Carving up the Roof of the World: Causes and Effects of Environmental Change in the Himalayas

Tuesday, November 2, 2021
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM

via Zoom webinar. Register at:

  • Ruth Gamble,
  • Santosh Nepal,
  • Arzan Tarapore

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The greater Himalaya mountain range, known as the “roof of the world,” plays a central role in the environmental wellbeing of Asia and the world. It is the source of a system of rivers that sustain fertile food-producing land – and therefore populations – across the continent. But the recent race to develop infrastructure in the region, including hydropower dams, endangers the ecosystems that flourish around these rivers, and the populations that depend on them. This panel discussion will explore the causes and effects of those environmental changes. What is driving the competitive infrastructure development in India and China? How does this affect the hydrology and ecology of Asia’s major river systems? And how will these changes affect populations, and in turn state policy, in the many downstream countries?

Ruth Gamble is an environmental, cultural and climate historian of Tibet, the Himalaya, and Asia. She is writing her third book, a history of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River. Her previous books were on the relationship between sacred geography and the reincarnation tradition (Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism) and a biography of the Third Karmapa (Master of Mahamudra). She has also published numerous articles and book chapters on the region’s ecological politics, literatures, and histories. She completed her PhD in Asian Studies, and taught Tibetan language studies and Asian Religions, at the Australian National University.

Santosh Nepal is a water and climate specialist, and leads the Climate and Hydrology Group, at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu. He designs and implements climate change and hydrological assessments, including for climate change projections, flood modelling and predictions, upstream-downstream linkages, and integrated water resources management. He previously worked on integrated water resource management, disaster risk reduction, and wetland related issues. He holds a PhD from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany, on mountain hydrology.

Arzan Tarapore (Moderator) is the South Asia research scholar at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University, where he leads the newly-restarted South Asia research initiative. He is also a senior nonresident fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research. His research focuses on Indian military strategy and contemporary Indo-Pacific security issues. Prior to his scholarly career, he served as an analyst in the Australian Defense Department. Arzan holds a PhD in war studies from King’s College London.


5 png APARC Fall Series

This event is co-sponsored by Center for South Asia and is part of Shorenstein APARC's fall 2021 webinar series, Perfect Storm: Climate Change in Asia.