various countries and places have historically impeded such integrated planning and management. Upstream countries such as China and India have implemented and proposed dam projects, for instance, that affect the timing and amount of flow to downstream countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even the sharing of data on water faces political constraints; the Indus Waters Treaty provides for data exchange (Article VI), though some data remain classified by countries or otherwise not available for regional analysis or use. With a few partial exceptions, such as the Indus River Treaty signed over half a century ago,15 countries in the region have not had a history of working together on shared problems. And, even that treaty is the subject of considerable tension between India and Pakistan these days. Recent failed discussions, such as over the Wullar Barrage (see Bhutta, 2011), suggest that tensions are far from being managed completely effectively. Climate change adds another complex layer of stress to this and other treaties. As noted above, however, the Indus Waters Treaty has provisions for exchange of data (Article VI) and future cooperation (Article VII) that have considerable potential. Although Nepal alone has four treaties with India,16 those agreements do not say anything about climate changes or address the uncertainty posed by potential effects of changing melt dynamics from glaciers of the HKH. However, Bhutan and India have a long-standing agreement for cofinancing and benefits dating back to the Chukka Power Plant. It will be interesting to see whether and how emerging international private and public-private power investment agreements in the region address hydroclimate variability (see discussions in World Bank  and USAID , which examine power trade potential and constraints among Bhutan, India, Nepal [the so-called “eastern” market] and also Afghanistan and Pakistan [the “western” market]). Bangladesh and India established a treaty on sharing Ganges water in 1996, which superseded less formal agreements. They recently set aside a proposed treaty to share the waters of the Teesta River but that was reportedly due to federal-state politics in India (India Water Review, 2011). Another difficulty with many of the treaties in the region is that they do not include all riparians.17 For example, the Indus Treaty does not include Afghanistan (the Kabul River is a tributary of the Indus). The Ganges Treaty with Bangladesh does not include Nepal.
Other important factors related to climate risks are left out of almost all international water agreements as well. Groundwater is typically ignored or excluded, and for India and Pakistan, finding a way to manage transboundary groundwater may be a critical issue. Many agreements that address water allocations do so using fixed volumetric allocations rather than proportional or percentage allocations, and they typically are inflexible in the face of shortages. Few agreements include standards for water quality. Many transboundary agreements lack monitoring, enforcement, and conflict resolution procedures. Overcommitment of river waters leads to disputes; a 2007 assessment included the Indus River in the list of rivers that are “severely over-committed” (Molle et al., 2007).18 This points again to the need for flexibility in any water management agreements, as stated above. The Indus agreement, however, does at least divide the river entirely by tributary, and the Ganges agreement has varying allocations depending on flow.
Fischhendler (2004), McCaffrey (2003), and Tarlock (2000) identify some mechanisms that can add flexibility in the face of climate change to existing treaties, and Cooley et al. (2012) extend these mechanisms. Among the leading recommendations are as follows:
15 With extensive irrigation systems, the Indus River Basin was already the subject of contested water management by Indian states when the new countries of India and Pakistan were created in 1947. In April 1948, India cut off water to several major canals, However, this was followed by extended negotiations under the auspices of the World Bank and a consortium of donors, leading to the Indus River Treaty of 1960 (Michel, 1967; Wolf and Newton, 2008). Indus Waters Treaty provisions for appointment of a neutral expert (Annexure F) and an international court of arbitration (Annexure G) have recently been tested. The full text of the treaty is available at: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/SOUTHASIAEXT/0,,contentMDK:20320047~pagePK:146736~piPK:583444~theSitePK:223547,00.html.
16 The Kosi River agreements of 1954, 1966, and 1978, and the Gandak Power Project agreement of 1959 (Hamner and Wolf, 1998). The full text of the agreements are available at: http://ocid.nacse.org/tfdd/treaties.php.
17 A riparian area is the area along a river bank.
18 India’s Cauvery River, not part of this study and not fed by glacial melt, has also been the subject of dispute because of overallocation.
