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Climate Change and Flooding in Nepal by City Tech Blogger Nurbu Sherpa

Climate change is a broad topic, as is the diversity of the climatic conditions in the Nation of Nepal despite its relatively small size. The country is separated into three geographical regions ranging from its snow- covered mountains to the mid hilly region, and the Tarai plains. Due to the differences in its geographical regions, it is highly vulnerable to climate change and has already experienced changes in precipitation and temperature at a faster rate than the global average. The country is exposed to various water related- risks, such as  landslides and floods.  Climate change increases flooding and causes devastating damage.

Nepal is a landlocked nation and it is one of the many developing countries with its major source of income being agriculture.  About 65% of the population is employed in agriculture, providing  31.7% of the nation’s GDP.    20% of the area is usable,  40.7%  is forest, and the rest are mountains. According to the World Resource Institute for Social and Environmental Transition, the geographical features and the drastic variation in the altitude over a short distance have resulted in an orographic effect  which severely limits the ability to explain the precipitation dynamics of the country. . The impact of climate change on Nepal, as a result, causes major damages  like flooding. Approximately 21 million people worldwide are affected by river floods each year on average and that number could easily increase to 54 million in 2030 due to climate change. Nepal may not be the most GDP exposed nation,  India is. However,   1.36% of Nepal’s GDP is affected by floods which is devastating to its economy and employment.  

More than 6000 rivers and rivulets  provide the nation of Nepal with irrigated agriculture and other livelihoods but cause massive destruction in the valleys and the Tarai region  when  they  overflow. Overflow or flooding usually occurs when there is a large increase in the volume of water either by  excessive rain, rapid melting of snow or ice, and the geographical features of the land. In the case of Nepal, everything applies since the variation in the land  and the melting of snow and ice from the Himalayan region  cause  flooding of the hilly and Tarai plains. According to the World Institute Resource, the river drainage density of 0.3km/ km2 indicates how close the drainage channels are. It also shows how susceptible they are to floods. Certainly, climate change influences flooding.

The rise in the global temperature can cause the melting of glacial lakes or the glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF). Glacial lakes are formed in the Himalayan region. ,  According to a study by Mool et al. in  2001, there are about 2323 glacial lakes in Nepal that have retreated rapidly forming ice-core moraine flanked lakes of melted water, and occasionally the dam is breached. The lake empties in a very short time creating a GLOF that causes damages to infrastructures and lives. The impacts of floods events show what future impacts are likely to be if climate change continues.  Recently at the end of the monsoon season, a devastating flood occurred in Nepal killing at least 27 people due to incessant rain and lack of drainage. This is typically not the case, as previously recorded floods occurred during the monsoon season and not at the end. These impacts beg the question of how flood events will affect the future if climate change is not addressed.

, The government has been implementing various strategies for flood mitigation and drawing attention to structural control measures,  primarily embankments, which  proved to be insufficient and detrimental. These measures will make things worse as climate change continues,  so alternative measures need to be implemented to adapt to such changes by improving drainage,  providing refuge during periods of floods, and creating better warning systems.  Overall,    everyone needs to know and understand the changes in climate and be aware of their impacts . Climate change is not just flooding, it consists of many other risks and threats like fossil fuel emission, heat waves, drought, storms, rising sea levels,  and so forth. Being ignorant of the fact that the climate is changing is more detrimental than addressing it and failing.  As Van Jones stated in his book, The Green Collar Economy, “If we keep pulling death from the ground, we will reap death from the skies.”Sources

  1. “Climate Change in Nepal: Impacts and Adaptive Strategies.” World Resources Institute, 23 Sept. 2013, https://www.wri.org/our-work/project/world-resources-report/climate-change-nepal-impacts-and-adaptive-strategies.
  2. Government of Nepal Ministry of Population and Environment. https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/ndcstaging/PublishedDocuments/Nepal First/Nepal First NDC.pdf.
  3. https://www.climatelinks.org/sites/default/files/asset/document/2017_USAID%20CCIS_Climate%20Risk%20Profile_Nepal.pdf
  4. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/nepal-deadly-monsoon-rains-flood-streets-kathmandu-190713085930073.html#targetText=At%20least%2027%20people%20have%20been%20killed%20in%20Nepal%20after,region%20and%20its%20southern%20plains.


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