The Himalayas

There will always be abundant snow and glaciers on the highest mountains of the world, the Himalayas. This snow will always feed the Indus and Ganges rivers and forever supply water to millions of people in South Asia and China.

These statements may no longer be true. Our warming climate is changing the Himalayas faster than any other region of the world. The mountains’ mighty glaciers, the source of most large Asian rivers, are melting.

Against these dramatic changes, the governments of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan are planning to transform the Himalayan rivers into the powerhouse of South Asia. They want to build hundreds of mega-dams to generate electricity from the wild waters of the Himalayas.

The dams’ reservoirs and transmission lines will destroy thousands of houses, towns, villages, fields, spiritual sites and even parts of the highest highway of the world, the Karakoram highway. But who will reap their benefits? Will they be able to generate as much electricity as promised? What will happen to the people, ecosystems and rivers of the Himalayas if the dams are built and climate change takes its toll?

With our publication Mountains of Concrete by Shripad Dharmadhikary, International Rivers for the first time analyzed the linkages between climate change and dam-building in the Himalayas. The publication was launched in Delhi, India, in January 2009 and International Rivers is since working to highlight the risks of dam building in the Himalayas.

  • Video: South Asia Program Director Samir Mehta discusses the threats dam building and climate change pose to the Himalayas, and explains how social movements are adapting to work against dam building.