Climate Change Vulnerability and Impact Analysis in Nepal



Sabitri Kumari Sharma (Subedi)

Gandaki Boarding School and College of Engineering and Science



‘Climate change vulnerability’ is the degree to which a system is susceptible to adverse effects of climate change including climate variability and extremes.The development agenda for Nepal is being widely affected by climate change and its resultant impacts. The country is especially vulnerable to changes in precipitation patterns and rates and timing of glacial melt, which could impact agriculture, biodiversity, and hydropower energy production. Floods and landslides are common in Nepal, often triggered by heavy rains, while droughts are also becoming more frequent. Their direct and indirect impact seems by poverty; with 21 percent under Poverty Line (plan year book 2018). Global climate Risk Index 2017 has shown Nepal is in the fourth position. Climate change to cause frequent landslides in the Himalayan region, including Nepal. Nepal experienced flash floods and landslides in August across the southern border, amounting to US$ 600 million in damages in 2019 says NASA (21 February 2020 Himalayan times)

Likewise, the number of heavy precipitation events has risen in most land regions. The  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’ (IPCC) Special Report “Global Warming of 1.5°C”was published in October 2018. It aimed to determine the difference in consequences of 1.5°C climate change compared to 2°C. For that, it investigated effects of past global warming of the same degree. It identifies trends of increasing intensity and frequency of weather extremes during the past 0.5°C global warming. Furthermore, it shows that, at least in some regions, the likelihood of droughts and heavy precipitation is higher under a climate change of 2°C, compared to one of 1.5°C. The IPCC’s Global Warming of 1.5°C report is inherently linked to the Paris Agreement. As its article 2 states, one of the goals of this agreement is to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C,” and to pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”(IPCC).

including destruction of infrastructure as well as loss of lives. Such impacts have tended to retard socio-economic growth of the country with the ultimate enhancement of poverty.

Vulnerability mapping, climate monitoring, prediction and timely early warning of the extreme climate events are therefore some of the best strategies for mitigating their negative impact on humanity, property and the environment as well as taking advantage of any positive impacts. Accurate and timely information on the characteristics of the extreme climate events including the associated vulnerabilities are, therefore, crucial inputs in sustainable development planning.

This paper, therefore, addresses the vulnerability and impacts analysis with the goal of generating knowledge necessary to inform the allocation of resources as well as developing policies and adaptation plans for vulnerable areas, sectors, groups, etc., to aid in minimizing climate change risks in the country


Results and discussions

Analysis in Rise in temperature induced climate change and hazards

The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with the five warmest years on record taking place since 2010. Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year — from January through September, with the exception of June — were the warmest on record for those respective months. (NASA)


The year 2019 was the second warmest year on record after 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s consolidated analysis of leading international datasets.

Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods were the highest on record. Since the 1980s each decade has been warmer than the previous one. This trend is expected to continue because of record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere according to World Meteorological organization, Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) and Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, levels of the main long-lived greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄)) and nitrous oxide (N₂O) have reached new highs. In 2018, global CO2 concentration was 407.8 parts per million (ppm), 2.2 ppm higher than 2017.Global Carbon Project, Global Carbon Budget: Carbon dioxide emissions grew 2% and reached record high of 37 billion tons of CO₂ in 2019. There is still no sign of a peak in global emissions, even though they are growing slower than the global economy. (WM)

In the context of Nepal, in 1999 Shrestha et al. suggested that temperatures are increasing in Nepal and that rainfall is becoming more variable. A decade later, in 2009, a modelling exercise conducted by team of Nepali, American, British, Pakistani and Bangladeshi experts (NCVST,2009) using the emissions scenarios in the IPCC’s special report (2007) found that the temperature will indeed increase in the mid-hills and that this region is likely to grow more arid in the non-monsoon seasons. It also suggested that precipitation is likely to be more uncertain and that storm intensity will increase. The report on the exercise included these key insights (NCVST, 2009) in Global circulation model (GCM) projections indicate that the temperature over Nepal will increase between 0.5ºC and 2.0ºC with a multi-model mean of 1.4ºC, by the 2030s and between 3.0ºC and 6.3ºC, with a multi-model mean of 4.70C, by the 2090s. GCM outputs suggest that extremely hot days (the hottest 5% of days in the period from 1970 to 1999) are projected to increase by up to 55% by the 2060s and up to 70% by the 2090s.

