Global warming: the “Asian water tower” facing a worsening supply imbalance, 2 billion people at risk
Rapid global warming has worsened water imbalance for nearly 2 billion people in the Third Pole region – including India, Bangladesh and Nepal – where around 90% of the water is used for irrigation, according to a new study.
This will lead to greater water demand in densely populated downstream countries, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.
The third pole, which includes the Tibetan plateau and the surrounding Himalayan mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush, is known as the “Asian water tower”.
With the world’s largest frozen water reserve after Antarctica and the Arctic, the Third Pole region, located on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, is home to the sources of more than 10 major Asian rivers.
The “Asian Water Tower” region has lost the balance between solid water from glaciers and liquid water from lakes and rivers under the impact of global climate change, reports Xinhua News Agency.
Rising temperatures with changes in westerly winds and the Indian monsoon have resulted in retreating glaciers and more rainfall in the northern part of the region and less in the south.
The spatial imbalance will alleviate water scarcity in the Yellow and Yangtze river basins while increasing scarcity in the basins further south of the Indus, according to the study.
“Such an imbalance is likely to pose a great challenge to the balance between supply and demand of water resources in downstream regions,” said Yao Tandong, lead author of the study and an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. science.
The highest water demand is expected to be in the Indus basin, said Walter Immerzeel, study co-author and researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
He pointed out that this demand would affect irrigation, which accounts for more than 90% of water use in the region.
“Given that this north-south disparity is expected to be amplified by global warming in the future, adaptation policies for sustainable water resource management are greatly needed in downstream countries,” the co-author said. Piao Shilong, also a researcher at Peking University.
Scientists said they still need more information to help the public react to the changes, such as comprehensive monitoring stations in areas where data is sparse.
They also call for collaboration between upstream and downstream countries.