• Address how water allocations can be made more flexible in the face of altered timing and availability of flows.
• Incorporate water quality provisions.
• Develop explicit water management strategies for extreme events, including floods and droughts.
• Provide clear amendment and review processes for changing conditions.
• Create joint institutions to facilitate adaptation to climate change, including technical committees and shared models and data.
Recently, Chellaney (2011) has suggested that the extensive technical boards and task forces, public engagement processes, and voting procedures employed by the International Joint Commission between Canada and the United States offer promising precedents for expanding the scope, capability, and efficacy of the presently small bilateral treaty commissions in South Asia (cf Article VIII of the Indus Waters Treaty on the Permanent Indus Commission, in which Article VIII(10) states that “the Commission shall determine its own procedures,” as well as Article VII on “Future Cooperation,” which support the view that there is flexibility even in the most detailed agreements).
Similarly, Wolf and Newton (2008) provide analyses of international water agreements, including historical details, the principal actors, and “lessons learned” about the resolution of conflicts. The major lessons learned from the Indus River Treaty case study (Oregon State University, 2012a), for example, include the following:
• Power inequities may delay the pace of negotiations.
• Positive, active, and continuous involvement of a third party is vital in helping to overcome conflict.
• Coming to the table with financial assistance can provide sufficient incentive for a breakthrough in agreement.
• Some points may be agreed to more quickly if it is explicitly agreed that a precedent is not being set.
• Shifting political boundaries can turn intranational disputes into international conflicts, exacerbating tensions over existing issues.
• Sensitivity to each party’s particular hydrological concerns is crucial in determining the bargaining mix.
• In particularly “hot” conflicts, when political concerns override, a suboptimal solution may be the best one can achieve.
Other considerations include designing upstream interventions that minimize downstream impacts and the importance of advance notice about such interventions.
Extensive research and policy discussions around water security have also taken place within the countries of South Asia. In India, for example, analysts have suggested that water issues with Pakistan and China have the potential to become catalysts for conflict, but that political deadlocks with Nepal and Bangladesh could be broken through sensible water-sharing arrangements and resource development (IDSA, 2010).19 Within Pakistan, it has been suggested that while Kashmir is the major source of tension between the two countries, discord over several upstream river projects being constructed by India has the potential to provoke increasing conflict between the two countries.
Increasingly, however, conflicts over water are not only the result of international disputes, but are also subnational. The challenges can be even greater at the subnational level, where frameworks and strategies for reducing conflicts over water as a development issue are protracted (e.g., Iyer, 2003; Joy et al., 2008; Mohan et al., 2010). Regional and local legal and water management institutions are often weak, and water infrastructure can be insufficiently developed, poorly maintained, or ill-suited to needs. Dams, for instance, are sometimes purportedly built because they are large infrastructure projects that have symbolic, political, and financial benefits, rather than because they solve water supply problems effectively, although there is debate about this issue (e.g., Briscoe and Malik, 2006; Gyawali, 2011; Iyer, 2007). Dams may also raise distributional conflicts and spur political tension as downstream and upstream communities receive unequal benefits, or as one community benefits at the expense of the other (Beck et al., 2012; Duflo and Pande, 2007).
Improvements in water management are more likely to occur at the national and subnational levels than the international level; therefore, a focus on management at these levels is more likely to be successful
19 Malhotra (2010) provides another perspective from India on water issues.
than efforts to create optimal, regionwide agreements. However, channels of cooperation relating to cross-boundary scientific assessment could open up if science is seen as neutral ground and new data are regarded as being of mutual benefit.
