Managing Disaster Risk And Climate Change

Climate change will have impacts on all walks of life in Nepal. The impacts of climate change will be more in the least developed countries like Nepal, where it has affected the very livelihood of the common people.

Sept. 11, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -7 September. 12- 2014 (Bhadra 27, 2071)

DRR and Climate Change Situation

Natural disasters are common in Nepal. They constitute a major cause of poverty that is endemic in the country. The government of Nepal annually invests a huge amount of money in response to the risks of floods, landslides, earthquakes, fires and so on.  Although the country has various programs and plans to minimize the risks of natural disasters, they have not worked effectively in times of actual needs.

Climate change will have impacts on all walks of life in Nepal. The impacts of climate change will be more in the least developed countries like Nepal, where it has affected the very livelihood of the common people. Past experiences had shown that Nepal is highly vulnerable to climate change related disasters. Nepal is impacted by climate change and climate vulnerability. There is the need to stress mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and climate change adaptation into development planning process at all levels. Nepal is a victim of climate variability with increasing number, frequency, and intensity of hydro-meteorological disasters. As more intense disasters are forecast for the coming days, Nepal has already prepared National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA), which identifies Nepal’s vulnerable sectors.

Nepal is highly vulnerable to recurrent floods and landslides. In Nepal devastating floods are triggered by different reasons, such  as continuous rainfall and cloud burst, glacial lake outburst, landslides, dam outburst floods, and floods triggered by the failure of infrastructures. According to precipitation analysis trends, the annual average precipitation over Nepal is decreasing at the rate of 9.8 mm/decade. The possibility of intensive rain fall will affect the life of people. Studies have shown that climate change is likely to increase the frequency and magnitude of floods, flash floods, GLOFs, landslides, hailstorms, windstorms, forest fires, heat and cold waves, droughts, and epidemics. This is the reason NAPA report recommended giving priorities in promoting community based adaptation through  integral management of agriculture, water, forest and biodiversity, and community based disaster management for facilitating climate adaptation and GLOF monitoring and disaster risk reduction.

Effects from Disaster and Climate Change

The National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) framework considers that water security, food security, the state of biodiversity and human health will face negative impacts and that people’s vulnerability to shortages and to diseases will increase. The number of climate-induced disasters is expected to increase.

In this context, there is the need to formulate programs and implement feasible and sustainable local level climate adaptation and risk reduction measures in sectors like agriculture, water, environment, and health care. The need is to be better prepared to deal with impacts. In the development process at the local level, climate risk management interventions should be helping communities to adopt sustainable farming water use practices, alternative livelihoods and disaster preparedness.

Climate change is happening faster than one might have thought a few years ago. The recent extreme weather patterns and their devastating consequences faced by Asian countries are an indication that the rising temperature will create havoc on human lives.

Some Study Findings

The country, which has been passing through a very uncertain political course, is facing tough challenges in rescue and rehabilitation. Teams of Nepal Army and Nepal Police along with locals have been engaged in rescue and relief operations. Nepal Army personnel have been launching the rescue operations, like carrying the injured to the hospitals.

According to the report published in NAPA, data from 45 weather stations across Nepal for the period 1996-2005, indicate consistent warming in maximum temperatures at an annual rate of 0.040C/year. The studies also indicate that the observed warming trend is not uniform across the country. Warming was shown to be more pronounced in high altitude regions, while warming was lower in the Terai and Siwalik regions.

Similarly NAPA stated that annual precipitation data shows a general decline in pre-monsoon precipitation in far-and mid western Nepal, with a few pockets of declining rainfall in western, central and eastern regions. While in the rest of the country there is a general trend of increasing pre-monsoon precipitation. Monsoon precipitation shows generally declining trends in the mid-western and southern parts of western Nepal, with a few pockets of declining rainfall in the central and eastern regions. In the rest of the country, the monsoon precipitation shows general increases. Post monsoon precipitation shows increasing trends in most of the mid-western and the southern parts of eastern and central/western Nepal.

The recent study that used General and Regional Circulation Models projects mean annual temperature to increase by 1.40C by 2030, 2.80C by 2060 and 4.70C by 2090. The projections show higher temperature increments for winter as compared to the monsoon seasons. Higher increments in temperature are projected over western and central Nepal as compared to eastern Nepal for the years 2030, 2060, and 2090, with projections for western Nepal being the greatest. Similar trends are projected for the frequency of hot days and nights for 2060 and 2090.

