Pakistan’s 200+ million people depend entirely on the Indus waters for much of their water needs. The Indus, in turn, is supplied by mammoth ancient glaciers, resting among the peaks of the Hindukush-Karakoram-Himalaya ranges (HKH region). If considered in its full extent, the HKH region spreads from Afghanistan and Central Asia in the West and goes all the way till Bhutan in the East, and the rivers which originate from these mountain ranges supply fresh water to “half of humanity” or about 2.5-3 billion people.
As temperatures keep further increasing, the Glaciers of the HKH region have started to melt excessively. The Hindukush Himalaya Assessment, published in 2019, makes several grim forecasts about the future of these glaciers. Under current trajectory of temperature increases, the RCP 4.5 increase is accepted as the most likely, unless Greenhouse Gas emissions are lowered to pre-industrial levels.
Under the RCP 4.5, by 2100, the Himalayan Glaciers, a major source of Indus waters, will lose up to 95% of their total mass, while Hindukush and Karakoram glaciers will lose 2/3rd and 1/3rd of their masses, respectively. Not only does this mean that, within this century, Pakistan will run out of water, but also will have to face, repeatedly, large-scale disasters in the Northern Areas as excessive melt and rising temperatures lead to more landslides, precipitation and glacial lake outburst floods.