Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 683–698 | Cite as

Resilience and adaptation to extremes in a changing Himalayan environment

  • Vaibhav KaulEmail author
  • Thomas F. Thornton
Original Article


Human communities inhabiting remote and geomorphically fragile high-altitude regions are particularly vulnerable to climate change-related glacial hazards and hydrometeorological extremes. This study presents a strategy for enhancing adaptation and resilience of communities living immediately downstream of two potentially hazardous glacial lakes in the Upper Chenab Basin of the Western Himalaya in India. It uses an interdisciplinary investigative framework, involving ground surveys, participatory mapping, comparison of local perceptions of environmental change and hazards with scientific data, identification of assets and livelihood resources at risk, assessment of existing community-level adaptive capacity and resilience and a brief review of governance issues. In addition to recommending specific actions for securing lives and livelihoods in the study area, the study demonstrates the crucial role of regional ground-level, community-centric assessments in evolving an integrated approach to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for high-altitude environments, particularly in the developing world.


Climate change adaptation Adaptive capacity Resilience Disaster risk reduction Mountain environments 



We are indebted to the following persons for their invaluable academic insights: Prof John Boardman, University of Oxford; Mr Raphael Worni, University of Berne; Dr R.K. Sood, Indian glaciologist; Dr Thomas E. Downing, Global Climate Adaptation Partnership; Dr Örjan Bodin, Stockholm Resilience Centre; Dr Fai Fung, University of Oxford and Mr Rajeev Issar, BCPR-UNDP. We also acknowledge with gratitude the logistical and informational support provided by the Government of Himachal Pradesh; the Regional Meteorological Centre, Shimla and the India Habitat Centre Library, New Delhi. The study could not have been completed without financial assistance from the Felix Scholarship, Environmental Change Institute and St. Anne’s College at the University of Oxford.

Supplementary material

10113_2013_526_MOESM1_ESM.docx (727 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 726 kb)
10113_2013_526_MOESM2_ESM.docx (107 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 106 kb)
10113_2013_526_MOESM3_ESM.docx (288 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 287 kb)
10113_2013_526_MOESM4_ESM.docx (27 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 26 kb)
10113_2013_526_MOESM5_ESM.docx (1.5 mb)
Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 1548 kb)
10113_2013_526_MOESM6_ESM.docx (732 kb)
Supplementary material 6 (DOCX 731 kb)
10113_2013_526_MOESM7_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary material 7 (DOCX 21 kb)
10113_2013_526_MOESM8_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 8 (DOCX 15 kb)


