Most of those glaciers are now shrinking. At first, that will increase the flow in the Indus. But if temperatures rise as predicted, and the glaciers continue to melt back, the Indus will reach “peak water” by 2050. After that, the flow will decline.
The specter of climate change now haunts all discussions of the future of the Indus. The challenge is made infinitely more complex because the Indus and five of its tributaries are shared by India and Pakistan.
Both Pakistan and India have ancient water-harvesting traditions, adapted to the rhythms of the river and the rains, that have been neglected since British times. Instead, the two countries have focused on huge engineering projects—on dams and canals. Both have plans for new dams in the Indus Basin.
On the edge of the Indus Delta, Karachchi, Pakistan’s commercial capital one of the world’s largest water-stressed cities: Fifteen million people have sucked its aquifer dry.