Climate change, water resources and agriculture in eastern Nepal. Contrasted situations according to environments
Joëlle SMADJA (France)
In the Himalayas, the increase in temperatures, higher than the world average, provokes fear of serious consequences on the water resource and subsequently on villagers’ activities. Yet climate specialists using measurements and simulations underline uncertainties and differences between the west and the east of the range. Our work conducted in various geographical units from the North to the South of the range also stresses the need to take into account the diversity of milieus, the high spatial and temporal variability of climatic parameters as well as the social, economic and cultural context of the areas studied when addressing this subject. As part of an interdisciplinary programme (glaciology, hydrology, agronomy, geography) in the Koshi basin in Nepal, our investigations at four sites representative of Nepalese milieus aimed at finding out whether populations noticed any variations in water resources that affected their practices (farming, livestock breeding, tourism) and if they attributed them to climate change. Our results show contrasting situations and changes in practices with no obvious connection to the climate, and they show that populations are more affected by fluctuations in rainfall patterns than by the melting of glaciers and of the snow cover which are emblematic of climate change in this area. And lastly, they highlight the geographical units and the population groups most likely to be impacted by climatic variations.
Joëlle Smadja is a geographer, director of research at the CNRS and was head (2005-2012) of the research unit ‘Centre for Himalayan Studies’. She has been carrying out research in Nepal since the 1980s in the fields of geomorphology, land use, resource management, climate change, perceptions and representations of the environment, environmental policies and their repercussion on rural societies, and territorial restructurings. Since 2005, she has extended her fieldwork to North-East India. She has edited :
- ‘Reading Himalayan Landscapes over Times: Environmental Perception, Knowledge and Practice in Nepal and Ladakh, Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2009 (first published in French in 2003).
- ‘Territorial Changes and Territorial Restructurings in the Himalayas’, Adroit Publisher, Delhi, 2013