Nepal’s First Climate REFUGEE Village in Mustang

Jun 1st, 2010 | By | Category: Ecosystem Functions

In the first recognized case of climate change refugees in Nepal, the entire village of Dhe, located in Surkhang VDC of upper Mustang, is being resettled in Thangchung in lower Mustang.

A total of 150 people (23 households) of Dhe are being shifted due to the adverse impact of climate change on the livelihoods of the poor in the village. Dhe village has been facing an acute shortage of water for irrigation over the last six to seven years. The irrigated land over the period has also been reduced to less than 50 percent and animal husbandry (particularly goat keeping) has declined 40 to 45 percent.

Two households from Dhe have already moved elsewhere within the last three years. “The sources of the water have completely dried up,” Amchi Tenjin Dharke, a Dhe local, told over the phone. He added that people in Dhe are using yaks and horses to bring in small quantities of supplies from the lower trans-Himalayan region for their families.

“It is getting extremely difficult for people to even arrange two square meals a day,” Dharke said, adding, “There is hardly any greenery to be seen around the village, which just seven years back used to be very green.” Dharke is also chairperson of Dhe´s youth club, which is striving in Kathmandu to raise funds for the resettlement. The locals have, however, complained that the government is “not doing enough” to address their problems. A four-member team from the village including Dharke, Dondup Chhonphe, Jhayang Wanchuk and 70-year-old Wangyal met WWF-Nepal officials in April and explained the dire conditions facing people in the village.


  • Dhe village to be relocated in Thangchung
  • Dhe facing acute water shortage, 50% reduction in irrigated land, animal husbandry down 45%
  • WWF-Nepal develops relocation plan
  • Locals say govt not doing enough
  • 2 households left village in last 3 years

The village secretary of Surkhang, on the other hand, has taken the initiative along with VDC Chairman Chhering Gonpo Bista for resettlement in Thangchung. “A feasibility study for water supply for a possible resettlement is underway,” Ghanashyam Gurung, conservation officer at WWF-Nepal, said.

He informed that an initial survey by technicians found the area feasible for resettlement. “The refugees will get water from Damodar Kunda which in turn is supplied from Himalayan glacial waters,” Gurung added. Gurung further said, “I met the people of this village during my visit to Dhe in April and they sought help from WWF then for resettlement.” Gurung claimed that the villagers will be happy with resettlement in an environment they are familiar with rather than moving to completely new and unfamiliar territory.

“Such resettlement should be the highest priority of the government as it helps people adapt and build climate resilience,” Gurung said. Conforming the report, Juddha Gurung, member-secretary of the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), said, “Yes, we have a problem and we are looking at the survey report to do the needful.”

WWF-Nepal will soon submit a resettlement plan to the Ministry of Environment in consultation with NTNC. After the scientific research and survey, which will be completed this year under Phase II (2011) of the plan, plantings and land use planning with caretakers will be initiated for initial resettlement. And in Phase III (2012), the final phase, resettlement will be completed with new housing to be constructed by the villagers themselves.

“The new settlement should be the first model village of climate refugees. It should be solar powered with greenery and appropriate land allocation for public uses like parks and a market center,” Ghanashyam Gurung said.



Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>

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