Having been a least developed country for decades now, Nepal has compromised and struggled a lot for its development endeavors. Even before climate change started posing its threats, it was (and is) threatened by the vast topography, wide array of weather patterns and the unpredictable diversity that the country also takes pride in. So, the climate change issue has become yet another setback, sure to hit hard mostly on the most vulnerable issues like water, agriculture and food security.
About 65.7% of total population in Nepal is dependent on agriculture for food, income and employment which contributes about 33.1% of total nation’s GDP. This clearly means that the impact of climate change on agriculture will lead to the declining livelihood and socio economic conditions. To top this, most of agriculture practices are subsistence and nature based making it more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Nepal is endowed with the diversified species of flora and fauna that thrive along various ecological belts and has been source of food for the people residing on those belts. The recent climate change patterns has not only altered and confused the growing patterns of those flora and fauna but also pushed some of them to the verge of extinction. Livestock rearing, aquaculture, and various other fields of agriculture are also not spared.
Women contribute as much as 60% to agricultural production in Nepal. A new outreach program is helping to train them on the interconnections between climate change, agriculture and food security, and how it affects them as women. Photo: CCAFS Nepal
Rice and wheat are the major staple food crops in Nepal since the ancient times. Production of major winter crops wheat and barley decreased in 2009 by 14.5 and 17.3 percent respectively compared to previous years (Market Watch 14, 2009). Traditional rainfalls of mid July (Jestha/Asar) have been shifted in July-Aug (Shrawan-Bhadra) in Kathmandu and same is the shift of monsoon in other regions. It has affected negatively in the paddy production. Nepal which was exporter of cereals few years back, now imports almost all quantities of cereal.
With subsistence farming still in rough phase, the commercialization process has become secondary, lowering the scope of economic advancement. The local landraces and the traditional hardy species are being destroyed in an attempt to develop varieties that might cope with the changing climate. The genetic diversity will be severely impaired if this continues, with no scope of ever getting the original lot back whatsoever.
The clear side effects of global warming like haphazard monsoon patterns, dry spell for a long time, drying of the water sources, reduced span of winter, prolonged warm seasons etc can’t be neglected. Farmers have seen signs of delayed flowering, vegetative periods, or the yield loss for some time now. Marginal people and those relying on day to day hand-to-mouth are most to be affected. In a country where 25.2 percent of people are below poverty line, the main problem will be to cope with the food security problem, as the increasing population will surely result in more mouths to feed within the limited land resources. If the climate change issue can be coped, the concern can be shifted towards increasing the productivity of the land instead of the climate change mitigation strategies.
Himalayan glaciers and glacial lakes situated in the high Himalayas are the major source of water in Nepal. Being a country of Himalayas, the snow meltdown, Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), and ultimately the flood due to increased water current is also a huge problem. In the article published in The Rising Nepal on Aug 22 states “Warming in the Himalayan Region has been greater than global average. Both increasing and decreasing rainfall patterns have been detected in the area. Weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable and extreme- dry seasons become dryer and wet season wetter”. (Devkota & Bagale, 2015).
Many Nepalese still lack access to clean, safe drinking water
The National Water Plan of Nepal (2005) indicates that only 72% of the population has access to safe drinking water, only 562 megawatts (MW) of hydropower capacity are exploited (out of an estimated economically feasible potential of 42,000 MW). This is still not enough for the growing population which might be made more difficult by the climate change issues reducing the access of people to clean drinking water and hence inviting major epidemics.
GLOF cannot be forgotten. The glacial lakes like Tsho Rolpa, Tam pokhari, Dig Tsho etc have been considered a major threat for a long time now, on outburst will undoubtedly cause huge loss of livelihood and infrastructures. The fast glacial melt has resulted in formation of new glacial lakes and the already existing ones are growing rapidly. Flooding and landslide will be a major disaster harming thousands of people in its way. Not only will the lives of thousands of people, the arable land along the way will also be equally depleted. The fertility of land will be carried away, nevertheless, declining the yield potentiality of the land. Disease spread, food shortage, economic loss, environmental imbalance are the undoubted impacts that will follow.
Although Nepal’s share in polluting the atmosphere is negligible (Nepal is responsible for only 0.027 percent of total GHG emissions in the world), its physical characteristics, geographic position, topography, and weak socio-economic conditions make it a highly vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change (National Trust for Nature Conservation). It is not the time to sit back, thinking that small country like ours might be spared by the wrath of this global phenomenon. A statement of Ban Ki‐moon, General Secretary, UN, “The danger posed by war to all of humanity ‐ and to our planet – is at least matched by the climate crisis and global warming” should be seriously taken into consideration as the climate change is not a myth. It is happening and it is real.
Not that the country is blind to the climate change impacts, we have National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA), Climate Change Policy, 2011 – Accessing Finance, LAPA Framework, Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) etc on the policy level. Different adaptation strategies like rain water harvesting, improved cooking stoves, community forest programs, etc are being conducted successfully in various regions. But these efforts need more polishing for better result and proper dissemination to the people so that everyone would feel equal sense of responsibility towards the global temperature reducing movement. A small effort from a small country like ours to stay below 1.5, if not much, might at least make the way of living easier and sustainable to some extent, might contribute to a food security to some extent, or might to the least, make the environment more of a living space to some extent. So, it is worth a try.