Melting ice is crucial to the thirsty Indus River region. But now the flow is projected to decline, posing risks for agriculture and a growing population.
From near Mount Kangrinboqe in Tibet rise four major rivers, which stretch east and west across the Himalaya and down to the sea like the limbs of a venerable water goddess. Where these rivers flow, they define civilizations and nations: Tibet, Pakistan, northern India, Nepal, Bangladesh. How their water is spent has long depended on the people living downstream. How the rivers are replenished depends on two things: monsoon rains and glacial ice melt. Both phenomena, for millennia the preserve of the gods, are now in the hands of humans too. (See why these 10 rivers are vital to Asia’s survival.)