GCM outputs suggest that extremely hot nights (the hottest 5% of nights in the period from 1970 to 1999) are projected to increase by up to 77% by the 2060s and 93% by the 2090s. Projected climate change. The NAPA reports climate projections conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Nepal Climate Vulnerability Study Team (NCVST). The OECD analysis used GCMs with the SRES (Special Report on Emissions Scenarios)  (low emissions) scenario, and projects mean annual temperature increases of 1.2°C by 2030, 1.7°C by 2050, and 3°C by 2100 relative to a pre-2000 baseline. The NCVST study used GCM and Regional Circulation Models (RCMs), and projected mean annual temperature increases of 1.4°C by 2030, 2.8°C by 2060 and 4.7°C by 2090. Both predict warmer winter temperatures.

Spatially, the NCVST study shows a higher temperature increase in western and central Nepal relative to eastern Nepal for 2030, 2060, and 2090.The Organization for Economics and Cooperation Development (OECD) projections indicates 5-10% increase in winter precipitation in western Nepal, but no change in eastern Nepal. But monsoon (summer) precipitation is projected to increase by about 15-20% across the country. The Nepal Climate Vulnerability Study Team (NCVST) projects an increase in monsoon rainfall, especially in eastern and central Nepal. The overall projections are similar to those of the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that predict a warming trend with variable, unpredictable and extreme weather events (floods and droughts), increase in rain during the wet season but the mid-hills will experience less rain during this period according to National Adaptation Program  of Action (NAPA). According to General Circulation Models (GCMs) projection, a wide range of precipitation changes, especially during the monsoon: from a decrease of 14% to an increase of 40% by the 2030s and from a decrease of 52% to an increase of 135% by the 2090s. The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) has supported the NAP formulation process by studying and publishing a report in June 2017 on climatic trends in Nepal using historical data. The report presented here, Climate Change Scenarios for Nepal, has been prepared with technical inputs from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the DHM. It aims to highlight varied climate change scenarios for Nepal and is designed particularly for the NAP formulation process. This report foregrounds changes in precipitation and temperature for the medium-term (2016–2045) and long-term periods (2036–2065) – periods corresponding to the 2030s and 2050s respectively – with respect to the reference period (1981–2010) as laid out by the NAP formulation process. Its findings suggest that temperature variables are expected to increase continuously throughout the 21st century. Mean temperature could rise by 0.9–1.1 degrees Celsius (0C) in the medium-term period and 1.3–1.8 0C in the long-term period. Consequently, extreme climate events are likely to be more frequent and severe.

On the ground, perceptions of farmers suggest that precipitation is growing more erratic, unseasonal, random, days are becoming hotter, the pattern of winds, fog and hailstorms have altered and that farmers are becoming more vulnerable. A review of adaptation research confirms their view, identifying Nepal as particularly likely to experience fluctuations in climate based on Institution for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET, 2008). Nepal’s National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) prepared in 2010 also recognizes that climate will be uncertain and vulnerability will increase. Agriculture provides much needed sustenance to the country’s predominantly rural population, and climate changes are projected to have significant impacts on these farming systems. Reduced water availability during dry periods could exacerbate agricultural water needs, as an estimated 64% of the country’s farmers rely on water from rains of the monsoons. Planting and harvesting seasons have been slowly changing in Nepal, due to the shifting monsoon, and these shifts are likely to become more erratic under a changing climate.

