Preface. The Himalayan glaciers that supply water to a billion people are melting fast, already 30% has been lost since 1975.
Adding to the crisis are the 400 dams under construction or planned for Himalayan rivers in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bhutan to generate electricity and for water storage. The dams’ reservoirs and transmission lines will destroy biodiversity, thousands of houses, towns, villages, fields, 660 square miles of forests, and even parts of the highest highway of the world, the Karakoram highway. The dam projects are at risk of collapse from earthquakes in this seismically active region and of breach from flood bursts from glacial lakes upstream. Dams also threaten to intensify flooding downstream during intense downpours when reservoirs overflow (IR 2008, Amrith 2018).
Since the water flows to 16 nations, clearly these dams could cause turmoil and even war if river flows are cut off from downstream countries. Three of these nations, India, Pakistan, and China, have nuclear weapons.
It’s already happening. After a terrorist attack that killed 40 Indian police officers in Kashmir, Indiadecided to retaliate by cutting off some river water that continues on to Pakistan, “adding an extra source of conflict between two nuclear-armed neighbors”. Pakistan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world with seriously depleted underground aquifers and less storage behind their two largest dams due to silt (Johnson 2019).
Wu, K. 2019. Declassified spy images show Earth’s ‘Third Pole’ is melting fast. Accelerating ice melt in the Himalayas may imperil up to a billion people in South Asia who rely on glacier runoff for drinking water and more. PBS.org
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