In the long run, says Madhav Karki, director of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, the rivers themselves may become seasonal, with potentially profound effects on the countries below.
Water is power
My travels in South Asia were a reminder of an ancient truth, often lost at the magical turn of a tap: A society's fate turns on its water supply. Water is power.
Covering global water issues, I've seen up close how the gap between the water rich and the water poor is often the line between life and death. In Haiti, I met people who took their water from rivers or nearby wells. Since the outbreak of cholera, those very water sources threaten their lives.
In Bangladesh, I saw how too much water creates problems: More intense rain deluges, that one scientist with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told me might already reflect climate change, had increased flooding and river erosion. I met people whose homes, crops, and water supplies were repeatedly wiped out. In a country with a population roughly half that of the United States packed into an area about the size of Idaho, they had few options but to move to low-lying, vulnerable coastal lands. Or they joined the nearly 1 billion slum dwellers worldwide trying to ascend the economic ladder and increasing demand for water in all its forms.
Water: source of life and conflict