Table 4.1 lists selected entries from the Water Conflict Chronology (Gleick, 2011) from the HKH region through 2010. Not all of these entries involve watersheds that derive water from glacial melt, but they are indicative of the kinds of regional conflicts over water that have occurred over the past four decades and that are relevant to this study. All but one of the 23 conflicts are national or subnational, and 21 are development disputes20—although 6 of those 21
TABLE 4.1 Examples of Water Conflicts in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan Region
|1970||Chinese citizens||Development dispute||Conflicts over excessive water withdrawals and subsequent water shortages from China's Zhang River have been worsening for over three decades between villages in Shcnxian and Linzhou counties. In the 1970s, militias from competing villages fought over withdrawals. (Sec also entries for 1976,1991,1992, and 1999.)|
|1976||Chinese citizens and govern men i||Development dispute||In 1976, a local militia chief is shot to death in a clash over the damming of Zhang River. Conflicts over excessive water withdrawals and subsequent water shortages from China's Zhang River have been worsening for over three decades. (Sec also entries for 1970.1991. 1992. and 1999.)|
|1991||Chinese villages of Huanglongkou and Qianyu||Development dispute||In December 1991. the villages of Huanglongkou and Qianyu exchange mortar fire over the construction of new water diversion facilities. Conflicts over excessive water withdrawals and subsequent water shortages from China's Zhang River have been worsening for over three decades. (Sec also entries for 1970,1976,1992, and 1999.)|
|1991-present||Karnataka. India||Development dispute||Violence erupts when Karnataka rejects an Interim Order handed down by the Cauvcry Waters Tribunal, set up by the Indian Supreme Court. The Tribunal was established in 1990 to sctdc two decades of dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over irrigation rights to the Cauvcry River.|
|1999||Bangladesh||Development dispute, political tool||Fifty are hurt during strikes called to protest power and water shortages, led by former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia.|
|1999||China||Development dispute, terrorism||Around the Lunar New Year, farmers from Hcbci and Hcnan Provinces fight over limited water resources. Heavy weapons, including mortars and bombs, were used and nearly 100 villagers were injured. Houses and facilities were damaged and the total loss reached one million US dollars.|
|2000||Hazarajat, Afghanistan||Development dispute||Violent conflicts break out over water resources in the villages of Burna Lcgan and Taina Lcgan. and in other parts of the region, as drought depletes local resources.|
|2000||Gujarat. India||Development dispute||Water riots arc reported in some areas of Gujarat amidst protests against authorities' failure to arrange adequate supplies of tanker water. Police are reported to have shot into a crowd at Falla village near Jamnagar. resulting in the death of three and injuries to 20 following protests against the diversion of water from the Kankavati dam to Jamnagar town.|
|2001||Pakistan||Development dispute, terrorism||Long-term drought and water shortages lead to civil unrest in Pakistan. Protests begin in March and continue into summer, leading to riots. 4 bombings. 12 injuries, and 30 arrests. Ethnic conflicts erupt as some groups 'accuse the government of favoring the populous Punjab province (over Sindh province) in water distribution."|
|2002||Kashmir, India||Development dispute||Two people are killed and 25 others injured in Kashmir when police fire at a group of clashing villagers. The incident takes place in Garcnd village in a dispute over sharing water from an irrigation stream.|
|2002||Nepal||Terrorism, political tool||The Khumbuwan Liberation Front (KLF) blows up a hydroelectric powerhouse in Bhojpur District on January 26. cutting off power to Bhojpur and surrounding areas. By June 2002. Maoist rebels had destroyed more than seven micro-hydro projects as well as an intake of a drinking water project and pipelines supplying water to Khalanga in western Nepal.|
|2002||Karnataka. Tamil NaJu. InJia||Development dispute||Violence continues over the allocation of the Cauvcry (Kavcri) River between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, including riots, arrests, property destruction, and more than 30 injuries.|
20 “[W]here water resources or water systems are a major source of contention and dispute in the context of economic or social development” (Gleick, 2011).
