Climate Vulnerability

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Adverse climate effects and how to develop resilience against them, is a topical question today.  Nepal being a mountainous country is more vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. Scientists say that the rate of warming in mountains is more than the average of other places. This poses greater risks and increases the degree of vulnerability for the country that is economically less capable to develop climate resilience. Nepal’s contribution in the emissions of greenhouse gases, the main agent of global temperature rise, is negligible but the adverse climate effect it is facing is enormous. Compared to the carbon di-oxide emissions made by rich industrialised nations, Nepal stands much cleaner and environment friendly. 

Significant proportion of forests and green cover the country has conserved plays an important role to absorb greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and help keep the temperature down. Planting new trees, protecting the already existing forests and regenerating green cover are valuable contribution to fight the global warming. These contributions need to be duly compensated. Nepal’s community forests stand as a good example of environmental enhancement with the active participation of the local communities. This conservation programme has contributed in rapid expansion of forest cover, especially in the hills and mountains. Despite these environmentally friendly gains, we are also facing the increasing threats of natural disasters, scanty rains, excessive rains, partial rains, droughts and emergence of new diseases. 

These hostile phenomena have been attributed to global rise of temperatures and the change it brings in climate patterns. Changing monsoon dynamics have disrupted the traditional farming time table. The tendency of cloudbursts instead of gentle rains causes landslides and flash floods in some pockets while other areas parch in prolonged dry spells. For instance, excessive heat is currently making life difficult across the country. People have to bear the similar brunt when there are excessive rains. Excessive weather events are becoming the norm of the day. Human settlements, farmlands, roads, bridges, powerhouses, power transmission lines, water supply projects and other vital infrastructure get swept away in monsoon floods and landslides. Downpours in the hills swell the rivers and when they roar down and reach the Terai plains, they cause massive inundation. 

From the east to west, Nepal’s northern frontier is endowed with snow-capped mountains which are also under the impact of rising temperatures. Snow and ice melting is taking place rapidly as shown by scientific observations and the permanent snowline is moving upward. Glaciers are melting, resulting in the formation of glacial lakes which are increasing in number, size and depths. More ice melting means higher volume of water in these lakes. With rising water level in these high altitude lakes, there comes a point where the natural dam is no longer able to hold the water. The ultimate result is bursting of the lake with large scale devastations in the downstream areas. 

When huge amount of water races down the steep mountain slopes, one can imagine what kind of destruction the flash flood will unleash. So many marketplaces and settlements are established on the riverbanks of Nepal. Many roads and highways run along the river. Besides the bridges built over the rivers, many schools, health facilities and hydropower plants are located riskily near the rivers. They are in danger in case of a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF). Nobody knows the exact time of the day when such event may occur. It can potentially happen any time, during the daylight or the dark hour. Early warning and preparedness are the key for safety, and such measures are taken only when the warning given by science is taken seriously.

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