Monday, April 8, 2013

What happens in Nepal doesn’t stay in Nepal

Shabbir Mir in the Express Tribune (Pakistan): Life had been good for Sunyali Majhi, a farmer in Dolalghat, a small village about 50 kilometres from landlocked Nepal’s Kathmandu. She harvested enough rice to sell and feed her brood at home. But the portions have been getting smaller, the financial squeeze tighter.

...“Over the last decade or so, rainfall has become increasingly unpredictable,” she explains, estimating a 40 per cent drop in what the earth produced. The vagaries of Nature were to blame. “When the crops needed water, it did not rain… and then suddenly it rained cats and dogs.” This erratic behaviour slowly eroded farmer confidence. Like Sunyali, a vast majority of Nepali women making a living from the land in the landlocked country of 30 million people.

Over the last few years, Nepal has been seeing more and more extreme temperatures as weather patterns have grown unpredictable. Winters are drier and summer monsoons more delayed. For years, the farmers have lived in harmony with nature in the mountainous villages. And while they may not have necessarily contributed much to climate change, they are certainly feeling its effects now.

.... “There is no doubt there’s been a change in rainfall patterns in Nepal over the past 30 years or so,” says Dr Bed Mani of the department of Environmental Sciences at Kathmandu University. “The volume of precipitation in a year is the same but the duration of such events has changed,” he explains. “It now rains at lesser intervals but with more intensity.” Farming in Nepal largely relies on monsoon rainfall because the irrigation system covers only a small area of the country.

Inconsistent rainfall and changes in climate are having an impact not just in Nepal but throughout the Himalayan region. Similar events are already taking place in Pakistan. Professor Ahmed Nafees at Karakoram International University says that the mountainous regions are more likely to be affected by the growing intensity in rainfall as this often triggers landslides and avalanches. “Deforestation is a constant problem in the mountainous regions and when there is a heavy downpour there is nothing to hold the soil,” says Nafees. “It results in death and destruction.”....

Wind erosion in Kalopani, Nepal, shot by Till Niermann, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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