India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan

Himalayan Adaptation, Water, and Resilience
Research on Glacier and Snowpack Dependent
River Basins for Improving Livelihoods

HI-AWARE’s overall goal was to contribute to increasing the climate resilience and adaptive capacities of the poor and vulnerable women, men, and children living in river basins in South Asia. To achieve this, the project conducted research and pilot interventions, capacity building and policy engagement on climate resilience and adaptation to influence policies and practice that improve livelihoods. HI-AWARE’s study sites were the mountains and flood plains of the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra river basins in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan.

The consortium includes:

  • Alterra, Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands
  • Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), Bangladesh
  • Climate Change, Alternate Energy and Water Resources Institute of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Pakistan
  • International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Nepal (HI-AWARE lead institution)
  • The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India
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The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region and its glacier- and snow-fed river basins are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. Rising temperatures, seasonal shifts in glacier and snowmelt induced runoff, and increased frequency of extreme events in the HKH mountains and floodplains are threatening the lives and livelihoods of over 1.5 billion people living in the region. The most vulnerable populations—including the marginalised, the poor, and women and children—are often the hardest hit. Adaptation measures and strategies are needed, however, we do not know enough about the local, seasonal, and sectoral impacts of climate change; how people are adapting; and what adaptation measures work – when, for whom, and at what scale.


HI-AWARE enhanced the adaptive capacities and climate resilience of the poor and vulnerable women, men, and children in the mountains and flood plains of the glacier and snowpack-dependent river basins of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region, focusing on the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra river basins. It sought to do this through the development of robust evidence to inform people-centred and gender sensitive climate change adaptation policies and practices for improving livelihoods. 




Some of the key objectives of HI-AWARE included:

1. Generate science-based knowledge on the biophysical, socio-economic, gender, and governance conditions and drivers leading to vulnerability to climate change.   

2. Create robust evidence and improved understanding of the potential of adaptation approaches and practices, with an explicit focus on gender and livelihoods.

3. Develop stakeholder-driven and gender inclusive adaptation pathways based on the up- and out-scaling of institutional and on-the-ground adaptation innovations.

4. Promote the uptake of knowledge and adaptation practices at various scales by decision-makers and citizens.

5. Strengthen the interdisciplinary expertise of researchers, students and related science and policy stakeholder networks.



HI-AWARE focused its activities on 12 study areas that represent a range of climates, altitudes, hydro-meteorological conditions, rural-urban continuums, and socio-economic contexts in four study basins: the Indus, Upper Ganga, Gandaki and Teesta.

The consortium conducted research in these study areas, including modeling, scoping studies, action research, and participatory citizen science. By piloting promising adaptation measures in the study areas for out-scaling and up-scaling, as well as conducting participatory monitoring and assessments of climate change impacts and adaptation practices, HI-AWARE sought to identify:

o  gendered vulnerabilities in changing climate: scientific information on socio-economic, governance and gender drivers and conditions leading to vulnerability of the poor in the HKH region

o critical moments: times of the year when specific climate risks are highest and when specific adaptation interventions are most effective;

o adaptation turning points: those points in time when current policies and management practices are no longer effective and alternative strategies have to be considered; and

o adaptation pathways: sequences of policy actions that respond to adaptation turning points, by addressing both short-term responses to climate change and longer-term planning.


HI-AWARE operated on three principles to ensure research uptake: 

o Fostering a common understanding among different stakeholders.

o Using a mix of incentives, addressing critical demands and needs of different stakeholders operating at different levels.

o Emphasizing collaboration and knowledge co-creation involving different stakeholders.




HI-AWARE had three work packages – Generating Knowledge, Research Uptake, and Strengthening Expertise. The outcomes of these work packages were:


1. High quality and policy and practice relevant research on (i) climate change impacts; (ii) the drivers and conditions leading to vulnerability; and (iii) innovative climate change adaptation approaches and practices conducted and knowledge generated, disseminated, and strategically communicated.  

2. Evidence-based and tested innovative adaptation approaches and practices effectively promoted with relevant communities and institutions at various levels in order to improve policies and practices that help vulnerable populations adapt to climate change.  

3. Strengthened capacity of the HI-AWARE research community (HI-AWARE Consortium members, supported PhDs and MScs, and HI-AWARE partners) for conducting high quality research on adaptation issues and communicating and using research results strategically. 


For more information, visit www.hi-aware.org


The HI-AWARE team was composed of researchers from organizations based in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and from the Netherlands.


Read the latest news, and learn more about events and other activities organized by HI-AWARE and its collaborators.


Explore research outputs from HI-AWARE including peer-reviewed articles, working papers, reports, and blog posts.