Most predictions of climate change in the Himalayas point toward more precipitation north of the Himalayan crest, as well as more frequent extreme events, flooding events, drought and landslides.
Predictability of natural processes has allowed the mountain populations of the Himalayas and the lowland populations of the Koshi and Ganges rivers to adapt to seasonal fluctuations of water flows and mountain climatic conditions. Of late, however, with less seasonal predictability and increased numbers in extreme events, local capacity to prepare for, and recover from climate change impacts is decreasing.
Large and small hazard events are already a main cause of mortality – second only to epidemics – for mountain populations in Nepal and a major impediment to rural development. Due to the dispersed nature of mountain hazards, especially landslides and flash floods, little attention has been paid by NGOs or government agencies to reducing such risks. Also, in parallel with the decentralisation of power and budgets, new road construction is booming, often being undertaken by communities themselves who lack any technical knowledge. Bio-engineering measures, which are cost-effective and easily adapted to the local context, could significantly reduce landslides along roads but are rarely incorporated in road construction in Nepal.
This initiative builds on an existing baseline of research and links with specific partners and communities. Support from EPIC will enable ecosystem-based approaches to become integrated within planning and decision-making services in Nepal, ultimately making a positive and lasting contribution towards community security and welfare.
The project will be undertaken in the Koshi River basin, eastern Nepal. Selected communities are from the Middle Hills, in the Dharan-Sardu watershed and in Katahare village, Sunsari District, both of which lie at an altitude of between 400-800m.
Anticipated activities include the following:
a) a focused study of landslide-affected communities of the eastern Middle Hills to better understand coping mechanisms for increasing resilience to landslides and flash flooding;
b) participatory methods for assessing resilience, vulnerability and risk of landslide-affected communities;
c) pilot examinations to explore the extent to which landslide stabilising techniques – using local plants such as bamboo and broom grass – might reduce the occurrence of landslides, while providing livelihood opportunities to local communities;
d) build local institutional capacity to provide guidance and implement resilience-building measures, by supporting the expansion of women’s forest user and savings groups, which are gaining significance as a force for community-based development; and
e) develop educational and training materials on landslide risk aimed at local government, schools and community forest users.
This component of EPIC is being conducted by IUCN-Nepal, The University of Lausanne and a range of local partners, in conjunction with communities in the Dharan-Sardu watershed and Katahare village.