Climate over the millions of years but

Climate of the Earth has been changing over the
millions of years but increase in global average temperature by about 0.8°C in
the last 150 years is alarming (###). Globally, the temperature increase have
resulted changes in different natural systems vital for existences of human
systems, such as cryosphere. Cryosphere stores 68.7% of the world’s freshwater in
a solid phase and its seasonal melting supply freshwater for diverse ecological
communities and billions population at a time when other sources are scarce (Kohler
et al., 2014; Xiao et al., 2015; Milner et al., 2017). In addition, cryosphere
cover plays an important role in regulating micro-climates as well as wind and
monsoon circulation (Rasul, 2010). Despite of such significance to human
well-being and functioning of natural systems, human-induced climate change has
serious negative impacts on cryosphere (IPCC, 2007 and 2014).

 

The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region constitutes the
largest area of permanent ice cover on land. The melting of cryosphere in HKH during
summer and early autumn contributes to ten major river basins viz. Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong, Salween,
Irrawaddy, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Tarim, Indus, and Amudarya Rivers, thus,
regarded as ‘Water Tower of Asia’ (Viviroli et al., 2007; Immerzeel et al.,
2010). Glaciers and snow fed rivers originate in the upstream areas of the
Himalayas and flow across the politically boundaries providing water for
surface and groundwater irrigation, livestock production, fisheries,
hydropower, domestic and other purposes for 210 million populations (Hovelsrud
et al., 2011; Siderius et al., 2013; Mukherji et al., 2015; Sharma et al. 2016).
Thus, cryosphere play key role in social and economic development of the overall
region.

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There are widespread evidences showing melting,
thinning and weakening of glaciers at accelerated rate in the Himalayan region
(Wiltshire, 2014; Zongxing et al., 2016). For example, Lumding and Imja
glaciers melted at rate of 74 meters per year during 2000 and 2007 (Bajracharya
and Mool, 2009). The glaciers melting at accelerated rate have resulted in
formation of 5,701 glacial lakes in the Third pole- i.e. Pamir- Hindu
Kush-Karakoram- Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau (Zhang et al., 2015). Rapid
cryosphere changes will have impacts on water availability and quality and
exacerbate disasters. These implications will have rippling effects on water,
livelihoods, and energy security at regional scale (Agrawala et al., 2003; Biemans
et al., 2013; IPCC, 2014).   

 

The South Asian countries- Afghanistan, Bangladesh,
Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka- have witnessed rapid increase
in population and changes in social and economic aspects. During 1990 and 2010,
the total population of South Asia increased from 1.1 to 1.6 billion and
expected to reach over 2 billion by 2050 (UN, 2010; World Bank, 2017). The
average GDP of the region increased by 6.7% between 2000 and 2012 (World Bank,
2013). However, the countries lagged behind in achieving the millennium
development goal for reducing extreme poverty and access to improved water
supply and sanitation. Moreover, the regional socio-economic disparities within
these countries are significant, as mountainous communities are more poor and marginalized
than those in plains (Hunzai et al., 2011).

 

Combined with poverty, population increase and other observed
impacts of climate change-mainly monsoon vagaries- rapid cryosphere changes
threaten water, food, energy and human security of over a billion populations
in the region. Moreover, it escalates vulnerability of those who are already vulnerable
(Hallegatte and Rozenberg, 2017). For achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),
the countries need to develop and implement plans for address the human security
issues timely. Those plans have to take regional dimension of human security in
South Asia into consideration because upstream actions have impacts on
downstream systems (Rasul, 2014). 

 

A number of studies have focused on analyzing physical
aspects of cryosphere melting (Bolch et al., 2013) and projecting their impacts
on hydrological regimes at regional scale (Siderius et al., 2013). However, there
has been less effort for understanding impacts of cryosphere melting on
well-being of communities at regional scale (Biemans et al., 2013; Rasul,
2014). In this paper, we attempt to answer: what are the implications of
cryosphere changes on water, food and energy security for downstream and
upstream communities.