view of pristine himalayas and streams of Nepal

The fight against Climate Change in Nepal

Despite contributing the least to global greenhouse gas emissions, Nepal is facing the brunt of climate change, says Rekha Bhandari

The Melamchi Bazaar in Sindhupalchok district is around 60 km from Kathmandu, the Capital of Nepal. On June 16, 2021, Melamchi was hit by a heavy flash flood. 

The flash floods from two tributaries: the Melamchi and Indrawati rivers,  resulted in 5 deaths and 20 missing persons along with heavy damage to the Melamchi Water Supply Project. The financial damage the disaster resulted in is still unaccounted for.

The whereabouts of many among those missing remain unknown despite numerous search efforts. Although the cause of the flash flood in Melamchi was identified to have been initiated by intense precipitation in the upstream areas, many experts have suggested the incident could have unfolded due to multiple factors including changes in climatic conditions. 

Why is Nepal Prone to Natural Disasters?

Nepal’s rugged topography, complex geographical setting, and climatic variability make the country prone to various natural disasters such as landslides, floods, earthquakes, glacial lake outbursts. In recent years, the erratic rainfall patterns due to global warming have escalated the frequency of disasters such as flash floods and landslides in Nepal.  

The Nepal Disaster Report 2019 indicated that the occurrence of climate-related disasters has soared around nine times compared to geophysical disasters in recent times. The Melamchi flood was not the first natural disaster Nepal suffered this year. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA), there were many accounts of natural disasters that created havoc across many parts of Nepal.

The situational report produced by NDRRMA for 11 June – 30 July 2021(when the first spell of monsoon started in Nepal) recorded 360 incidences of monsoon related disasters. During this period, 55 districts were affected by floods, landslides and heavy rainfall resulting in 64 deaths affecting 485 households and forcing 4,724 people to be relocated to safer places.

Climate change in Nepal and its effect on livelihoods.

Despite being one of the smallest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, Nepal is facing the brunt of climate change. 

As projected in Climate Risk Country Profile-Nepal natural hazards such as drought, heatwave, river flooding, and glacial lake outburst flooding will intensify over the 21st century due to Climate Change potentially worsening disaster risk levels. 

The diverse climate risks pose an immense threat to the lives and livelihood of the people, mostly the marginalized and vulnerable communities residing in the rural communities. Incoherent rainfall patterns have directly disrupted agricultural practices in the country where 60.4% of the total population are engaged in the agricultural sector. Apart from agriculture, the impact of climate change is anticipated largely on tourism, biodiversity and hydroelectricity thereby affecting the economy of the county and hence the livelihoods.  

Intensifying Climate Change discourse.

Ensuring meaningful participation of the local community to identify climate-induced problems at grassroots levels is key to tackling climate change in Nepal. The geographical diversity in Nepal means different places have their own attributes and vulnerability. Hence, involving the local communities from the offset can help design contextual, culturally sensitive, gender-responsive and sustainable mitigation and adaptation measures. 

As a part of strategies and working policies, the National Climate Change Policy 2019 has highlighted ‘adopting measures in line with local and indigenous knowledge, skills and technologies by identifying climate change affected households, communities and risk zones’. The authorities should act strategically to make the best of the local knowledge and practices to counter natural disasters. 

Engaging communities can be a challenge in itself. We need to build robust institutional arrangements, infrastructure as well as human resources to join the force with the local people which can eventually support the successful implementation of the existing policies and plans. 

Young People and Climate change in Nepal.

Capacitating and engaging young people in climate change discourse will bring significant outcomes. Young people, who are about 40.3% of the total population, need to be mobilized by developing their capacity to generate awareness about climate change in their communities. 

On the other hand, young people can play a crucial role in leading research and programs to explore and generate innovative and sustainable plans to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses at the local level. Youth power can be best exemplified by the engagement of young people during the Nepal Earthquake 2015. The active and spontaneous engagement of young people during rescue, recovery and reconstruction during the earthquake was widely recognized. Hence, leveraging the power of youth will create an avenue for the country to bring diverse youth expertise to successfully implement existing plans and policies.  

Feature Photo by Sergey Pesterev on Unsplash

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The fight against Climate Change in Nepal

by Rekha Bhandari Reading time: 3 min