Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 1151–1162 | Cite as

Climatic and environmental change in the Karakoram: making sense of community perceptions and adaptation strategies

  • Giovanna GioliEmail author
  • Talimand Khan
  • Jürgen Scheffran
Original Article


In this paper, we investigate how mountain communities perceive and adapt to climatic and environmental change. Primary data were collected at community and household level through in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and quantitative questionnaires covering 210 households in six villages of the West Karakoram (Hundur and Darkut in the Yasin Valley; Hussainabad, Altit, Gulmit, and Shiskat in the Hunza valley of Gilgit-Baltistan). The relevance of the area with respect to our scopes is manifold. First, this is one of the most extreme and remote mountainous areas of the world, characterized by complex and fragile institutional and social fabrics. Second, this region is one of the focal points of research for the hydro-meteo-climatological scientific community, because of its relevance in terms of storage and variability of water resources for the whole Indus basin, and for the presence of conflicting signals of climate change with respect to the neighboring regions. Third, the extreme hardships due to a changing environment, as well as to the volatility of the social and economic conditions are putting great stress on the local population. As isolating climate change as a single driver is often not possible, community perceptions of change are analyzed in the livelihood context and confronted with multi-drivers scenarios affecting the lives of mountain people. We compare the collected perceptions with the available hydro-climatological data, trying to answer some key questions such as: how are communities perceiving, coping with, and adapting to climatic and environmental change? Which are the most resorted adaptation strategies? How is their perception of change influencing the decision to undertake certain adaptive measures?


Climate change Perception Indus Karakoram Adaptation 



The authors are thankful to the organizers of the “First International Conference on Politics of Water Resource Governance in The Indus Basin” (Lahore 9-10 January 2013) for the kind invitation to present this work, and to Dr. Ghulam Rasul of the Pakistan Meteorological Department for his feedback and support. GG and JS acknowledge the support given by the Cluster of Excellence “Integrated Climate System Analysis and Prediction” (Clisap) of the University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany to the GEM project.  The GEM project has been jointly conducted by the Research Group “Climate Change and Security, CLISEC” of the University of Hamburg, and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute  (SDPI), Islamabad,  Pakistan. This article contains some results included in the background paper commissioned by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) under the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Program (HICAP), which is implemented jointly by ICIMOD, CICERO and UNEP/GRID-Arendal and is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Norway and Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giovanna Gioli
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Talimand Khan
    • 2
  • Jürgen Scheffran
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Group Climate Change and Security (CLISEC), Institute of Geography, KlimaCampusUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)IslamabadPakistan

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