KATHMANDU Vulnerable Climate

The impact of climate change will be more devastating in the capital because it is already facing several problems<br>DEBESH ADHIKARI

Aug. 9, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 05 No.-4 Aug. 05-2011 (Shrawan 20,2068)<BR>

Nepal is one of the earthquake prone countries of the world. So, a strong earthquake hitting it in the near future is a looming possibility. What is worse, recent reports have ranked Nepal as one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change as well.

Since there is a strong linkage between cities and climate change, it does not come as a surprise that Nepal is vulnerable to climate change. Nepal is the least urbanized country in Asia but its rate of urbanization is among the highest at 6.4%. Urban areas currently comprise 18% of the country’s population. In the future, numbers are expected to reach new heights due migration of people from rural parts to the urban areas and that could further enhance climate change.

Urbanization affects climate change, and climate change could impact cities, ecosystems and livelihood. Against this backdrop, at a function organized by UN Habitat, Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning and Ministry of Environment, experts pointed out the need to take appropriate measures to meet the challenges.

“Nepal has already imitated steps to reduce the impact of climate change,” said Krishna Gyawali, secretary of Ministry of Environment. “The government has mobilized the local bodies to cope with the situation.”

Kathmandu, the capital of the nation, is the most vulnerable city to the impacts of climate change compared to other cities of the country. People in the valley have already started facing climate related problems, especially the horrendous pollution level. The air is heavily polluted due to industries and poorly maintained vehicles. The fate suffered by the rivers flowing within the valley is far worse than the air floating above. The situation of land is even worse and due to vehicles the noise level is deafening.

“Due to rise of temperature, countries around the world have been facing severe environmental problems,” said Andre Dzikus, Chief, Water and Sanitation Section, UN Habitat, Nairobi.

Chief technical advisor of UN Habitat South Asia Bhushan Raj Tuladhar said that 31 percent of Nepal’s population is living in Kathmandu Valley and population growth in urban areas in Nepal is 6.4 percent. “There is the need to increase the number of programs to cope with the climate change in urban areas,” said Tuladhar.

Impacts of climate change

Climate change could be devastating. Global warming is one the major consequences of climate change and it could lead to various major problems. “Rise in temperature related to global warming is associated with changes in rainfall patterns (such as less frequent but more intense rainfall events), increasing frequency and intensity of floods, changes in monsoon on- and offset, longer dry spells and drought events, increasing storms, and a growing threat from Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF),” reads a statement in NAPA (National Adoption Program Of Action To Climate Change) website.

Extreme weather events, natural disasters, change in level of water resources, increased risk in public health, food contamination, damage in infrastructure and buildings are a few of the major impacts of climate change.

“The government is now working under the National Climate Change Policy and NAPA to reduce the impact of climate change,” said Batu Krishna Uprety, joint secretary and chief climate change division of Ministry of Environment.

Climate change is mostly linked with negative impacts, but, there are a few hidden benefits of climate change. Rainfall in the mountainous areas where there has been no rain for ages yields in increased fertility of land and could make life more favorable in those areas.

Furthermore, unceasing rain in the summer season could make days cooler and more preferable. Global warming helps in making winter days hotter. “Nepal’s urbanization took place without adequate infrastructures in the city areas,” said Suresh Prasad Acharya, joint secretary at Ministry of Housing and Works.

Mitigation and Adaption

Climate change is not an unnatural phenomenon. Our earth, from the time of its inception has seen climatic changes in leaps and bounds. In the beginning, earth’s climate was supposedly not favorable for living beings but gradually over time, the climate has smoothed and turned in favor for the living beings and in the future climate could change beyond imagination. The problem is not the climate change per se, but the accelerating rate at which the climate is changing.

Along with evolution, living beings have adopted and coped up with the changing climates. But the rate at which climate is changing in the current scenario is far beyond the human adaptation capacity, so steps should be taken by the concerned stakeholders to mitigate the situation.

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