Water Stress Vulnerability in the Himalayas of Nepal
Agricultural communities in the Himalayas are highly dependent on the availability of fresh water. Changes in precipitation and snowpack storage due to climate change are expected to greatly alter water availability in mountainous headwater catchments. While changes in water resources may prove problematic for communities in the Himalayas, these communities are capable of dynamic response. Their vulnerability to water stress caused by climate change is, therefore, dependent on both changes in the amount of water available and changes in how this resource is used. While studies exist which address each of these issues in isolation, no attempt has been made to explicitly reconcile the two. This thesis evaluated the degree to which climate change contributes to water stress vulnerability in two mountain communities in Nepal. This vulnerability was then compared to opportunities for adaptation in order to elucidate its effect on population in these communities. The investigation focussed on the village of Panglin in the district of Mustang and the village of Tallo Lorpa in the district of Jumla, and proceeded in three steps. First, scientific understanding of the possible effects of climate change on water availability in the surrounding areas was reviewed. Next, the vulnerability and adaptive capacity in each respective community was assessed using household surveys, focus group discussions and participatory rural appraisal techniques. Finally, the expected effects of climate change on water availability were linked to findings on community vulnerability to these changes. The findings show that both communities are vulnerable to changes in water availability under climate change. Vulnerability is particularly prevalent in the agricultural sector and poorer households in each community. Overall, this vulnerability is greater in Tallo Lorpa than in Panglin. Vulnerability to changes in water availability is, however, small in comparison to the opportunities for adaptation in each community. The ability of people to appropriate benefits from these opportunities is constrained by a number of conditions. It is the degree to which these conditions inhibit the effective realisation of adaptation opportunities that determines vulnerability in Panglin and Tallo Lorpa.
Advisor: Hill, Doug; Kingston, Daniel
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Water Stress; Climate change; Nepal; Adaptation
Research Type: Thesis