Highlighting the geographical and economic importance of the Hindukush-Himalayan region, outline the changes in the critical geographical features and the consequence it will have.

The Hindukush-Himalayan region consists of the central Asian and south Asian alpine regions. It plays a very important role in the geography and economy of the region:

  • It is the third largest source of fresh water in form of glaciers, after the Arctic and Antarctica. Also called the third pole for the same reason.
  • It plays an important role in increasing the albedo of the earth because white snow reflects most of the sunlight. Hence, it helps in reducing the temperature.
  • The glaciers and ice caps of these mountains provide water to countries of South Asia including Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, etc.
  • It helps in sustaining the agrarian economy and drinking water needs.
  • These mountains act as barriers against cold polar winds from the north, hence, helping in maintaining the tropical climate.
  • Governs the climate of the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world.
  • Important for hydroelectric power generation.
  • Important for tourism economy.

However, the critical geographical features are undergoing rapid changes:

  • Increased global warming. These are the fastest melting permanent ice caps, estimated to completely melt by 2050.
  • Deposition of black carbon (soot) from the burning of fossil fuels leads to a decrease in the albedo. Hence more heat is absorbed and this becomes a domino effect.
  • Biodiversity loss due to human population pressure, deforestation, etc.

Consequences:

  • Himalayan rivers are the lifeline of the agrarian economy and food security of the region. Drying up of rivers due to the melting of glaciers will have catastrophic consequences.
  • It will further deteriorate the problem of drinking water shortage.
  • The rise in sea level and submergence of islands and coastal areas.
  • Effects of biodiversity loss on food chain and ecology.
  • Loss of livelihood of those engaged in tourism.
  • Glacial outburst floods and extreme climatic conditions.
  • Flooding and sedimentation in rivers.

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