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गृहपृष्ठ Role of Climate Information to Reduce Climate Risks in Nepal

Role of Climate Information to Reduce Climate Risks in Nepal

The monsoon in Nepal is approaching very near. Generally, monsoon starts from early June and lasts till the end of September. During the monsoon rain, most of the rivers in Nepal swell up. Every year, these rivers trigger lot of landslides and soil erosion in the Mountain and Mid-hills region which carry abundance of sediments and debris towards downstream areas. Many areas in the Terai region inundate due to heavy floods each year. As a result, Nepal has been experiencing lots of negative impacts in the livelihood of its people, its properties and infrastructures, and depletion of its natural resources. Climate change has further escalated the situation making matters even worse. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, every year Nepal loses more than 100 human lives and billions of properties during the monsoon period. On the contrary, the country does not have effective mechanism and provisions to disseminate or access to the weather-based and climatic information to all its citizens and public institutions that would help for timely preparedness against such extreme events. As a consequence, these incidences overwhelmingly disrupt the progresses made by our government in poverty reduction and set back economic development, making poor and marginalized even more vulnerable. Similarly, climate risks also pose serious threats to meet Nepal’s commitment towards Sustainable Development Goals. Access to climate information by all citizen can reverse the huge damages occurred due to climate risks. This article briefly explains the importance of climate information, its role and relevancy in Nepalese context.

What is Climate Information?

‘Climate Information’ refers to the collection and interpretation of weather and climate data that is credible, relevant and usable.  It also includes interpretation of climate simulations in the form of forecast, models and scenarios. The forecasts are the predictions of weather for a short duration (e.g. seasonal, annual or biannual predictions of climatic conditions). Climate models are the mathematical simulations of climate system and processes. Similarly, climate scenarios are the plausible and simplified representation of the future climate constructed from climate simulations.

Dissemination of weather and climate-based forecast, models and scenarios in a timely manner can enable national, sub-national and local levels authorities, decision-makers, communities and individuals to assess, and prevent, or prepare for potential extreme events.

The production and dissemination of climate information, however, is a complex phenomenon.

The production and dissemination of climate information, however, is a complex phenomenon. It requires management of and synchronization between different variables such as physical infrastructure, technical, analytical and communication skills and capacities, and well-integrated public communication systems to 1) collect, 2) analyze, 3) package and 4) disseminate the climate information.

In Nepal, Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) is the key government functionary for production and dissemination of climate information. Besides, there are other national (e.g. National Academy of Science and Technology, National Agriculture Research Center) and regional (e.g. ICIMOD) agencies which are also involved in climatic research. The weather and climate data largely come from different weather stations across the country under the DHM. Once data acquired from different stations is compiled at central level, the DHM analyzes and interprets these data. Then the results is packaged under daily, weekly and seasonal forecasts and disseminated through weather bulletins, newspapers, radio stations, television, websites, SMS and social media. For individual and community, such information is useful in order to make day to day plans. For example, farmers can make plans of crop cultivation and harvesting knowing such information, while decision makers can utilize such information in making informed decision for medium and long-term plan and investments.

Role of Climate Information in Preparedness and Planning

Climate information are crucial for policy makers and managers at all levels working in medium and long‑term planning. It helps them in predicting the impacts of climate risks on different sectors, and defining the nature and magnitude of climate risks in a particular area. If we have robust climate information system in place, our decision makers can make proper assessment and analysis of climate risks. It also supports them to take appropriate precaution to reduce any damages by preparing climate adaptation plans and integrating adaptations in other sectoral development plans. Furthermore, it helps to maximize opportunities for different sectors by avoiding potential risks from predicted climate variability. In the meanwhile, it also supports in taking ‘informed decisions’ about ways to reduce vulnerabilities and impacts of climate-induced disasters, such as floods, drought or forest fires. Besides, it also supports to analyze the potential implications of climate risks for making decisions on long-term investment, such as physical infrastructure development, insurance schemes and policy instruments.

Relevancy in the Context of Nepal

Majority of disasters experienced in Nepal are weather or climate driven. For instance, weather parameters such as rainfall and temperature directly correlate with floods, storms, landslides, drought and cold/heat waves leading to various vector and water-borne diseases, pest outbreaks, famine, forest fires and land-slides. To combat such situation, short-term weather forecasts, seasonal forecasts, early warning systems can be used to build reliable risk scenarios and, in turn, to strengthen disaster preparedness. Different experts have suggested that early warning system in the flood prone are found to be an effective mechanism to save human life, particularly in the Terai region of Nepal.

Majority of disasters experienced in Nepal are weather or climate driven

Additionally, agriculture is one of the most climate-sensitive sectors of Nepal, in which approximately 70 percent of its population is involved. As this is the sector which is largely rain-fed, the quantity of precipitation and extreme events, such as droughts and floods, affect agriculture productivity, food security and economic development. Access to climate information in regular basis can be directly benefited by the local farmers for their choice of crop planting, harvesting and saving of crop damages. In the meanwhile, such phenomenon also directly affect forests and biodiversity. Predicting seasonal climate behavior can help stakeholders to minimize impacts of such hazards. For example, if there is a trend of seasonal drought, then stakeholders can avoid the risk by building water storage tanks to store water for irrigation, or making forest fire lines to prevent spreading fire in other compartments of the forests.

Infrastructure and construction in Nepal are also vulnerable to weather and climate variability. Heavy precipitation, storm and extreme temperature usually damage buildings, bridges, dams and transmission lines. Since infrastructure facilities have typically long lifetime, combining a range of scenarios and historic trend analyses can support planners and decision makers to select informed choices for long-term infrastructure planning, investment and policy processes.

Conclusion

In the face of increasingly climate uncertainty, fulfilling medium and long-term development goals will largely depend on proper analyses of climate data and integration of climate information. Climate information, therefore, are key resources for governments and communities in order to get adequate preparedness across social, economic, political and ecological dimensions against the probable hazards and extreme events. If such systems are well integrated into policy and practice, they can help attain enhanced livelihood of the local people and cross-sectoral resilience in Nepal.

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