Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Strengthening Capacity to Manage Ecosystems Sustainably for Human Well-Being

Environmental Service Assessment in Hindu-Kush Himalayas Region – Trade-offs and Incentives


The Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, stretching 3,500 km over eight countries, from Afghanistan in the west to Mynamar in the east, is home to more than 150 million people and affects the lives of three times as many in the plains and river basins below. The region is not only the world's highest mountain region, but also its most populous.

Lead institution

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)

Contact information:

  • Prof. Jian Liu
    Sr. Ecologist,
    Program Manager, Water, Hazards and Environmental Management
    International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)
    G.P.O. Box 3226,
    Phone: +977-1-5525313
    Fax: +977-1-5524509

Focal issues

The overall objective is to provide scientifically credible information of environmental services to facilitate the trade-off and incentive (compensation) mechanism for poverty alleviation and environmental enhancement in HKH region. Specifics are:

  • To provide credible information on environmental services in terms of provisioning, regulating, and supporting services, and cultural heritage;
  • To measure the pace of environmental change and the consequences to local, regional and global beneficiaries;
  • To identify the dominant driving forces for environmental change and forecast future trend;
  • To work out scenarios of future environmental services;
  • To work out policy responses in general, trade-off options at local level, incentives (compensation) at national, regional and global level;
  • To trigger international negotiation on environmental incentives to HKH;
  • To synthesis existing knowledge and bridge the knowledge gap between environment and ecosystem service;
  • To enhance capacity building of concerned institutions of HKH region, particularly on science-policy interface for effective use of research findings.

Key features of assessment

The ecosystem in HKH provides goods and services sustaining the life of 150 million people living within the region and some 500 people living downstream. In addition, this mountain ecosystem is vital to sustaining the earth by providing the following environmental services:

  • cold source and carbon sink to respond to the threat of global warming;
  • sources of water as the birthplace of many large rivers such as Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, Mekong, Yellow and Yaluzanbu;
  • genetic resources to the rest of the world and future generations with its richest ever bio-diversity;
  • indigenous knowledge of best practice managing fragile mountain environment;
  • cultural and spiritual assets derived from the local geography and history;
  • recreational sites for people all over the world.

The inherited environmental fragility and social economic vulnerability put the HKH on the top of the WSSD and BGMS agenda. The rapid change of the ecosystem, driven by both natural and anthropogenic determinants poses unprecedented threat not only to the livelihood of the local people, wildlife and culture, but also to the global environment.

Timeframe, budget

Approximately US$2.0 million, in which, US$0.5 Million in-kind are from ICIMOD and member countries and US$ 1.5 million from donors such as Italian government and other donor agencies. The assessment is expected to take 3 years.