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Water crisis in the Himalayas

Melting glaciers in the Himalayas will reduce the flow of the Yellow River (WRENmedia)
Melting glaciers in the Himalayas will reduce the flow of the Yellow River

Yields of rice and wheat in India and China could drop by 30-50 per cent by 2050 as a result of a water crisis in the Himalayas, according to a report by the Strategic Foresight Group, an Indian-based think tank. As a result of the cumulative effect of water scarcity, glacial melting, irregular rainfall patterns, desertification, water pollution, and soil erosion, "China and India alone will need to import more than 200-300 million tonnes of wheat and rice, driving up the international prices of these commodities in the world market," the report says. "This will have adverse impact on the poor all over the world."

The report, The Himalayan challenge: Water security in Asia, states that over the next 20 years the availability of fresh water in China, Nepal, India and Bangladesh will drop by 275 billion cubic meters: more than the total available in Nepal today. At the same time, the Yellow River in China and the Ganges in India are expected to lose between 15-30 per cent of their water due to glacial depletion in the Himalayas, which could see the two rivers having only seasonal flow by the second half of the century. Water scarcity in the region, and the resulting fall in food production, could also lead to the displacement of 50-70 million people by 2050, the report warns.

Date published: July 2010


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