|2004||India||Development dispute||Four people arc killed in October and more than 30 arc injured in November in ongoing protests by farmers over allocations of water from the Indira Gandhi Irrigation Canal in Sriganganagar District, which borders Pakistan. Authorities impose curfews on the towns of Gharsana, Raola, and lAnoopgarh.|
|2004||China||Development dispute||Tens of thousands of farmers stage a sit-in against the construction of the Pubugou Dam on the Dadu River in Sichuan Province. Riot police arc deployed to quell the unrest, and one policeman is killed. Witnesses also report the deaths of a number of residents. (Sec China 2006 for follow-up.)|
|2007||India||Development dispute||Thousands of farmers breach security and storm the area around the Hirakud Dam in the cast Indian state of Odisha (Orissa) to protest allocation of water to industry. Minor injuries arc reported during the conflict between the farmers and police.|
|2008||Pakistan||Terrorism||In October, the Taliban threatens to blow up Warsak Dam. the main water supply for the city of Peshawar during a government offensive in the region.|
|2008||China. Tibet||Military tool, development dispute||China launches a political crackdown in Tibet. At least some observers have noted the importance of Tibet for the water resources of China, although the political complications between Tibet and China extend far beyond water. As noted: "Tibet is referred to in some circles as the 'world's water tower'; the Tibetan Plateau is home to vast reserves of glaciated water, the sources of 10 of the largest rivers in Asia, including the Yellow. Yangtze. Mekong, Brahmaputra, Salwccn, Hindus and Sutlcj among others. By some estimates, the Tibetan plateau is the source of fresh water for fully a quarter of the world's population."|
|2009||India||Development dispute||On December 3. police clash with hundreds of Mumbai residents protesting water cuts. One man is killed and a dozen others injured. Mumbai authorities arc faced with rationing supplies after the worst monsoon season in decades.|
|2009||India||Development dispute||A family in Madhya Pradesh state in India is killed by a small mob for illegally drawing water from a municipal pipe. Others ran to collect water for themselves before the pipe ran out. Drought and inequality in water distribution lead to more than 50 violent clashes in the region in the month of May, and media reports more than a dozen people killed and even more injured since January, mostly fighting over a bucket of water.|
|2009||China and India||Military tool, development dispute||China claims a part of historical Tibet that is now under Indian control as part of the state of Arunachal Pradesh. To influence this territorial dispute. China tries to block a S2.9 billion loan to India from the Asian Development Bank on the grounds that part of this loan was destined for water projects in the disputed area.|
|2010||Pakistani tribes||Development dispute. military tool||More than 100 arc dead and scores injured following 2 weeks of tribal fighting in Parachinar in the Kurram region of Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border. The conflict over irrigation water began as the Shalozan Tangi tribe cut off supplies to the Shalozan tribe. Some report that the terrorist group al-Qaida may be involved; others claim sectarian violence is to blame as one group is Sunni Muslim and the other Shiitc.|
|2010||Mangal and Tori tribes. Pakistan||Development dispute||A water dispute in Pakistan's tribal region leads to 116 deaths. In early September, the Mangal tribe stopped water irrigation on lands used by the Tori tribe, leading to fighting.|
|2010||India||Development dispute||A protest about water shortages leads to violence. Erratic water supply, and eventually a complete cutoff of water in the Kondli area of Mayur Vihar in cast Delhi, causes a violent protest and several mimics|
SOURCE: Gleick (2011).
also have another basis (political tool,21 terrorism,22 or military tool23). Scarcity and unequal allocations of water are the usual immediate causes of violence. In general, these results confirm the notion that countries are more likely to cooperate—or at least negotiate—than to go to war over water, but that there could be violence and instability at the substate level. In addition, water may be the occasion for violence but not a sufficient basis in itself. Climate change, accordingly, might be best thought of as a “stress multiplier.”
21 “[W]here water resources, or water systems themselves, are used by a nation, state, or non-state actor for a political goal” (Gleick, 2011).
22 “[W]here water resources, or water systems, are the targets or tools of violence or coercion by non-state actors” (Gleick, 2011).
