Adaptation and resilience to climate change in Nepal

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Community Forest in Rasuwa, Nepal

I cannot help notice that many of my fellow friends and colleagues are experiencing climate anxiety. This is a situation described by the American Psychological Association as “chronic fear of environmental doom”. It seems to have impacted a lot of individuals who are taken with environmental crisis to a level that has seen to increase in rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

I am an environmental student and an early career researcher and I understand climate change can seem too overpowering with feelings of anxiety. It is precisely the reason why I wanted to shed light on where people have been able to adapt to the changing climate and to some degree of shock exhibit resilience as well. Here I have provided some instances on adaptation and resilience to climate change with Nepal as a case study.

Instances of Nepal exhibiting adaptation and resilience to climate change

Water ManagementNepal has its very own unique system of managing water for irrigation which is known as the Farmers Managed Irrigation System (FMIs). It is a case in which farmers have managed irrigation systems by themselves and each farmer has engaged in collective choice action and share both the costs and benefits from the systems in proportion. It is a grass-root democratic institution where communities have taken responsibility for management and allocation of natural resource. FMIs are involved in diversion or extraction of water, transfer and distribution of water amongst farm plots, and are responsible for the upkeep and governance of the system.
Forest managementA well-managed forest corresponds to carbon capture which is why climate mitigation provides a lot of emphasis on it. But they are also strong buffers against landslides, floods and other disaster, these help protect watershed, and also provide sources of income, food and other resources. In Nepal, community forestry is at the forefront in forest management.
Preventing erosion and landslidesMore landslides and erosion can be expected due to frequent intense rainfall. To prevent this disaster, bio-engineering has been adopted in Nepal. In this method, vegetation is used to reinforce and stabilize the slopes. The method creates a balance between soil and water. Rural road construction is a necessary coping strategy for improving rural livelihoods but it can also cause environmental damage. Bio-engineering are a cost-effective and locally adapted method which can significantly reduce severe erosion and landslides. Likewise, it also provides economic benefits through plantation of plants such as Amriso or broom grass.
Early warning systemEarly warning system is an adaptive measure for climate change. In Nepal, it has been in operation especially for floods as community-based early warning approach. In the approach residents living in catchment areas constantly pass on information about the water level in their area to residents of villages downstream. Additionally, flood alerts from the Department of Hydrology is also obtained. These information helps them take measures to remain safer from floods.
Social groupAama Samuha (literal translation ‘Mothers’ Group’) are voluntary groups in Nepal that works on social issues such as gender equality. They work in improving social welfare, peace and prosperity. How their work translates to showing adaptation and resilience is that among many things they are also involved in establishing savings and credit schemes. Women have been able to take loans from such schemes which enable economic empowerment. Empowered women are important for climate-resilient societies.
Forage collection from community forest in Gorkha, Nepal

Some Threats:

These systems and examples though very prominent in climate change adaptation and resilience, face threats. For instance, young people are not educated in Indigenous Local Knowledge and Practices (ILKP) which hinders the opportunity of continuation of FMIs. ILKP overall have long been neglected by concerned agencies and not been much incorporated into intervention programs. But this is a necessity when it comes to local ownership and sustainability. Likewise, women’s involvement has not been viewed with gender-transformative development which will be a hindrance when it comes to adaptation to climate change impacts.


Climate change while devastating should not overpower us into feeling helpless. Nepal especially, is quite vulnerable to climate change and has ranked as one of the most climate-vulnerable nations including 9th in the world in terms of Long-term Climate Risk Index, 1999–2018. We need to take steps to combat climate change impacts. There are many changes and measures that need to be taken.

These examples are not comprehensive. Should I get the opportunity to research and review this in the days to come, I will elaborate it in more details and more comprehensively. For now, I wanted to draw attention to what’s being done to combat climate change impacts as a show for our adaptation and resilience. Let’s strive to make the situation better!

What is climate change?

Simply put, climate change is a change in the usual weather or average weather condition. But this does not mean change such as it’s hot in summer and cold in winter. It is the long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. Hot days getting hotter and more frequent would be an example of climate change.

What is climate anxiety?

Climate anxiety is a form of psychological distress such as depression, anxiety, fear etc. that is brought about by concerns of environmental doom.

What is adaptation to climate change?

Adaptation are adjustments that are made in response to climate change and its impacts. Some examples are planting crops which are resistant to drought if the area under consideration is under dry spell.

What is resilience to climate change?

Climate change exhibits adverse shocks and stresses such as through events like drought, floods or heat waves and the capacity to recover quickly from such events or cases is resilience to climate change.

What is climate change mitigation?

Climate change mitigation is avoiding and reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) so as to prevent the planet from warming more.

What is local and indigenous knowledge?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization defines local and indigenous knowledge as “the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings.”

How does indigenous knowledge help climate change?

Indigenous knowledge operates at finer scale and promotes understanding of coping with and adapting to environmental variability and trends. Farmers Managed Irrigation System in Nepal for instance are location specific and representation of local organizational needs and services which functions to promote water use for irrigation. As climate change is impacting water security, these locally managed irrigation system become instrumental in managing water resource for irrigation.

Anu Rai

I am an aspiring environmental researcher.

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