In high mountain areas such as the Himalayas, climate change will alter rainfall patterns and accelerate glacial and permafrost melt due to increasing temperatures. With fewer and fewer glaciers left, water storage capacity will diminish at the same time as these stores are becoming more and more important to reduce the impacts of precipitation extremes.
This will fuel more erratic flows with increased downstream flooding and drought events.
Lakes, floodplains and high altitude peatlands regulate river water flow in the Himalayas. These wetlands function as sponges absorbing extreme water flows from heavy rainfall and melting ice water.
In periods of drought they ensure water availability for the region by slowly releasing the stored water. This reduces droughts and floods for the 1,5 billion people living downstream in the lowland regions of the Himalayas and in densely populated areas for instance in India, China or Bangladesh.
Restoration of Wular Lake
This project focuses on improved management of Wular Lake, one of the largest fresh water lakes in Asia. The lake is part of the Jehlum Basin in India and has a storage capacity of 170 million cubic metres of water,is fed by glaciers that are receding at a pace that is amongst the fastest in the world.
The wetlands that regulate the water flow in this area are rapidly being lost and degraded and as a result the basin is already suffering from enhanced frequency of floods and droughts. Wetlands International and its partners have developed an Action Plan for restoration of the lake and its catchment.
Integrated Water Resources Management in Mahanadi Delta
Changing rainfall patterns and increased frequency of extreme hydrological events attributed to climate change are increasing the vulnerability to floods and droughts, that affect livelihoods and resources that are already problematic in the Delta of the Mahanadi River in India.
The project in the Mahanadi Delta demonstrates the role of wetlands in reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change through integrated water management, which also improves food and water security. Thereby, it integrates wetland conservation as an adaptation strategy, benefiting 6,000 households in 15 villages falling within 2 watersheds.