Proofing Communities Against Glacial Melt Impact

Nov 25th, 2014 | By | Category: Government Policies, Nepal

Nepal will seek an opportunity to draw global attention towards the plight of the mountains that are retreating at an alarming rate and its impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, in the upcoming global climate summit which takes place in Peru next month.

During the 20th session of the Conference of Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) scheduled to be held in Lima, Peru, on December 1-12, Nepal, as the chair of Least Developed Countries (LDC) bloc, will seek the needed interventions to address the growing concerns of mountain communities due to climate change, according to government officials at the Ministry of Science Technology and Environment (MoSTE).

“Mountains are dear to our hearts and we will raise this issue to be considered under the UNFCCC climate regime,” says Krishna Chandra Poudel, secretary at MoSTE.

“Nepal will also demand the world leaders to limit the global temperature below 1.5 degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels and release adequate funds for adaptation and technology transfer from developed nations to fight climate change.”

Various scientific researches and studies on the Himalayas have pointed out the increasing risks on mountains and people dependent on its resources due to rising temperature and variability in rainfall patterns. The rate of glacier melt and subsequent natural disasters like glacial lake outbursts, flashfloods and landslides have posed severe consequences on lives and properties in the mountain region.

According to the findings of a study conducted by the International Center for the Integrated Mountain Development in 2014, Nepal’s mountains lost a glacier area of 1,266 sq km, about 24 percent of the total glaciated area of the country, between 1977 and 2010 due to climate change.  Similarly, the glacial retreat in the mountainous region is some of the largest proportionate losses on earth, which could have implications on hydropower generation, drinking water supply, agriculture production and tourism.

Peru, the mountainous nation would work to utilise the opportunity of organising the global summit to be attended by delegates of more than 194 countries to raise the concerns of mountain communities to climate change impacts.

“The upcoming climate meet would be an important platform to bring the mountains in forefront of global negotiations and seek special attention towards this issue that has been shadowed during the global negotiations for long,” says Batu Krishna Uprety, a former MoSTE official, who represented Nepali delegation at global climate negotiations many times in the past.

For a climate-vulnerable country like Nepal, it is necessary to fund climate change adaptation projects to help the larger section of vulnerable local communities who are constantly being exposed to increasing incidences of natural disasters such as floods and landslides, says Govind Raj Pokharel, vice-chairman at National Planning Commission.

The commission, in coordination with the government agencies, has introduced climate budget coding in fiscal year 2013/14 and put total climate change funding by the government above 10 percent of the total annual budget of the country.

“Infrastructure development would be most hit sector due to floods and landslides resulted from climate change. So to minimise the risks, we need to work towards building climate-resilient structures at all levels,” Pokharel says. “Increasing the adaptive capacity of the local communities to fight climate change by channelising adequate financial support is the need of our country.”

Krishna Gyanwali, former secretary at the environment ministry, says that financing climate change adaptation is not a problem in the country, but its implementation is.

“There has been increasing interests and funds available to support adaptation projects and programmes in the country through public and private sector in the recent times. However, spending of the funds is seen as a major challenge due to poor inter-ministerial coordination,

timely mobilisation of resources, capacity and technical resources at all level,” says Gyanwali, emphasising on a concerted effort from all government agencies and concerned stakeholders to bring about a tangible change.

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