In the glaciated mountains of the Upper Indus Basin of Pakistan, glacier‐ and snowmelt‐ based irrigation systems have been established over several centuries to secure water for cultivation. However, these systems are now facing several challenges, being sensitive to climate change and thus exposed to the resulting extreme events such as glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and flash floods, also difficult terrain and access paths, male outmigration, limited technical capacity and a weak policy and governance system. Hence, exploring the potential options for overcoming the challenges and irrigating arable barren land could lead to economic prosperity and environmental gains.
A literature review, stakeholder consultation and semi‐structured questionnaire survey in two villages of the Hunza River basin was conducted to synthesize information in different domains. Information on the irrigation system and its sources, water distribution/allocation system, challenges and adaptation strategies were collected, and based on community preferences, an alternative irrigation technological package was established to overcome the challenges and irrigate barren land. Customized solar water lifting pump with an efficient micro‐irrigation package was piloted which proved to be climate-resilient. The system is simple to adopt, uses clean energy for operation and is economically feasible, with a benefit-cost ratio of 4.96 and a payback period of around 11 years.