“Climate change is a global challenge and requires a global solution. Greenhouse gas emissions have the same impact on the atmosphere whether they originate in Washington, London or Beijing. Consequently, action by one country to reduce emissions will do little to slow global warming unless other countries act as well. Ultimately, an effective strategy will require commitments and action by all the major emitting countries.” (Environmental-news)

 Consequences of climate change.

 1.Glacial Lake Outburst

Nepal has 20 of the 200 potentially dangerous glacial lakes. Three of these lakes, the Tso Rolpa, Imja and Thulagi, are in critical condition and need immediate attention to reduce risk of outburst. The increased rate of glacial melting not only threatens mountain dwellers of Nepal but also affects millions living along South Asian Rivers and in the delta basin of Bangladesh. Such far-reaching consequences of climatic changes can undermine development and reverse development gains (UNDP, Nepal) .In the Himalayan region, glacial lakes are formed between the end of a glacier and its moraine. According to a study by Mool et al. (2001) there are 2,323 glacial lakes in Nepal covering 75 sq. km. occasionally, a moraine dam is breached and a lake empties in a very short time, creating a GLOF, causing localized damage to assets and local infrastructure and taking lives. Adaptation to climate change has emerged as a challenge to achieving and sustaining the development outcomes as mitigation is not taking place as needed (Eriksen 2011).


2.Monsoon Rainfall

Monsoon normally starts from the second week of June (10 June) and retreats in the fourth week of September (23 September). Monsoon is the wettest season and is the main source of precipitation in Nepal. Monsoon season contributes on an average 79.8 percent of the total annual precipitation of the country. Climate change impacts the amount of water in the atmosphere and will increase producing violent downpours instead of steady showers when it does rain. The high precipitation pocket areas in monsoon season are Kaski, Sindhupalchok and Sankhuwasabha Districts. The driest regions – Mustang, Manang and Dolpa receive less than 150 mm while the wettest region Kaski receives more than 4,500 mm of rainfall during the monsoon season Hydrology and meteorology department, Kaski ). The pattern of rainfall is experienced unseasonably and violent. Excessive precipitation can also degrade water quality, harming human health and ecosystems. Storm water runoff, which often includes pollutants like heavy metals, pesticides, nitrogen, and phosphorus, can end up in lakes, streams, and bays, damaging aquatic ecosystems and lowering water quality for human uses.


  1. Flooding and Impact on Agriculture and Life

Floods during the monsoon are a natural phenomenon in Nepal. The country’s more than 6,000 rivers and rivulets, with a total of 45,000 km in length, support irrigated agriculture and other livelihoods, but also wreak havoc in valleys and in the Terai when they overflow. The river drainage density of 0.3 km/ km2 is an indication of how close the drainage channels are (Shankar, 1985) and, in consequence, how susceptible they are to floods. Flooding damages crops and property and often results in epidemics.  The poor are the most vulnerable to its effects. Along with regular monsoon floods, the country also has two special types of floods: the glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) and the bishyari. A bishyari is a flood that occurs when a landslide which dams a river is breached by the reservoir of water which forms upstream of it and it is unpredictable.

In 2013, avalanches killed 16 people in Mt. Everest that was associated with climate change. In 2012, more than 60 people, three Ukrainian tourists among them, were killed in the popular Mount Annapurna region in western Nepal. Not only mountains, the cities like Pokhara, Chitwan are equally impacted by climate change. In 2012, Pokhara experienced devastating floods originating from Glacier Lake Outburst Flood. While in Chitwan, People are experiencing warmer days than ever. The analysis found potentially high impacts in the Terai region, especially for rice and wheat production, but a varied pattern in the hills and mountains, including some potential benefits. By the 2080s, net agricultural losses in Nepal are estimated to be the equivalent per year of around 0.8% of current GDP. The productivity of rice, the staple food of more than one third of the world’s population, declines 10% with every 1⁰ C increase in temperature. (National Climate Assessment)

Incessant rainfall in the month of July in 2019, 29 people were killed and displaced 2,065 households in Central and Eastern part of the country. Recorded highest rainfall for 24 hrs (11-12 July) was 311.9 mm at Simara, Bara, and 245 mm was recorded in Janakpur. The communications systems are semi-functioning in the worst affected areas.The most affected districts were Sarlahi, Mahottari and Rautahat.