23 “[W]here water resources, or water systems themselves, are used by a nation or state as a weapon during a military action” (Gleick, 2011).
A similar analysis may be undertaken for the Indus and Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basins using the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database’s International Water Events Database, which codes events reported in news sources on a 14-point scale from -7 (formal declaration of war) to +7 (voluntary unification) from 1948 to 2008. Although the mixed sources of records, challenges of coding them, and relationships between reports and reality need to be considered, four rough patterns seem apparent in these data:
• No events are reported at the -7 level (formal declaration) of water war (and only 1 or 2 are at the -6 to -4 levels of water conflict).
• Both the Indus and the Ganges/Brahmaputra basins have a bimodal distribution of relatively lower levels of conflict and cooperation.
• Both basins appear to have a somewhat higher frequency of cooperation than conflict.
• There are several examples of significant international agreements (+6 level).
Each of these databases and others like them have significant limitations. They do not, for example, convey shifts in international relations that may be associated with major constitutional transitions, and which can include water governance, for example, in countries such as Nepal and Pakistan. They do however offer partial perspectives on the types and trends of water-related conflict and cooperation.
Future Political Stresses and Water Conflicts
Traditional political and ideological questions that have long dominated international discourse and contributed to international and subnational conflicts are now involving other factors that were less important in the past. These include population growth, transnational pollution, resource scarcity, and inequitable access to resources and their use (Gleick, 1998). As the climate changes, shifts in the timing, availability, or quality of water resources in parts of the region may play an increasing role in political tensions, either directly through disputes over access to water, or indirectly through changes in agricultural production and food security or other concerns.
The history of international river disputes and agreement suggests that cooperation is a more likely outcome than violent conflict. However, the relevance of this history may be attenuated by the dramatic increase in the number of state and nonstate actors, larger populations, changes in patterns of economic growth, and the complexity of the challenges. Because of changes in political and social conditions, historical patterns may not be able to provide insight into current and future challenges.
Moreover, if trends combine in especially dangerous ways, conflicts might outstrip the ability of existing institutions to cope along normal lines, thereby escalating national security crises. For example, major deterioration in international relations might coincide with dramatic fluctuations in transboundary flows, rising flood risks perceived to result from mismanagement by upstream nations, social media allowing misperceptions to be widely diffused and used as a basis for mobilizing action regardless of official attempts to control the narrative, or heightened conditions of general water scarcity driven by rising demand and declining groundwater resources. Monitoring the conditions that drive these potential situations would be worthwhile.
In addition to transboundary and international threats to security, there is a growing risk of internal conflict over water resources. Increases in floods, especially floods that are larger than those that have been experienced in recent history, can kill and injure many people, destroy property and livelihoods, and pressure governments in ways that trigger legitimacy problems. If such floods repeat in the same area over short periods, downward spirals in livelihoods and legitimacy could occur. Similarly, water scarcity problems—whether triggered by shifts in rainfall or runoff patterns, changes in groundwater recharge rates and availability, or alterations in water demands—could trigger similar crises if they endure over long periods in areas of significant vulnerable populations and weak water management institutions. In addition, the threat posed by continuing overdraft of groundwater resources may be even more important than consequent changes in glacial melt and its contribution to the rivers of South Asia (Darnault, 2008; Shah, 2009). Whether or not water stresses escalate into security crises will depend in part on governmental capacity; therefore, the most danger-
ous situations are those that combine high water stress and state fragility.
Some historical analysis suggests that societies can be very slow to act upon strong signals from environmental change, resulting in breakdowns that, from a historical vantage, are shocking (e.g., Diamond, 2004). The frequency with which breakdowns occur due to environmental stress have led some analysts to argue that societies should consider carefully how they will rebuild (Homer-Dixon, 2006).
