Protect Nepal from Floods and Water Shortages Caused by Climate Change

Target: Ramanand Prasad Yadav, Nepal’s Secretary of the Ministry of Irrigation

Goal: Protect Nepal from the effects of climate change, which is projected to dramatically reduce glacier volumes over the course of the 21st century, leading to floods as well as water shortages.

The Himalayan country of Nepal is the world’s highest in elevation (aside from Tibet), as well as one of the most mountainous. It is landlocked, meaning that it does not lie next to an ocean. Hence, it has no way of procuring water except through import or by extracting it from its endemic freshwater sources: Rain, groundwater and, perhaps most importantly, rivers.

Many rivers depend on glaciers for their source water. This is especially true for a high-altitude nation like Nepal, in which most of its mountains exist above the snow line. However, the snow line — the height barrier at which water freezes — has steadily been receding worldwide as a result of climate change, being pushed farther and farther upward, causing glaciers everywhere to thaw at increasing rates. This portends two seemingly opposite, but equally devastating problems: flooding and water shortages.

Flooding caused by glaciers usually takes the form of glacial lake outbursts, or glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), caused by the excessive buildup of water flowing out of thawing glaciers. This month, the Kathmandu Post reported that, “In the Himalayas, catastrophic risks of GLOFs have increased in recent years because most Himalayan glaciers have experienced remarkable down wasting under a warming climate,” and that the increased incidence of floods is leading to, and will most certainly worsen, damage to property and the tourism industry in Nepal, while also posing a serious risk to the lives of the Nepalese people.

Combined with this already serious problem is the issue of water shortages: In 2015, the Times of India, citing a study, reported that, “Climate change, increase in agricultural land use and population growth may lead to severe water shortage in Nepal in the coming decades,” that the region was already “plagued by natural disasters and food insecurity,” and that “The Nepalese population in this region will face many challenges… as soil degrades and water resources continue to place enormous strains on food production and intensify recent trends of subsequent malnutrition.”

There are known, effective methods to both protect infrastructure from flooding and at the same time conserve water for both hydration and agriculture. For the latter, for instance, artificial glaciation and glacial grafting, including the creation of so-called “ice stupas” have been effective practices for the maintenance of freshwater in the face of glacier loss.

The government of Nepal should focus more if its efforts on combating this serious and worsening pair of problems.


Dear Secretary Yadav,

Climate change today threatens the infrastructure, agriculture, and industry of Nepal, as well as the lives and livelihoods of the Nepalese people. The rapid disappearance of Himalayan glaciers — due to global warming raising the snow line at which water can freeze along mountain slopes — poses a serious risk to Nepal in the form of both floods, caused mainly by glacial lake outbursts and water shortages.

There are known and effective methods to both conserve water and flood-proof homes and other buildings. Water conservation methods, in particular, include the creation of “ice stupas” and other forms of artificial glaciation and glacial grafting.

Please urge your government to better protect Nepal from the coming onslaught of both floods and water shortages.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Prakash Budha

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One Comment

  1. naveen sathukudi rumville says:

    the Petitioner don’t know what he is saying. Food shortage is caused because 25% of food is wasted and 40% of agricultural crops harvested is lost due to mismanagement/pilferage! There is no climate change you need a brain transplant to understand things better. If you are talking about environment risks/ice melting then ALaska should be 1000 meter below!

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