  1. Allen MR, Ingram WJ (2002) Constraints on the future changes in climate and the hydrological cycle. Nature 419:224–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Au SWC (1993) Rainfall and slope failure in Hong Kong. Eng Geol 36:141–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bhagat RM, Kalia V, Sood C, Mool PK, Bajracharya, SR (2004) Himachal Pradesh Himalaya, India: inventory of glaciers and glacial lakes and the identification of potential glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) affected by global warming in the mountains of the Himalayan region. Report of the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research Project. ICIMOD, CSKHPAU, APN, START and UNEP, 254 ppGoogle Scholar
  4. Bajracharya SR, Mool PK, Shrestha BR (2007) Impact of climate change on Himalayan glaciers and glacial lakes: case studies on GLOF and associated hazards in Nepal and Bhutan. ICIMOD, Kathmandu, NepalGoogle Scholar
  5. Benedict PK (1972) Sino-Tibetan: a conspectus (series: Princeton-Cambridge Studies in Chinese Linguistics, vol. 2.). Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beveridge T, Li TSC, Oomah BD, Smith A (1999) Sea buckthorn products: manufacture and composition. J Agric Food Chem 47:3480–3488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Caine N (1980) The rainfall intensity—duration control of shallow landslides and debris flows. Geografiska Annaler A 62:23–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clague JJ, Evans SG (2000) A review of catastrophic drainage of moraine-dammed lakes in British Columbia. Quat Sci Rev 19:1763–1783CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Costa JE, Schustler RL (1988) The formation and failure of natural dams. Geol Soc Am Bull 100:1054–1068CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cutter SL, Barnes L, Berry M, Burton C, Evans E, Tate E, Webb J (2008) A place-based model for understanding community resilience to natural disasters. Glob Environ Change 18:598–606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Das S, Ashrit R, Moncrieff MW (2006) Simulation of a Himalayan cloudburst event. J Earth Syst Sci 115:299–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Delrieu G, Ducrocq V, Gaume E, Nicol J, Payrastre O, Yates E, Kirstetter P-E, Andrieu H, Ayral P-A, Bouvier C, Creutin J-D, Livet M, Anquetin S, Lang M, Neppel L, Obled C, Parent-du-Châtelet J, Saulnier G-M, Walpersdorf A, Wobrock W (2005) The catastrophic flash-flood event of 8–9 September 2002 in the Gard Region, France: a first case study for the Cévennes–Vivarais Mediterranean Hydrometeorological Observatory. J Hydrometeorol 6:34–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dharmananda S (2004) Sea buckthorn. Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon, USA. Accessed 25 Aug 2012
  14. DOT (2002) INMARSAT. Government of India. Accessed 20 Aug 2012
  15. Engle NL (2011) Adaptive capacity and its assessment. Glob Environ Change 21:647–656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Evans SG, Clague JJ (1993) Glacier-related hazards and climate change. In: Bras R (ed) The world at risk: natural hazards and climate change. AIP conference proceedings, vol. 277. American Institute of Physics, New York, pp 48–60Google Scholar
  17. Evans SG, Clague JJ (1994) Recent climate change and catastrophic geomorphic processes in mountain environments. Geomorphology 10:107–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Folke C, Carpenter S, Elmqvist T, Gunderson L, Holling CS, Walker B, Bengtsson J, Berkes F, Colding J, Danell K, Falkenmark M, Gordon L, Kaspersson R, Kautsky N, Kinzig A, Levin SA, Mäler K-G, Moberg F, Ohlsson L, Olsson P, Ostrom E, Reid W, Rockström J, Savenije H, Svedin U (2002) Resilience and sustainable development: building adaptive capacity in a world of transformations. Background paper. Swedish Environmental Advisory Council, Ministry of the Environment, Stockholm, 74 ppGoogle Scholar
  19. Gadgil S, Vinayachandran PN, Francis PA, Gadgil S (2004) Extremes of the Indian summer monsoon rainfall, ENSO and equatorial Indian Ocean oscillation. Geophys Res Lett 31:L12213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gallopin GC (2006) Linkages between vulnerability, resilience, and adaptive capacity. Glob Environ Change 16:293–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Government of Himachal Pradesh (2011) State profile. Department of Information and Public Relations. Accessed 20 Aug 2012
  22. Government of Himachal Pradesh (2012) State disaster management plan (draft). Disaster Management Cell, Department of Revenue, Government of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla, 191 ppGoogle Scholar
  23. Government of India (2011) Base document on geoscience for sustainable development. Committee XII, Central Geological Programming Board, Geological Survey of India. Ministry of Mines, Government of India, 112 ppGoogle Scholar
  24. Groisman P, Knight R, Easterling D, Karl T, Hegerl G, Razuvaev V (2005) Trends in intense precipitation in the climate record. J Clim 18:1326–1350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Guzzetti F, Peruccacci S, Rossi M, Stark CP (2008) The rainfall intensity-duration control of shallow landslides and debris flows: an update. Landslides 5:3–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Haeberli W (1983) Frequency and characteristics of glacier floods in the Swiss Alps. Ann Glaciol 4:85–90Google Scholar
  27. Haeberli W, Alean JC, Müller P, Funk M (1989) Assessing risks from glacier hazards in high mountain regions: some experiences in the Swiss Alps. Ann Glaciol 13:96–102Google Scholar