Rural roads in some areas of the southern parts of Terai districts remain inaccessible, and water logging and associated damages in some locations in the southern part of Saptari, Rautahat and Mahottari continued to pose operational challenges.

According to the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOCO) as of 19 July 2019, 90 people died as a result of ongoing heavy Monsoon rains. The Nepal Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) and Nepal Survey Department report that 11,839 were displaced. Within 7 days, 92 landslides and 83 floods had affected the country. (Govt. of Nepal, 19 Jul 2019)

Heavy rainfall on 11-12 July caused landslides and flooding in 32 Districts across Nepal. Flooding was most severe in 11 Terai districts of Provinces 1 and 2. A large loss of life and damages to assets, housing, water and sanitation infrastructure, food stocks, crop and livestock all had a significant impact on food security in the region. An estimated 212,000 people’s food security was significantly affected as a result of the flooding, of which 101,600 people, or 17,400 households, were deemed to be the most in need of assistance. (Govt. of Nepal, 23 Jul 2019)

Various highways and main roads closed due to floods and landslides triggered by heavy rainfall. Rivers Bagmati (in Karmaiya Town) and Riukhola (in Bankatta Town) were reached above danger level. (ECHO, 24 Jul 2019).As of 29 July, 115 people had been confirmed dead (ECHO, 29 Jul 2019).Many households in flooded areas had lost food stock from the winter harvest. Within the most affected communities of each district, losses were largest in Siraha, Rautahat, Sarlahi and Mahottari, with 40-80% of households having lost upwards of 75% of their food stock. (Govt. of Nepal, 30 Jul 2019)

Overall, the direct annual economic costs of climate change on water-induced disasters at a national level were estimated to be an additional US$100–200 million/year or equivalent to 0.6–1.1% of current GDP per year by mid-century in current prices.

  1. Aridity and Drought

The obvious impacts of climate change on food production and food security at the local level are likely to be compounded by other on-going processes. Farmers are finding drier conditions difficult for crops such as corn and wheat, and once prime growing zones are now threatened. Hill agriculture has been in decline over the past one-and-a-half decades despite significant effort and resources invested by both the government and the donor community, primarily because of the effects of Nepal’s recently concluded armed conflict.  As production has declined, local populations have become increasingly dependent on imported food and thus on the conditions of global markets. Nepal is experiencing various natural disasters such as flash floods, hailstones, landslides, mass movement, soil erosion, and avalanche, thereby affecting the agriculture systems. The level of vulnerability, however, will be dependent on both socioeconomic and environmental factors. In Nepal, approximately 85% of the population live in rural areas, and thus, concern has been expressed by many researchers and organizations that climate change is undermining the rural economy who typically depend on climate-sensitive natural resources.

jutta mela


  1. Hydroelectricity

Jiri Khola is not the only hydropower project to be affected by climate change, developers say.  In 2009 the Jhimurk River in western Nepal, fell to a record low due to prolonged drought.  As a result, the 12 MW Jhimruk hydropower project couldn’t provide the energy it was contracted to supply to the grid (the Jure landslide occurred in August 2014 brought down a whole mountain side and blocked the river. Landslides that hit the entire Jure bazaar in Mankha of Sindhupalchok, killing an unknown number of people, went on to block the course of the Sunkoshi River. The river blockage, on the other hand, has imposed a threat of outburst, threatening thousands of people living downstream, and inundated upstream. Nearly 10% of the nation’s hydro-power capacity, some 67 MW, was severed by the landslide, submerging a 5 megawatt power plant and  disconnection of  the  power supply  with 45  MW  Bhotekosi  hydropower  and 10  megawatt Sunkosi hydropower and washed out over 400 houses, killing over 200 people. Currently more than 8,000 MW of hydropower projects are under construction or in the pipeline. (Pathak 2010)

However, experts now fear that Nepal’s billion dollar hydropower industry will be left highly vulnerable if climate change is not taken into consideration. Climate change affects dry season flows and reservoir storage recharge, and thus future electricity generation sectors are potentially large but uncertain, varying by climate projection, river catchment and over time. New safeguards are needed to protect existing and future projects on Himalayan Rivers.

