• Non-ICIMOD publication


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Multi-hazard susceptibility and exposure assessment of the Hindu Kush Himalaya

  • J. Rusk
  • A. Maharjan
  • P. Tiwari
  • T. H. K. Chen
  • S. Shneiderman
  • M. Turin
  • K. C. Seto
  • Summary

Mountainous regions are highly hazardous, and these hazards often lead to loss of human life. The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), like many mountainous regions, is the site of multiple and overlapping natural hazards, but the distribution of multi-hazard risk and the populations exposed to it are poorly understood. Here, we present high-resolution transboundary models describing susceptibility to floods, landslides, and wildfires to understand population exposure to multi-hazard risk across the HKH. These models are created from historical remotely sensed data and hazard catalogs by the maximum entropy (Maxent) machine learning technique. Our results show that human settlements in the HKH are disproportionately concentrated in areas of high multi-hazard risk. In contrast, low-hazard areas are disproportionately unpopulated. Nearly half of the population in the region lives in areas that are highly susceptible to more than one hazard. Warm low-altitude foothill areas with perennially moist soils were identified as highly susceptible to multiple hazards. This area comprises only 31% of the study region, but is home to 49% of its population. The results also show that areas susceptible to multiple hazards are also major corridors of current migration and urban expansion, suggesting that current rates and patterns of urbanization will continue to put more people at risk. This study establishes that the population in the HKH is concentrated in areas susceptible to multiple hazards and suggests that current patterns of human movement will continue to increase exposure to multi-hazards in the HKH. © 2021 The Authors