  28. Huggel C (2009) Recent extreme slope failures in glacial environments: effects of thermal perturbation. Quat Sci Rev 28:1119–1130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. ICIMOD (2003, 2004, 2005) Reports of the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research 2004-03-CMY Project: ‘inventory of glaciers and glacial lakes and the identification of potential glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) affected by global warming in the mountains of India, Pakistan and China/Tibet Autonomous Region’. DVD from International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal, produced in 2007. Online product information: Accessed 22 July 2012
  30. IMF (2012) Report for selected countries and subjects. World economic outlook database (online version). Accessed 20 Aug 2012
  31. India Meteorological Department (2010) Cloudburst over Leh (Jammu and Kashmir). Observations. Accessed 15 Feb 2012
  32. IPCC (2012) Summary for policymakers. In: Field CB, Barros V, Stocker TF, Qin D, Dokken DJ, Ebi KL, Mastrandrea MD, Mach KJ, Plattner G-K, Allen SK, Tignor M, Midgley PM (eds) managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation (SREX). A special report of working groups I and II of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–19Google Scholar
  33. Kogelnig A, Hübl J, Suriñach E, Vilajosana I, McArdell BW (2011) Infrasound produced by debris flow: propagation and frequency content evolution. Nat Hazards. doi: 10.1007/s11069-011-9741-8 Google Scholar
  34. Krishna Kumar K, Rajagopalan B, Hoerling M, Bates G, Cane M (2006) Unraveling the mystery of Indian monsoon failure during El Niño. Science 314:115–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kulkarni AV, Dhar S, Rathore BP, Govindha Raj KB, Kalia R (2006) Recession of Samudra Tapu glacier, Chandra river basin, Himachal Pradesh. J Indian Soc Remote Sens 34:39–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lahaul and Spiti District Administration (2011) Disaster management plan: Lahaul and Spiti District. District Administration, Keylong, 10 pp. Accessed 20 Aug 2012
  37. Lenderink G, van Meijgaard E (2008) Increase in hourly precipitation extremes beyond expectations from temperature changes. Nat Geosci 1:511–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lenderink G, van Meijgaard E (2010) Linking increases in hourly precipitation extremes to atmospheric temperature and moisture changes. Environ Res Lett 5:025208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Li TSC, Schroeder WR (1996) Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides): a multipurpose plant. Hortic Technol 6:370–378Google Scholar
  40. Miller JL (2012) Psychosocial capacity building in response to disasters. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  41. Miller F, Osbahr H, Boyd E, Thomalla F, Bharwani S, Ziervogel G, Walker B, Birkmann J, van der Leeuw S, Rockström J, Hinkel J, Downing T, Folke C, Nelson D (2010) Resilience and vulnerability: complementary or conflicting concepts? Ecol Soc 15:11Google Scholar
  42. NDMA (2009) National policy on disaster management. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, 42 pp. Accessed 20 Aug 2012
  43. Nelson DR, Adger WN, Brown K (2007) Adaptation to environmental change: contributions of a resilience framework. Annu Rev Environ Resour 32:395–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nepal Climate Vulnerability Study Team (2009) Vulnerability through the eyes of the vulnerable: climate change induced uncertainties and Nepal’s development predicaments. Institute for Social and Environmental Transition, Nepal (ISET-N), Kathmandu and Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), Boulder, Colorado, 95 ppGoogle Scholar
  45. Paeth H, Scholten A, Friedrichs P, Hense A (2008) Uncertainties in climate change prediction: El Niño-Southern Oscillation and monsoons. Glob Planet Change 60:265–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pall P, Allen M, Stone D (2007) Testing the Clausius–Clapeyron constraint on changes in extreme precipitation under CO2 warming. Clim Dyn 28:351–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Polsky C, Neff R, Yarnal B (2007) Building comparable global change vulnerability assessments: the vulnerability scoping diagram. Glob Environ Change 17:472–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Press Information Bureau (2006) Some aspects of operational land holdings in India, 2002-03. National Sample Survey Organisation, Government of India. Press release, 31 August. Accessed 20 Aug 2012
  49. Press Information Bureau (2010) Rohtang tunnel—cutting through the mighty Himalayas. Ministry of Defence, Government of India. Press release, 17 June 2010. Accessed 5 Aug 2012
  50. Punjab Government (1918) Punjab district gazetteers vol. XXX A: Kangra district, part III—Lahul, 1917. Superintendent, Government Printing, Lahore, pp 181–251 [Compiled and republished in 2003 by Himachal Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages, Shimla, India]Google Scholar
  51. Randhawa SS, Sood RK, Rathore BP, Kulkarni AV (2005) Moraine-dammed lakes study in the Chenab and Satluj river basins using IRS data. J Indian Soc Remote Sens 33:285–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Revadekar JV, Patwardhan SK, Rupa Kumar K (2011) Characteristic features of precipitation extremes over India in the warming scenarios. Adv Meteorol 2011:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Reyes G, Jacobs GA (eds) (2006) Handbook of international disaster psychology: fundamentals and overview. Praeger Publishers, WestportGoogle Scholar
