Cli­mate Cri­sis

Nepal’s rapidly chang­ing cli­mate is af­fect­ing the agri­cul­tural sec­tor and the well-be­ing of its peo­ple. Can the govern­ment take the nec­es­sary steps to fight this phe­nom­e­non be­fore it is too late?

Southasia - - ENVIRONMENT WEATHER - By Haseeb Ah­san

Lo­cated in the Hi­malayan moun­tain range with In­dia sit­u­ated in its south, east, and west, and the Repub­lic of China in its north, the Fed­eral Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Nepal has a rich ge­og­ra­phy, fea­tur­ing the world’s eight tallest moun­tain ranges.

Nepal is sit­u­ated in one of the most cli­mate-sen­si­tive re­gions of the world. Its eco-sys­tem is frag­ile and is mostly de­pen­dent on rain-fed agri­cul­ture. Sim­i­larly, the un­cer­tain topol­ogy makes the coun­try more prone to flood­ing. The dilemma is that even if Nepal’s con­tri­bu­tion of gas emis­sions (CO2 emis­sion) is neg­li­gi­ble, th­ese dras­tic cli­matic changes make it one of the most badly af­fected coun­tries in the world.

Cli­mate changes in­creased the oc­cur­rence of flash­floods in the coun­try, which mainly oc­cur due to in­tense rain­fall and rapid snowmelt. Fur­ther­more, Nepal’s tem­per­a­ture on aver­age is in­creas­ing by 0.6 de­grees per decade, which fur­ther raises con­cerns of the in­creased fre­quency of flash­floods. Glacier lakes out­bursts also cause wa­ter erup­tion from the trapped marines re­sult­ing in sub­se­quent flood­ing that badly af­fects the lower ly­ing ar­eas.

It is ironic that Nepal ex­pe­ri­ences wa­ter scarcity even with wa­ter streams and lakes run­ning across the coun­try. An in­ap­pro­pri­ate ir­ri­ga­tion and wa­ter stor­age sys­tem is the main cause be­hind this predica­ment. Most of Nepal’s poor com­mu­ni­ties re­side near the Ganges basin ar­eas. Al­though there is abun­dant wa­ter avail­able in the coun­try the ir­reg­u­lar dis­tri­bu­tion de­creases wa­ter dis­charge from the rivers and causes wa­ter scarcity. There are nearly 6,000 rivers in Nepal but only 72% of the pop­u­la­tion has ac­cess to safe drink­ing wa­ter and only 24% of the to­tal land is ir­ri­gated through proper

ir­ri­ga­tion mech­a­nisms. Life ex­pectancy of 63 years is one of the low­est in Nepal. One of the rea­sons is the im­proper san­i­ta­tion sys­tem which is avail­able to only 27% of the pop­u­la­tion. Sim­i­larly, 75% of preg­nant women are ane­mic and 50,000 chil­dren die ev­ery year due to cur­able dis­eases, where con­tam­i­nated wa­ter is the cause of such ail­ments.

Nepal is among the least de­vel­oped coun­tries across the globe and hence suf­fers from food se­cu­rity. The coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion is de­pen­dent on agri­cul­ture for their liv­ing. Nepal’s agri­cul­ture sec­tor, which is de­pen­dent on weather pat­terns and with no proper ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem plus poor wa­ter stor­age mech­a­nism, is ad­versely af­fected due to th­ese cli­matic changes, which in turn af­fects food avail­abil­ity in the coun­try.

More than 30% of Nepal’s pop­u­la­tion lives be­low the poverty line. The un­em­ploy­ment rate is 46%, one of the high­est in com­par­i­son with other na­tions (190th out of 200). The lit­er­acy rate is be­low 60% and the job mar­ket heav­ily lacks a skilled force. Un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances only 13% of the agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion reaches the mar­ket while the rest is con­sumed by the grow­ers them­selves, which lim­its the flow of the ecosys­tem. Sim­i­larly, Nepal’s reach is also limited to In­dia which is why it is heav­ily de­pen­dent on food im­ports from the coun­try.

The above men­tioned chal­lenges can only be im­proved if the Nepalese govern­ment is will­ing to im­ple­ment ef­fec­tive poli­cies, fol­lows best prac­tices, and takes cor­rec­tive ac­tions at the ear­li­est. The decade long armed con­flict also di­verted Nepal’s at­ten­tion from core is­sues when cli­mate prob­lems were of ma­jor sig­nif­i­cance.

Nepal’s crit­i­cal need is the de­vel­op­ment of its ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture for en­ergy, food and wa­ter se­cu­rity. Sim­i­larly, the govern­ment and NGOs should work in the coun­try’s iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties and mo­ti­vate and guide the pop­u­la­tion to ac­cess global mar­kets. In ad­di­tion, re­search and de­vel­op­ment is also im­por­tant to de­vice meth­ods and grow crops which are re­silient to cli­matic change.

Nepal will march to­wards progress when its lead­ers and de­ci­sion mak­ers will think be­yond their per­sonal gains and re­duce the in­flu­ence

The coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion is de­pen­dent on agri­cul­ture for their liv­ing. Nepal’s agri­cul­ture sec­tor, which is de­pen­dent on weather pat­terns and with no proper ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem plus poor wa­ter stor­age mech­a­nism, is ad­versely af­fected due to th­ese cli­matic changes, which in turn af­fects food avail­abil­ity in the coun­try.

of a bu­reau­cratic cul­ture. The fu­ture of Nepal will brighten only when its lead­ers will be will­ing to bring change.

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