Sep 23, 2010

Climate Change and Himalayan Livelihood

Climate change has been a very hot topic nowadays. From primary school students to the multinational assembly, we are talking the causes, effects and impacts of climate change everyday. Changing in general weather pattern, excessive rain and temperature, loss of biodiversity all supposed to be a impact of climate change which eventually putting the pressure on livelihood of people. But the poorest of the poor have been hit hard by those impacts.

So it also would be interesting to share some of my experiences regarding impacts of climate change in the daily livelihood of the Himalayan people. Everyone is agree that the climate change has been showing its impact all over the world. But the mountains and coastal areas are receiving its very rapid impact. Climate change has brought numerous unwanted environmental phenomena. The most prominent impacts in Himalayan region are rapid increase in temperature and excessive rainfall. In this post we are giving more emphasis on the effects of the excessive rainfall in the livelihood of Himalayan region of western Nepal.

Most of the Himalayan region in Western Nepal used to be a rain-shadow area. Sometimes it is known as a cold desert because of low temperature and extremely dry environment. Rainfall in those areas were too little that no run-off would generated. People used to build a flat roof houses covered with earth which is sufficient to get out the rainwater. They build a house with dry stone wall (without any adhesive material) and due to the insufficient land they build houses in very steep slopes as well. But in the past it was not a foolish decision as there were very little problem with the rain. Flat earthen roof, dry stone walls of houses and buildings in steep terrain were sustaining the lives of Himalayan people very well in the past years.

But now the scenario has been changed. Those dry areas which were called as desert receiving very intensive and continuous rainfall for months. It may be one of the effects of climate change or may not be. But the people have been suffered very much. They have very rarely seen such a catastrophic rain before in their life. They have now started thinking climate change brought this adverse rain which is about to ruin their livelihood.

The flat roofs which are made up of soil are not able to get the rainwater out. Almost all the houses in Himalayan region have flat earthen roofs and it do not completely perform the work of roofs in rains now a days what it is not designed for. It has made the livelihood of those poor Himalayan people who do not have the capacity to buy even a thin sheet of plastic for their roofs. People are changing their roofs to slanting one to avoid those effects of rain but those who are no able to purchase a high cost roofing materials have to cope with those adverse effect to even longer in future.

The next impact of such a rain in those areas may be more catastrophic. People have created their settlements sometimes in very steep slopes due to lack of flat lands or sometimes in the ridge to avoid the heat in hot season and its consequences. Intensive and continuous rain has increased the chance of landslides in those settlements as some unscientific soil works are performed before construction of houses and the binding power of the soil in those areas are also very low. The soil mass could be loosened even with a very little runoff (rainwater). Those catastrophic effects has been started to be seen in some of the Himalayan areas. Collapsing of a single building to the whole settlement could be happen in such a rainy season.

The life cycle and production of cereal crops are also perturbed by rainfall and several negative impacts have been remarked. Native cereal plants are not giving enough products. Rainy season is the harvesting season of some of the Himalayan crops like foxtail millet (Chinu) and teosinte (Kaguno). This is also the season of flowering of millet and paddy. Continuous rain in this season making people unable to harvest the ripen crop and simultaneously limiting the product of flowering crops. This eventually will make the scarcity of food even worse in this poor region where the people only survive six months by there local crop production.

Those are only the some very closely seen impacts of the climate change. Still there are many more problems in Himalayan livelihood. All the roads have been blocked if there are any, otherwise many of the Himalayan districts have no road access. The air-transportation which is the circulation system of business and livelihood in Himalaya have been closed for months due to bad weather. It has created the scarcity of food and household materials in those areas, which is making the life harder to live.

The colonization of parasites like mosquitoes has been risen more rapid than the expectation as there were no such insects problem had experienced before. It has created the danger of transmitted diseases. This region where people die of very common disease will not be able to fight with the highly transmitted diseases. There are no such infrastructures which can prevent and cure in the time of emergency. The availability of herbal plants which is one of the major resources of income in Himalayas has been also limited in the forest and elsewhere

Those all impacts of climate change is making the livelihood of Himalayan people even harder who are living the most extreme life for centuries on the earth.

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