Even in the absence of catastrophic events, existing water management institutions and treaty arrangements would need to evolve in order for cooperation to be a more likely outcome than conflict. The web of economic and social relationships in the region has become increasingly complex and intricate, and the numbers of stakeholders and interested parties in water resource management have multiplied. This creates new sets of challenges for governance and stability International treaties may also have to adopt a more integrated ecological approach so that water issues are not considered in isolation from the management of land, energy, and other resources. This creates a greater role for scientific knowledge and makes international collaboration on scientific issues all the more important.
More generally, regional—as opposed to bilateral— frameworks for resource management may become increasingly necessary (and if robust regional governance mechanisms emerge, then new forms of early warning and response will become possible). Historically, large regional powers throughout the world have tended to favor bilateral arrangements, which have been the norm, while small and medium powers have enjoyed greater leverage within multilateral institutions (see Naidu  and Singh  for a discussion of the shift in India’s position in favor of multilateralism). Moving forward, however, as countries such as India play a more prominent role on the world stage, they may be increasingly willing to embrace regional and multilateral arrangements and try, to the extent possible, to structure these institutions to their advantage.
Key features of the environmental security of the HKH region were identified at the workshop by the breakout groups on Demography and Security and Risk Factors and Vulnerabilities. Starting from those concepts, the Committee used its expert judgment, reviews of the literature, and deliberation to develop the following conclusions:
• Natural disasters in South Asia involve meteorological, hydrological, and geophysical phenomena that are not unique to the HKH region. Current efforts that focus on these natural hazards and disaster reduction in South Asia can offer useful lessons when considering and addressing the potential for impacts resulting from changes in snowmelt processes and glacial retreat in the region.
• Current international datasets indicate that over the past century, natural disasters in the region have been flood-dominated in terms of the frequency of events and number of people affected. However, the number of people killed over the past century by natural disasters was dominated by droughts and related famines. Over the past 30-year period the patterns and trends are less clear. Floods have had increasing significance in the numbers of people affected, while earthquakes have been associated with the highest number of people killed.
• Modernization and globalization may reduce losses of life and long-term macroeconomic impacts of disasters, but they can also increase the numbers of people affected and the economic damages.
• At the regional level of disaster management, organizations give particular emphasis to international cooperation, information sharing, and capacity building, as well as an increasing emphasis on linking climate change with disaster risk reduction. At the national and state levels, processes of devolution or centralization over time can affect disaster response. An increased focus on vulnerability and resilience within the disaster research community could lead to improved disaster management.
• Changes in transboundary water flows can generate or increase conflicts of interest among riparian countries, and these climate-induced changes will further complicate changes driven by economic, demographic, and political factors.
• Among the most serious challenges, even in the absence of climate change, are the magnitude of conflicting demands for limited water resources, the lack of corresponding institutional capacity to cope
with such conflicts, and the current political disputes among regional actors that complicate reaching any agreements on resource disputes. Water management institutions need to think systematically about integrating climate change risks in water resources policy, and they need to function in ways that are flexible and take account of the interests of all parties.
• The most dangerous situation to monitor for is a combination of state fragility (encompassing, e.g., recent violent conflict, obstacles to economic development, and weak management institutions) and high water stress.
• Although the history of international river disputes and agreements in this region suggests that cooperation is a more likely outcome than violent conflict, social conditions may have changed in ways that make historical patterns less informative about current and future challenges. Changes in the availability of water resources may still play an increasing role in political tensions, especially if existing water management institutions do not evolve to take better account of the social, economic, and ecological complexities in the region. Agreements will likely reflect existing political relations more than optimal management strategies.
• Changes to the hydrological system are inevitable, and adaptation is needed at all levels of governance. Lessons can be learned from developed countries, but these arrangements will not operate in the same way, and the time horizon for these solutions to bear fruit might be significant. Adaptation approaches need to be flexible enough to change with changing conditions, for example, smaller-scale and lower-cost water management systems, because of uncertainty in impacts and the dynamic nature of coming changes. There is a need to think through adaptation protocols now rather than when fear and urgency have become widespread.