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Experts call for climate change adaptation plans

Outside the Dig Tsho glacier lake in eastern Nepal. The lake is filling with icy water as rising temperatures in the region accelerate the melting of glaciers and snowfields that feed them
(Naresh Newar/IRIN)

Nepal is one of a number of South Asian countries directly affected by global warming, especially in mountainous regions which have seen rapid glacier melt: Local experts warn that climate change adaptation plans urgently need to be put in place.

Some organisations have been involved in small-scale community activities designed to promote sustainable agriculture, alternative energy and biodiversity conservation, but these are insufficient, they say.

“There has to be planned adaptation which will require some technological interventions and investment. We need a good understanding of the extent of the impacts,” Arun Bhakta Shrestha, a climate change specialist from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), told IRIN in Kathmandu.

The Asian Development Bank, which is helping the Nepalese government to assess and address climate change risks, says water shortages in the dry season and the melting of over 3,200 glaciers are the main challenges.

However, Nepal lacks the institutional, scientific and economic resources to adapt effectively to climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Quantifying the impact

Experts said there was an urgent need to quantify the likely impact of climate change and assess Nepal’s scope and capacity for adapting to climate change.

ICIMOD’s Shrestha said carefully evaluated plans were essential “otherwise, it will be a haphazard way of spending money and you won’t get the kind of return you want”.

Up to now most climate change information relating to agriculture, food security and water resources has been anecdotal or general, a fact which, however, does not mean that adaptation programmes should be shelved pending further scientific evidence. “We should not wait,” said Shrestha, adding “we can support what some people are already doing.”

“We are already quite late in identifying the impact of climate change. We need constant scientific records of temperature, and the changes experienced during all seasons, and in that way we can identify proper solutions,” said expert Dinanath Bhandari, of the UK-based international NGO Practical Action.

Hazard mapping

Some organisations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have already started their own hazard mapping exercise in mountainous areas to assess livelihood vulnerabilities related to agriculture, flood patterns and erosion.

“Our priority is adaptation and the building of the resilience of the most vulnerable communities,” WWF Nepal official Ghana Shyam Gurung old IRIN.

“We haven’t had rain for more than six months and because of that crops have suffered - and definitely you have productivity going down a lot,” he added.

The drought has led to the loss of winter crops like wheat, maize and mustard - with serious implications for food security.

“We can already see the problems becoming visible now. This obviously means a severe crisis in future,” said Bhandari of Practical Action.

Local NGO ENPHO, which has been lobbying for action on climate change, says adaptation measures should be given top priority

“We shouldn’t lose any time now, especially in an agricultural nation which is totally dependent on the weather. Changing weather patterns are not a good sign,” Bhushan Tuladhar, the ENPHO executive director, told IRIN.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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