1st Edition

Rivers of the Asian Highlands From Deep Time to the Climate Crisis

    336 Pages 64 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    336 Pages 64 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Rivers of the Asian Highlands introduces readers to the intersecting headwaters of Asia’s eight largest rivers, focusing on the upper reaches of two river systems: the Brahmaputra’s highland tributaries in the eastern Himalayan Mountains and the Dri Chu (upper Yangzi), which descends from the Tibetan Plateau’s east through the Hengduan Mountains.

    This book guides its readers through these two rivers’ physical, environmental, cultural, social, and political histories before providing a multi-faceted assessment of their present. It uses general and detailed insights from multiple disciplines, including anthropology, conservation, geomorphology, climate science, ecology, history, hydrology, and religious studies. The rivers’ stories explain how the catchments’ hazards—earthquakes, landslides, floods, droughts, and erosion—interact with their energetic, hydrological, ecological, cultural, and social abundance.

    The book’s multiple cultural and disciplinary perspectives on the rivers will be of interest to anyone wants to understand the rivers of this critically important region as the environment faces climate change and other ecological crises. 

    Introduction. River Views


    Chapter 1. Mountain Rivers

    1a. Gravitational Potential Energy and Stream Power

    1b. Highland Origin Stories


    Chapter 2. Climatic Rivers

    2a. Large Floods, GLOFs and LLOFs

    2b. Lu and Water


    Chapter 3. Frozen Rivers

    3a. Dust and Sand: Wind Action on the Tibetan Plateau


    Chapter 4. Living Rivers

    4a. Defining Wetlands


    Chapter 5. Human Rivers

    5a. Human-Fish Relations in the Highlands


    Chapter 6. Agro-Pastoral Rivers (co-written by Kelzang T. Tashi)

    6a. The Chuzhi (Four Rivers) (co-written by Lhamo Khyab)


    Chapter 7. Territorializing Rivers (co-written by Dechen Palmo and Alexander Davis)


    Chapter 8. Managing Rivers

    8a. Ecological Systems Services

    8b. Anti-Hydropower Protests in Sikkim


    Chapter 9. States, NGOs and Rivers

    9a. Fish Conservation in Yunnan

    9b. Black-neck Crane Conservation in Bhutan


    Conclusion. Mountain Flows: Frontiers, Borders, Equations


    Appendix. River Names




    Ruth Gamble is Senior Lecturer in Environmental Humanities in the Department of Archaeology and History at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. She is an environmental and cultural historian of Tibet and the Himalaya. She has previously worked on the Himalaya and Tibet’s sacred geography and is presently writing a book on the environmental history of the Yarlung Tsangpo River.

    Gillian G. Tan is Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia. Her research covers the multiple ways that humans relate with their natural environment and focuses on the cultural and environmental changes experienced by nomadic pastoralists of the eastern Tibetan plateau. Her current work explores the intersections between religion and ecology.

    Hongzhang Xu is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mathematical Sciences Institute at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Specializing in transdisciplinary research, he explores societal adaptation to changes through power relations, cultural values, and institutional dynamics. His focus includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mathematics and sciences as well as additional expertise in biodiversity, water management, and Indigenous Knowledge. 

    Sara Beavis is Senior Lecturer at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. She has a background in environmental geology with a focus on water. Her research explores the impacts of anthropogenic and natural processes, including landuse, and climate variability and change, on streamflows and water quality, and the cascading consequences these have for downstream river systems, water-dependent ecosystems and human communities.

    Petra Maurer is Professor at the Institute of Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. Her research focuses on the cultural history of Tibet, particularly on divination, medicine, and lexicography. She compiles the Wörterbuch der Tibetischen Schriftsprache at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

    Jamie Pittock is Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. His background includes research into the integration between management of freshwater ecosystems and responses to climate change, involving case studies from nine countries. His current research focuses on environmental governance, climate change adaptation, energy, and the sustainable management of water.

    John Powers is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities and currently holds a joint position in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies and the Centre for Contemplative Studies at the University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia. His research includes works on Buddhist epistemology and Yogācāra soteriology, Chinese government propaganda on Tibetan Buddhism, gender in Indian Buddhism, and human rights issues.

    Robert J. Wasson is Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University and Adjunct at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. He is a geomorphologist with expertise in reconstruction of landscape change over long time periods, catchment processes and management, sediment and nutrient budgeting, extreme flood hydrology and its geomorphic expression and mitigation, and the impact on fluvial systems of climate variability and change. He has undertaken research in many parts of Australia and Asia.