Introduction


This project maps all the hydroelectric projects across the Himalayas, from the Indus river basin to the Mekong. While plotting the dams in several river basins, we are particularly interested in projects located within the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin. In this project, we aim to provide access to policy reports, citizen grievances, court cases, scientific studies and data on climate change as these relate to water and energy projects in the Himalayas. As the discussion widens on the types of commissions, citizen organizations and nation-state treaties needed to ensure sustainable river basin management and solve common problems in all the river basins that descend from the Tibetan Plateau, the lack of access to reliable data and even the lack of baseline data will be the first challenge to address. The water towers of Asia create a dynamic hydrosphere where snow melt and precipitation form vibrant and sometimes wicked river flows. The 5000 or more glaciers in this hydrosphere are the 'Third Pole', the largest glacial field outside the North and South Poles. Aesthetically spectacular, these vast water sources are critical to the sustainability of all life. As rivers are dammed to meet growing energy and consumption demands, the emerging hydro-complexity is posing serious risks for basin residents. Especially when climate induced extreme rainfall and flooding smash up against the obstructions and diversions created by a vast but disconnected hydropower industry. This map project aims to facilitate greater public awareness of these concrete structures, their pathways and their implications for river flows.


Background


The Himalayas is a place of majesty where glaciers hug the world's tallest mountains, snow melt and precipitation combine to form the water of many vibrant river systems, and millennia of cultural and linguistic diversity guide human life ways. The Silk Roads of the past navigated this complex region and laid pathways of trade and communication and encouraged philosophical and religious exchange between continents. Along with these human endeavors, the towering mountains of the Himalaya housed the great water storages of Asia. Over the last century these waters have doubled in their value for human civilizations. Today while the Himalayan rivers provide water to sustain millions of people, they also generate hydroelectric energy for populations across South, Southeast and Central Asia. Carved by the mighty power of the river flows, the steep mountain passages of the Himalayas steer water toward its long traverse across the plains societies. While their formidable geological barriers no longer prevent communication and interaction between neighbors, the region's rivers still flow in the directions dictated by geology, and citizens are forced to share water according to the paths of the river flows. As water enters a new phase of global commodification, even more is at stake for these river pathways as citizens and nation-states of the region compete to meet basic needs and special interests. Apart from this widespread interest in water wealth and river flows, the contemporary fascination for the Himalayas also relates to the growing discourse on climate change and to concerns about the extent of melting glaciers. What will happen to these storages if the planet warms? How fast will glaciers melt and how will this accelerated melting affect the region's river flows? The availability of water storage in the glaciers and the assumption that these glaciers might be melting faster are drawing greater attention to this region and society's energy needs are fueling the push for hydropower development across the shared river basins.