The observations and projections indicate that the key impacts are likely to include: significant warming, particularly at higher elevations, leading to reductions in snow and ice coverage; increased climatic variability and frequency of extreme events, including floods and droughts; and, overall increase in precipitation during the wet season but a decrease in the mid hills.

IDS, Nepal's recent study shows that the annual direct cost of current climate variability in Nepal on average are estimated to be equivalent 1.5 percent to 2 percent of current GDP based on 2013 price and extreme flood year such as this year it can go up to 5 percent of GDP. Similarly USAID report estimated that one third of development expenditure are heated or damaged by natural disaster.

Impacts from DRR and Climate Change

Nepal is one of the 20 most disaster-prone countries in the world. The data on human mortality for the period 1971-2007 shows more than 27,000 deaths, 50,000 injuries, 3,000 missing and approximately 5 million affected people. More people are killed by disasters in Nepal than in any other country in South Asia. A total of 24 districts have been seriously affected by the flooding and landslides triggered by incessant monsoon rainfalls for the last one week of August.

Due to heavily and continuously occurring rainfall all over the country, in the last two week of August, disaster became a national agenda from grassroots levels to the parliament. The landslides and floods started from Sunkoshi Jure VDC of Sindhupalchok and after that due to continuous rain in different districts of Midwestern to Far- western region of Nepal. The highly impacted districts of these regions are Bardiya, Shurkhet, Dang, Banke, Jajarkot, Kailali, Kanchanpur and others parts of the country. Many people died, more injured and some of them are missing and about 20,000 are displaced. The major infrastructure of Babai Irrigation Project and some parts of the Sikta Irrigation were swiped up and billions of property was damaged. Floods affected people are crying, weeping, and shouting for help in their livelihood support. Many people are in the streets without any shelter and food. The situation seems very pathetic. Many affected people are demanding rehabilitation but focus is more on rescue rather than resettlement and rehabilitation. This is not the first time the country is affected by the landslide, floods, riverbank cutting and others natural disaster but always lacking part is appropriate coordination and management. In the past also numbers of such incidents had happened. In September 2011, an earthquake measuring 6.9 Richter scale devastated the eastern parts of Nepal with the loss crossing an estimated 4 billion rupees. Similarly, the breaking of the Koshi embankment caused a massive damage to lives and properties in the eastern parts in 2008. The flash floods of 2009 in Kailali and Kanchanpur and landslides in Doti and Accham districts damaged infrastructure and properties of worth billions of rupees. The epidemic in Jajarkot and Rukum districts in 2009 also killed a number of people

Problems, Gaps and Challenges

One of the major challenges in climate change and disaster management is the failure in mainstreaming the knowledge in the development process.  Lack of institutions and policies to implement DRR is another challenge. Instead of giving priority to DRR, the priority is on emergency work. There is a lack of adequate budget for DRR and the failure to use modern technology in weather forecasting has had some implications. Whereas on the other side there is sufficient funding in the climate change such as PPCR about 86 Million dollar projects and other few are in implementation in the country without coordination with DRR. Climate change and DRR should go together from the very beginning to address both the issues.

Lack of awareness among people regarding CC and DRR, lack of comprehensive policy on disaster risk reduction and management, lack of strategic planning for prevention and preparedness, socio-cultural challenges, culture of submission to divinity, and use of natural resources, settlement behavior are some of the other challenges.

There is a huge gap in private and public sectors. There is the need to increase engagement with private sector stakeholders including banks, and insurance companies, as they are the key elements of achieving real progress in this regard.  Along with the government relief package, banks and insurance companies can provide services to victims promptly, efficiently and effectively. There is also the need to encourage appropriate risk transfer mechanisms like micro-insurance and micro-finance mechanisms to build a culture of risk reduction and mitigation at community level.

There is the need to have an institution for capacity building with the establishment of a National Training Institution for other stake holders also. A key activity required in DRM is to train those newly appointed disaster managers responsible to conduct the DRM process at the national and district levels.

Nepal has had a long history since it introduced Disaster Management as its development priority. This analysis has found coordination lacking in rescue and rehabilitation work during disasters. There is no effective mechanism to prevent the duplication of work in the disaster-hit areas. This lack of coordination has impacted the process of mainstreaming DRM and Climate Risk Management (CRM) into the development process in Nepal. There is a huge gap between DRM and Climate change implementation in Nepal.

Purushotam Ghimire

Purushotam Ghimire

Mr. Ghimire, Former Joint Secretary, Expert/Resource person of CC, DRR, SDGs, participates in the climate discussion at the national and international level. He could be contacted via his email: purughimire@yahoo.com, or gihimirep@gmail.com

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