  54. Reynolds JM (1999) Glacial hazard assessment at Tsho Rolpa, Rolwaling, Central Nepal. Q J Eng Geol 32:209–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Richardson SD, Reynolds JM (2000) An overview of glacial hazards in the Himalayas. Quat Int 65:31–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rosenzweig C, Casassa G, Karoly DJ, Imeson A, Liu C, Menzel A, Rawlins S, Root TL, Seguin B, Tryjanowski P, IPCC (2007) Assessment of observed changes and responses in natural and managed systems. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 79–131Google Scholar
  57. Sah MP, Mazari RK (1998) Anthropogenically accelerated mass movement, Kulu Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India. Geomorphology 26:123–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Salzman WR (2004) Clapeyron and Clausius–Clapeyron equations. In: Salzman WR (2001) Chemical thermodynamics. University of Arizona. [online textbook] Accessed 25 Aug 2012
  59. Sangewar CV (2011) Remote sensing applications to study Indian glaciers. Geocarto Int 2011:1–10Google Scholar
  60. Sat Phone Store (2012) Inmarsat Isat Phone Pro—standard package. Accessed 20 Aug 2012
  61. Selvam R (2012) An innovation under DPP. Lahaul and Spiti District Administration. Accessed 25 Aug 2012
  62. Seneviratne SI, Nicholls N, Easterling D, Goodess CM, Kanae S, Kossin J, Luo Y, Marengo J, McInnes K, Rahimi M, Reichstein M, Sorteberg A, Vera C, Zhang X, IPCC (2012) Changes in climate extremes and their impacts on the natural physical environment. In: Field CB, Barros V, Stocker TF, Qin D, Dokken DJ, Ebi KL, Mastrandrea MD, Mach KJ, Plattner G-K, Allen SK, Tignor M, Midgley PM (eds) Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation (SREX). A special report of working groups I and II of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 109–230Google Scholar
  63. Sharma MC (1986) Regional geomorphology of Lahul (Central Himalayas). Masters dissertation. Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, 125 ppGoogle Scholar
  64. Swaroop S, Shukla SP, GSI (1999) Report on glacier front fluctuation studies in parts of Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Final compiled report: FS 1994-95 to 1996-97. GSI Glaciology Division Northern Region.Geological Survey of India, Lucknow, 23 ppGoogle Scholar
  65. The Disaster Management Act (2005) Accessed 20 Aug 2012
  66. Thomalla F, Downing T, Spanger-Siegfried E, Han G, Rockström J (2006) Reducing hazard vulnerability: towards a common approach between disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation. Disasters 30:39–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Thornton TF, Manasfi N (2010) Adaptation—genuine and spurious: demystifying adaptation processes in relation to climate change. Environ Soc Adv Res 1:132–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Trenberth KE, Dai A, Rasmussen R, Parsons D (2003) The changing character of precipitation. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 84:1205–1217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Turner BL II (2010) Vulnerability and resilience: coalescing or paralleling approaches for sustainability science? Glob Environ Change 20:570–576CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Turner BL II, Kasperson RE, Matson PA, McCarthy JJ, Corell RW, Christensen L, Eckley N, Kasperson JX, Luers A, Martello ML, Polsky C, Pulsipher A, Schiller A (2003) A framework for vulnerability analysis in sustainability science. PNAS 100:8074–8079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. UNDP-BCPR, ECHO (2008) Preparatory Assessment Study Report, Sutlej Basin, Himachal Pradesh, India. Capacity Building for Disaster Risk Reduction Regional Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) Risk Reduction in the Himalayas, 50 pp.> Accessed 26 Aug 2012
  72. UNISDR (2007) Hyogo framework for action 2005–2015: building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. World conference on disaster reduction, 18–22 January 2005, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan, 22 pp. Accessed 20 Aug 2012
  73. UNISDR (2012) Towards a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction. 10 pp. Accessed 20 Aug 2012
  74. van Driem G (2001) Languages of the Himalayas: an ethnolinguistic handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region. 2 vol. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  75. Venton P, La Trobe S (2008) Linking climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Tearfund, LondonGoogle Scholar
  76. Vogel C, Moser S, Kasperson RE, Dabelko GD (2007) Linking vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience science to practice: pathways, players, and partnerships. Glob Environ Change 17:349–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Walder JS, Drieger CL (1995) Frequent outburst floods from South Tahoma Glacier, Mount Rainier, USA: relation to debris flows, meteorological origin and implications for subglacial hydrology. J Glaciol 41:1–10Google Scholar
  78. Warburton J, Fenn CR (1994) Unusual flood events from an Alpine glacier: observations and deductions on generating mechanisms. J Glaciol 40:176–186Google Scholar
  79. Worni R, Huggel C, Stoffel M (2012) Glacier lakes in the Indian Himalayas—From an area-wide glacial lake inventory to on-site and modeling-based risk assessment of critical glacial lakes. Sci Total Environ. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.11.043 Google Scholar
  80. Wulf H, Bookhagen B, Scherler D (2010) Seasonal precipitation gradients and their impact on fluvial sediment flux in the Northwest Himalaya. Geomorphology 118:13–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Yohe G, Tol RSJ (2002) Indicators for social and economic coping capacity—moving toward a working definition of adaptive capacity. Glob Environ Change 12:25–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.DelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations