Ten major rivers in monsoon Asia-Pacific: An assessment of vulnerability

Olli Varis*, Matti Kummu, Aura Salmivaara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


An assessment of socioeconomic-environmental vulnerability of the ten major river basins in the Monsoon Asia-Pacific region was performed. The rivers include Indus, Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM), Irrawaddy, Salween, Chao Phraya, Mekong, Red River, Pearl River, Yangtze and Yellow River. The study looked at a combination of various issues, usually investigated in isolation from each other, on a sub-continental scale by using the river basins as the geographical entities for the study. The analysis was conducted by using various geospatial databases including data on nature and environment, demography, governance, water scarcity as well as social and economic development. A vulnerability profile for each of the river basins was produced by using two different approaches. We found that the South Asian basins (Indus and GBM) appeared essentially more vulnerable than the other investigated basins. The other basins are roughly at the same vulnerability level, but their vulnerability profiles differ substantially. The Chinese basins and the Red River are particularly vulnerable to environmental factors. The weak points of Irrawaddy and Salween are in the hazards and economic development, whereas the former is a challenge to Mekong as well. Only Indus and Yellow River suffer from considerable water scarcity. The other basins except GBM are relatively well-off with the social matters. A transparent and pragmatic river basin vulnerability assessment approach was developed, which can be used in any large river basin of the world, producing intercomparable results. The approach allows further decoupling of the used indices in the case of more specific and targeted analyses without losing the comparability of the overall results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-454
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Geography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Asia
  • Geospatial databases
  • River basin
  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Water resources

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