Toma Lama’s interview of Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha, Regional Programme Manager, River Basins, ICIMOD and Himalayan Adaptation, Water and Resilience (HI-AWARE) research team member, was aired on Nepal FM 91.8 MHz on 7 December 2014. Conducted in Nepali language as part of Nepal FM’s Awaaz Programme, the interview touched broadly on climate change and adaptation issues concerning Nepal.
In his interview, Dr Shrestha clarified at the outset that ICIMOD is an intergovernmental organization, governed by a Board of Governors comprising mostly of senior government representatives from eight countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. He also noted that ICIMOD works on climate change and adaptation issues as well as other related thematic areas such as water and air, livelihoods, and ecosystem services in the (HKH) region, including highland-lowland linkage.
Dr Shrestha spoke on climate change impact at different levels: on parameters such as precipitation, temperature, and solar radiation; on the cryosphere and water resources; and on sectors such as agriculture, energy, and tourism. He said that public awareness about climate change impacts has increased in the last ten years or so, gaining momentum after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out with its Third Assessment Report in 2007. He critiqued the trend of linking everything to climate change without proper scientific argumentation.
According to him, Nepal is extremely vulnerable to climate change as it has to deal increasingly with hazards such as landslides, floods, droughts, and changes in ecosystems, for which it has inadequate capacity. Therefore, more research capacity is needed to address ‘knowledge gaps’ and reduce uncertainty as well as to promote science-based mitigation and adaptation in the country. Also scientific data are needed to plan hydropower development and flood control measures to aid structural adaptation. He noted that the fact that many entities, including academia, research institutes, organizations and private companies, are working on various facets of climate change is encouraging.
Dr Shrestha agreed that the developed countries are the main drivers of climate change. However, he was quick to point out that this does not completely let the HKH countries off the hook, for many of the causes of climate change are regional and local in origin. For example, studies have found that the black carbon resulting from brick kilns, vehicular emissions, forest fires and garbage burning is contributing to rapid melting of glaciers.
“Climate change impacts are borne by communities, so ultimately adaptation has to be local and community-driven,” he said. “The communities have been resilient in the past and adapted to the situation of ‘too much, too little water”.
However, the future challenge is manifold: to study how communities have adapted in the past, to assess if they have the capacity to adapt to present and future climate change impacts, or whether they continue to rely on their past coping strategies and adaptation practices, and if not, then to identify the kind of support, capacity building, and planned measures they need to adapt to climate change impacts, now and in future.
[The radio interview is available online at http://nfm.com.np/uploaded/for%20upload/taawaj%2009-23.mp3 ]