No Time to Lose

Aug 25th, 2014 | By | Category: Disasters and Climate Change, News, Vulnerability

27282Republica: In recent weeks, Nepal has confronted alarming floods and landslides. These extreme events have taken hundreds of lives and displaced thousands of others in Tarai and hills. The country continues to face heavy and erratic rainfall, signifying more risks ahead. The distorted monsoon pattern has left many people in a lurch. 

Given its topography, Nepal already faces an extremely complex and variable climate. With the human-induced climate change, the country is heading towards a more uncertain and unpredictable future. The state’s lack of capacity in responding to extreme climatic events is exposing many lives and property to serious danger. 
A country already behind in basics of development like health facilities, education, food security and infrastructure is being further challenged. This is imposing huge socio-economic and development costs. The national per capita income is only US$ 735. This indicates the limited resources people have to fight against these extremely difficult circumstances. 

In 2013, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE) with support from Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) pioneered a study entitled “Economic Impact Assessment of Climate Change for Key Risks in Nepal” to estimate the impacts and economic costs of climate change in major risk areas—agriculture, hydroelectricity and water-induced disasters. This report suggests that the estimated direct costs from these three sectors is equivalent to 1.5-2 percent of GDP per year (approximately US$ 270-360 million/per year in 2013 prices), rising to 5 percent or more in extremes years with flood-related risks being the major drivers of these costs.

The study projects that average temperature will increase by 3-5°C by the end of this century. Similarly, it also concludes that the future economic costs of climate change in Nepal for agriculture, hydroelectricity and water-induced disasters could be equivalent to an additional 2-3 percent of current GDP by 2050. 
Erratic rainfall and extreme weather events directly affect agriculture production and food security. In Nepal, agriculture accounts for over 75 percent of national employment and shares 40 percent of GDP. This major sector for country’s growth and development cannot be ignored. However, by 2070, the net agricultural loss from climate change is estimated to be around 0.8 percent of current GDP, or US$ 140 million a year. 

Every year water-induced disasters are increasing all around the country, posing a huge challenge for the government. Hydro-metrological data generation is limited and what little we have has not been properly disseminated. The study finds a 20-100 percent increase in intensity and frequency of river flow with increased risks of flooding in Nepal by 2050. It further asserts that with climate change an event that occurred once in every ten years would occur once in five years (or less). 
Given these findings, is the government ready to take up the challenge of dealing with the impacts of climate change? Going by its handling of the landslide in Sindhupalchowk district and severe flooding in the plains, the government is ill-prepared. It needs to immensely scale up its preparedness and not only respond to events. 

Even the recently released Asian Development Bank (ADB) report “Assessing the Costs of Climate Change and Adaptation in South Asia” underscores climate vulnerabilities of Nepal and South Asia. It identifies that Nepali population is extremely vulnerable‚ not only to immediate threats of glacial lake overflows‚ landslides‚ flash floods‚ and droughts‚ but also to longer-term climate change. 

The report highlights that if urgent steps are not taken to halt climate change, Nepal would see economic losses equivalent to 2.2 percent of GDP by 2050, and 9.9 percent by 2100. These findings cannot be brushed aside if Nepal is serious about the welfare of its people and sustainable development.

Climate resilient and integrated development planning should be the government mantra ensuring right infrastructure, food security, sound agriculture practices and energy production. Disaster risk reduction and better preparedness cannot be ignored as well. The ADB report suggests measures Nepal can adopt in responding to climate threats—use of drought and flood resistant crop varieties, increased efficiency in energy, improved disease and vector surveillance, better protection of groundwater resources and greater use of recycled water.

The new budget has put high priority on energy, agriculture, infrastructure development and tourism as means to enhance Nepal’s economy. Studies indicate that these sectors will be significantly affected by extreme climatic events. Though the government has some plans and policies to implement climate related programs and projects, given the magnitude of the problem, these efforts are inadequate. Even on the designed programs, it needs to seriously step up its implementation actions. 

On a positive note, ADB report also gives some hope by stating that if mitigation and adaptation steps are taken, the damage for Nepal could be limited to around 2.4 percent of GDP by 2100. However, to achieve this and attain meaningful environmental, social and economic growth, serious commitment and stringent implementation have become an imperative.

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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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