 6.Endangered Animals of Nepal

Nepal is very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Nepal’s wildlife is in massive threats because of rising heat. Human-wildlife conflicts and habitat degradation are the two major problems in our country. The climate projections indicate that more habitat conversion and transition will occur in the Lowlands and mid-hills, increasing the level of threat. Natural disasters due to climate change have some impacts like insecurity, reproduction, food supply on these animals:

Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)

Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia)

Himalayan Musk Deer (Moschus leucogaster)

Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica)

As climate change continues to impact the region, both people and nature will have to struggle with declining pasture productivity, water insecurity and extreme weather. Many forest mammals, including a high proportion of threatened forest species, depend on moist forests and are likely to lose their habitat if the climate becomes drier.  High alpine areas are also likely to be significantly affected by climate change with resulting consequences to high altitude species such as the Snow Leopard and its prey species. We must act differently, faster and more decisively before it is too late and species are being lost forever.

Efforts to Control Hazards due to Climate Change and Adaptation to Climate Change

Faced with a growing risk of weather and climate related disasters that can set back economic and social development for years. It is needed to serve more elaborate societal needs, minimize growing economic losses from natural hazards and help countries adapt to climate change is increasing the importance of weather, climate and water information. Weather, climate and water affect societies and economies through extreme events, such as tropical cyclones, floods, high winds, storm surges and prolonged droughts, and through high impact weather and climate events that affect demand for electricity and production capacity, planting and harvesting dates, managing construction, transportation networks and inventories, and human health. Addressing the problems of climate change Nepal also prepared National Framework on Local Adaptation Plans for Action (LAPA) in 2011 to implement prioritized adaptation actions at the local level and ensure integration of climate change adaptation into local and national planning processes. In 2011, Nepal formulated Climate Change Policy to streamline climate change initiatives in the country and fostering a low-carbon energy economy requires tackling problems simultaneously from legal, economic and security perspectives. CIGI’s research brings new ideas and concrete proposals for financing sustainable development, promoting conservation and growth in the blue economy, implementing carbon pricing mechanisms, Arctic governance, and incorporating human rights and engaging Indigenous peoples in climate strategy and action.


  1. Hariyo Ban

Funded by USAID and implemented by WWF, CARE, the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal, and Nepal’s National Trust for Nature Conservation, Hariyo Ban is an ambitious and expansive partnership designed to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change and threats to biodiversity.


* Sustainable landscape and biodiversity conservation

61,244 people benefiting from economic activities including skills training, agriculture, and green enterprises like beekeeping, growing broom grass, and cardamom plantations

* Two payments for ecosystem services projects implemented in the Phewa and Marshyangdi water catchments

* Policy documents on forest management and products, biodiversity, and climate mitigation supported by Hariyo Ban

* 147,375 people benefiting from alternative energy sources. This includes: 18, 929 improved cook stoves and 6, 143 biogas units are distributed

* Access to banking, credit and insurance products which spread risk before, during and after extreme events.

The study, a collaboration between scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Washington; and Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, was based on satellite estimates and modelled precipitation data to project how changing rainfall patterns   have high affect landslide frequency in the region. The possibility of glacial lake outburst is high and the river basin system is adversely affected. It may happen that in the next 50, 60 or 70 years, the main river system turn into a seasonal river—flowing only during the torrential rainy season—because all the glaciers will have disappeared. In this regard, Nepal has been seeking the international agreement in different conferences but Nepal receives first-ever climate change project grant from Green Climate Fund. The 24th board meeting of the fund in Sangdo, South Korea has approved the first funding proposal of Nepal—one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of the climate crisis.The meeting has given the green signal to awarding a $39.3million grant to the project titled ‘Building Resilient Churia Region in Nepal (BRCRN)(Mandal ).

