What is The Third Pole?

The region that encompasses the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau is widely known as the Third Pole because its ice fields contain the largest reserve of fresh water outside the polar regions. This region is the source of the 10 major river systems that provide irrigation, power and drinking water for over 1.3 billion people in Asia – nearly 20% of the world’s population.

Many countries in this region are suffering serious water stress, while infrastructure projects, including dams, are raising cross-border tensions and may have severe environmental impacts. Many people in the Himalayan watersheds face high risks from flooding, water shortage and pollution. Future population growth, climatic variation and increasing demands on scarce water resources from agriculture and industry will increase these risks. Mitigating them and adapting to them will demand high levels of cooperation.

Informing the discussion

The region’s river systems are interrelated and cross many national boundaries. Protecting vital systems and restoring damaged ones demands systemic understanding, sound planning and good decision making. This requires the most comprehensive information possible to foster the building of expertise, long-term thinking and collaboration between governments, experts and civil organisations.

The Third Pole is a multilingual platform dedicated to promoting information and discussion about the Himalayan watershed and the rivers that originate there.  The project was launched as an initiative of chinadialogue, in partnership with the Earth Journalism Network. It is a registered non-profit organisation based in New Delhi and London, with editors also based in Kathmandu, Beijing, Dhaka and Karachi.

We work with an international network of experts, scientists, media professionals and policy makers to share knowledge and perspectives across the region.

We aim to reflect the impacts at every level, from the poorest communities to the highest reaches of government, and to promote knowledge sharing and cooperation within the region and internationally. We welcome your comments and contributions.

Contact [email protected] to write for us, contribute data or join our network.

Our partners


chinadialogue is an independent, bilingual Chinese English website that promotes communication on the environment and climate change across barriers of language and culture. It is a non-profit organisation based in London and Beijing.

Earth Journalism Network

The Earth Journalism Network (EJN) is Internews’ flagship environmental program established since 2004 to improve the quality and quantity of environmental reporting worldwide.

Development Alternatives

Development Alternatives is a New Delhi-based non-profit organisation engaged in research and action for sustainable development.

Climate Himalaya

Climate Himalaya is a coalition of civil society groups that aims to serve as a link between practice, science, policy and decision making towards climate adaptation and sustainable mountain development in the Himalayas.

Infochange India

infochangeindia.org is an online repository of information and analysis on social justice and sustainable development in India, based in Pune.

China Water Risk

China Water Risk (CWR) is a non-profit initiative dedicated to addressing business and environmental risk arising from China’s water crisis.



thethirdpole.net is an editorially independent platform, generously supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Internews Earth Journalism Network through a grant from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).