Adaptation Options in Nepal: ACCCA project

Submitted by Ben Smith | published 26th Jul 2011 | last updated 24th May 2019
glacier
 

Dig Tsho Glacier Lake (4,365m) burst on August 4, 1985 spilling an estimated 200 to 350 million cubic feet of icy water with a flood wave 35 to 50 feet in height. It partially destroyed a hydro-power project, 14 bridges and various trails and patches of cultivated land roughly 55 miles below and likely to burst again if climate change glacial retreat continues. Photo: Oxfam International from Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence.

The major impact from floods and landslides on the victims' livelihoods are reduction in income source and in availability of agricultural production. These impacts affect the daily food consumption, education of children and daily work loads. The following mechanisms in Putalibazaar have enhanced the adaptive capacity of victims to cope with disaster:

  • Social networks
  • Community based groups and committees
  • Income generating activities

Informal insurance and loans (a paper entitled From Weather related disasters to climate change related disaster in Putalibazaar Municipality, Syangja district, Nepal: Adapting to climate change using baseline vulnerability, GIS and community-based insurance approaches is being produced by SEI-Oxford and the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, Government of Nepal).

Potential measures for reducing vulnerability in Putalibazaar Municipality identified in Shrestha (2005) are

  • the construction of a specific embankment;
  • identification and communication to vulnerable groups of hazard zones;
  • development of community and micro-insurance schemes.
  • Other strategies to cope with food insecurity:
  • changing expenditure and consumption patterns
  • borrowing food and land
  • intensified use of common property resources
  • migrating in search of wage employment
  • changing livelihoods or seeking employment locally as wage labour
  • changing social identity

Adaptation options from the Nepal NAPA case study (2003)

With the three main pathways of vulnerability to climate change identified as being in the in the water resource sector in the NAPA study, there are numerous adaptation options. Each of the options would have varying degrees of effectiveness in securing Nepalis' livelihoods, and of course, varying costs associated with them. This section identifies possible adaptation measures and indications of costs, where possible.

Soft Measures Many of the soft adaptation measures would help to reduce vulnerability, and they would provide benefits regardless of whether climate change occurs.These options were compiled from water resource sector assessments (notably the USCSP), Nepal's draft national communication, various studies, and workshop reports.

• Improve observation and forecasting

The remote access to many areas leaves the climatological record sparse, especially above 2,500 m. There are often gaps in the data for the stations that do exist. DHM oversees 263 meteorological stations and 47 hydrological stations in Nepal. Accurate information is needed for better forecasting,which can then be incorporated into early warning systems.

• Develop early warning systems

In conjunction with an engineering project from 1998-2002 to reduce the risk of a GLOF occurring on Tsho Rolpa, an early warning system was simultaneously established in 19 villages downstream of the Rolwaling Khola on the. Local villagers have been actively involved in the design of this system, and drills are carried out periodically.

• Map hazards and vulnerabilities

A joint project between UNEP and ICIMOD produced an inventory of glacial hazards in Nepal and Bhutan. A UK project to conduct a vulnerability assessment of glacial hazards has been postponed. For both hazards and vulnerability, continuous monitoring is needed to keep maps updated.

• Increase community awareness and participation

Incorporating practices from traditional water and natural resource management can raise the chances of successful climate change adaptation. Existing programs to promote community based disaster management stress the importance of creating ownership, making effective use of village events, and involving key stakeholders. This measure also enhances the community's capacity to manage and implement general development programs.

• Promote afforestation and conservation

From 1979-1998, forested area decreased by one third. Planting protective forests can increase water availability in dry season, reduce landslides and erosion, and enhance biodiversity. It will also help to sustain the natural resource base, which attracts tourists to the country.

• Promote water conservation and market-based water allocation

These measures would increase the efficiency of water allocations and allow for more rapid and flexible responses in the future.

• Increase irrigation efficiency

Using sprinklers would increase efficiency by 50% over surface irrigation, although it involves greater capital investments and is not suitable for paddy cropping. Installing drip networks to supply water directly to roots is another measure, but is feasible only for extremely dry conditions due to the high costs. The increased efficiency can help to expand the irrigated area.

"Hard Measures'

The hard adaptation measures include engineering projects to reduce vulnerability, particularly to floods and drought. These are typically more expensive measures that address a specific problem, but they can also produce multiple uses and benefits. Hard measures include:

• Mitigate GLOF risks

Experts recommend several methods, including draining by siphon or pump, cutting a drainage channel for periodic water release, and building flood control measures downstream to mitigate the effects of a flood (Rana et al, 2000). These all have their disadvantages. Pumping is expensive—because of the remote location, everything must be flown up to the site. Flood control measures are less desirable because Nepal's topography makes the flood behave unpredictably as it moves downstream, and in effect, it is treating the symptoms rather than the cause. With the support of The Netherlands, HMG began a project to drain down the Tsho Rolpa glacial lake by three meters, which reduced the risk of a GLOF by 20%. A channel was cut into the moraine, and a gate was constructed to allow water to be released as necessary. The four-year project cost US$ 3.2 million.

Certain GLOF mitigation measures can provide additional benefits, such as for microhydropower and for export (major hydroelectric power generation facilities). (Reynolds and Richardson, 1999) Siphoned water could also be used to supplement dry season flows, maintain adequate water levels in downstream ecosystems to protect valuable fish stocks, and supply water for local usage. However, the long-term economic feasibility of multi-benefit schemes requires further study.

• Expand irrigation and storage The Tenth Plan aims to develop necessary infrastructures in order to provide facilities in irrigable land in all seasons by utilizing the country's existing water resources. The total budget allocated for irrigation is US$ 307.8 million over five years. Detailed information on prioritized projects and estimated costs are available in the Tenth Plan.

• Include reservoir hydropower for electricity development—One advantage of large hydropower is that reservoirs can provide dependable flows for electricity generation, supplement water supplies for domestic and agriculture uses during the dry season, and if properly designed, play a role in flood management. These possible benefits must be carefully weighed any against environmental impacts and the enhanced GLOF risks.

 

General recommendations from Food Insecurity and vulnerability in Nepal: Profiles of Seven vulnerable groups, FAO ESA Working paper , May 2004.

  • Capacity building to enhance the human capital of vulnerable groups
  • Correct gender imbalances
  • Support the diversification of livelihoods
  • Reduce exclusionary cultural traditions based on gender and caste
  • Improve agricultural productivity
  • Improve infrastructure in rural areas
  • Increase access to financial capital
  • Implement policies and programmes in favour of marginal and vulnerable groups
  • Develop targeted welfare programmes and social safety nets

Coping strategies for climate related hazards are already well developed in Nepal and include financial solutions such as borrowing money or labour, accessing credit schemes operated by NGOs, selling assets in extreme cases, migrating for work and changing livelihoods or finding employment locally as wage labour.