Similarly, from the side of Nepal government,the Madhav Kumar led government had held the cabinet meeting at Everest Base Camp in 2009 with the slogan of ‘Save the Himalayas’ (The Diplomat). The first National Climate Change Conference held at the scenic Gufadanda in Malachi Municipality-9 in Sindhupalchowk district successfully concluded on 1 January 2020 by issuing the 10-point Sindupalchowk declaration paper. It aims to institutionalize climate change-friendly plans and policies and promote climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies at the national, provincial and local level (UNDP, Nepal. The title of dialogue is ‘’Climate Change Mountain and the Future of Humanity’ ’after attending the  UN Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019 boosted ambition and accelerated actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The event saw 77 countries commit to lowering greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. (WMO)

Suggestions and conclusion

– Access to a range of economic and livelihood options. It will help locals in adapting to the changing climate

– Basic language and other skills necessary to understand risks and shift livelihood strategies as necessary.

– Right to organize and to have access to voice concerns through diverse public, private and civil society organizations.

– Knowledge generation, planning and learning to the vulnerable group for strengthening the country’s institutional capacities to access the funds.

– Right utilization of international fund and follow up ongoing projects regarding climate change vulnerability and its impacts

The social and scientific basis required to learn from experience, proactively identify hazards, analyze risk and develop response strategies that are tailored to local conditions. WWF Nepal has been working on a project proposal which will be based in the West Seti area. Likewise, the UNDP Nepal is working on a project proposal to safeguard lives and livelihoods against the project to protect lives and livelihoods against flood and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) targeting finance from the Green Climate Fund.

International Union for Conservation of Nature-Nepal is also developing a project proposal for building ecosystem and community resilience which is likely to be submitted for approval in coming March—the first one to go for approval among others in the pipeline, according to Rai.

“What is important now is how we effectively utilize the money and use it for making the community’s climate resilient at the ground level. Learning from these ongoing projects will help in securing other project funding.’’(Chhetri 2019).

Present and future impact of climate change upon life and economy of Nepal neither is exactly measurable nowadays, nor can be predicted quantitatively with large accuracy. Yet, it is sure that modified weather will influence hydrological cycles, glaciers’ down wasting, floods and droughts patterns for the year to come, and food security in many ways. I here proposed a short review of the recent state of the art concerning the direct impact of climate on crop production, and subsequently on food security. Nepal is heavily vulnerable to climate change for geographical, social, and economical reasons, including lack of own resources, and energy, and the need for support from foreign donors. There is a need to enhance the human capacity both at the technical and community level.

Existing institutions with expertise in climate and water resources monitoring should develop training modules aimed at enhancing capacity among staff working in sectors impinging on water resources and relevant sectors.

In recent years, Nepal has fallen into the list of countries that are facing the brunt of a changing climate and its associated impacts despite doing little in the past or present to amplify global warming. Nepal is one of the fourth most vulnerable countries in the world in terms of climate change effects which are already evident in various sectors. Adaptation plans need to be developed on the basis of a strong scientific foundation and reliable evidence (Gov.2019).

Overall, the findings from the study suggest that precipitation and temperature will be higher in the future. Specifically, temperature variables are expected to increase continuously throughout the century. Annual precipitation might increase overall but vary seasonally. Extreme climatic events, especially related to temperature, are likely to be more frequent and more severe. As stated, these changes would have a serious impact on different sectors, such as water, energy, biodiversity, agriculture, and livelihoods. As a poor and mountainous country, at the higher risk of climate change and induced disasters, adaptation and mitigation,Nepal looks up to facilitation for the gradual change with support from  international communities can be the important entry points.










You might also like

Comments are closed.