EU launches HighNoon: research project on the Impact of Himalayan Glaciers Retreat and Changing Monsoon Pattern

New Delhi 19 May 2009- The European Union recently launched the 'HighNoon' research project in India, which aims at assessing the impact of Himalayan glaciers retreat and possible changes of the Indian summer monsoon on the distribution of water resources in Northern India. The project further aims to provide recommendations for appropriate and efficient adaptation strategies to hydrological extreme events through a participatory process. 
The EU has earmarked 3 million Euros (approximately INR 19.5 crores) for this 3 years project, bringing together leading research institutions in Europe: Netherlands, UK and Switzerland, and India: TERI, IIT-Delhi & Kharagpur. The participation of Japan in this project is adding an international dimension. 

Commenting on the occasion, H E Daniele Smadja, European Commission's Ambassador to India said, "EU and India enjoy strategic cooperation in the field of science & technology, with co-investment of resources from both the players. This current project in the field of climate change, research & glaciology takes this well established partnership to new heights."

'HighNoon' will work towards integrating available climate and hydrological data and state - of - art regional models. The basic approach of the project is to link the results of improved climate modelling to estimation of practical and applicable adaptation measures. The main aspects of this project would include:

  • Developing scenarios for snowmelt and monsoon patterns, based on improved regional climate simulations
  • Developing realistic regional socio-economic scenarios and asses the changing water resources using regional models
  • Providing new methods for prioritisation of adaptation measures to be used as a design tool in the selection of adaptation options
  • Participative development of specific multi-sector adaptation measures in consultation with stakeholders

It aims to identify and quantify issues related to changing water resources availability in Northern India at present and in the future. And provide policy makers, water managers and water users in Ganga river basin with applicable strategies to cope with current and potential future water-related problems.
The project is a direct result of a continuous dialogue and interaction with the Indian research community, which began with the 1st EU-India Strategic Workshop on 'Climate Change Research Needs', organised in New Delhi in February 2007. This lead to a competitive process, leading to the selection of the 'HighNoon' project in view of its excellence. 

To launch the project, a seminar on the 'Future of Water Resources in India under a Changing Climate' was organised in New Delhi last week. This interactive seminar was jointly organised by the 'HighNoon' project team along with another EU funded project, on Water and Global Change. The endeavour was to provide recommendations to improve scenarios of demography, land use change, irrigation and other water demands in relation to technological development by exchanging expertise and data. The seminar provided a platform for establishing synergies amongst different research projects and initiatives dealing with climate change impacts on glacier retreat in India.

Background
The Global Water Cycle is an integral part of the Earth System. Water resources and hydrological extremes (namely floods and droughts) are important issues affecting India and its economic development, security and social well being. Improvements in understanding the climate-water cycle will benefit adaptive planning of infrastructure, and efforts to mitigate climate change in India, Asia and globally. Increasing CO2 levels and temperature are intensifying the global water cycle, with an overall net increase of rainfall, runoff and evapotranspiration. The predictions of future rainfall regionally are fairly uncertain: there are indications that, for example, the Indian region will see changes of rainfall while a decrease is expected in the Mediterranean. Seasonality may also change, causing new and, sometimes, unexpected vulnerabilities. Intensification of the water cycle is likely to cause an increase in extremes events, such as floods and droughts. This especially has important impacts on the agricultural sector which relies on the success or failure of irrigation schemes.

The hydrological system of Northern India is based on two phenomena, the monsoon precipitation in summer and the growth and melt of the snow and ice cover in the Himalayas. Increasing greenhouse gases are expected to change these phenomena and, in particular, will have a profound impact on snow cover, glaciers and its related hydrology and water resources availability, especially in the perennial river basins Ganga, Indus and Brahmaputra, where snow and glacier melt form a great part of the rivers' flow.

HighNoon project programme