The Future of the Koshi Basin:

Challenges and opportunities for Nepal 

  • The transboundary Koshi River Basin is shared by China, India, and Nepal
  • The basin is one of the most significant flow contributors to the Ganges River
  • Nearly 45% of the basin lies in Nepal, 32% in China, and 23% in India
  • Over 40 million people depend on the basin for water, ecosystem services, and livelihoods
  • The basin is highly prone to natural disasters like floods, landslides, glacial lake outburst floods, and droughts

Challenges

  • The Koshi Basin is one of those most vulnerable Himalayan basins where climate change will affect water availability, and consequently agriculture and livelihood options for millions of people. Disasters will further increase the basin’s vulnerabilities. Due to climate change, more than 50 percent of the basin is projected to experience frequent and devastating floods, and lower lean season flows by the 2050s. 

Flood of opportunities

  • In Nepal, where the Koshi Basin is the largest of its Himalayan basins, the development of water infrastructure has the potential to make water availability more consistent and secure. The basin has great potential for expanding irrigated area, and generating hydropower to meet Nepal’s growing energy demand, which is increasing at a rate of nine percent per year. 
  • Nearly 30,000 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy could be generated annually through the implementation of the11water infrastructures on the Koshi Basin proposed by JICA.
  • The infrastructures can also be used to regulate low-flow conditions during post-monsoon and winter months, and promote positive upstream–downstream connectivity. These water infrastructures can store 8.4 billion cubic metres of water, enough to meet the basin’s projected demand by the 2050s. 
  • Simultaneous investment is needed to develop and nurture governance and institutional systems for the efficient, equitable, and sustainable governance and management of water-related services provided by water infrastructures. 
  • Large upstream water storage facilities have long been considered the best way to control extensive floods that devastate the vast floodplains of the basin. A comprehensive study needs to be undertaken in order to evaluate the role of storage infrastructure to regulate floodplain flooding, and augment lean season water availability for hydropower and agricultural development. 
  • Climate impacts need to be adequately addressed in existing policies, plans, and programmes. Knowledge-sharing efforts between research and management communities are necessary. Comprehensive information systems are need for investment decision sup-port, and disaster preparedness at the basin level. 
  • A regional context of infrastructure development is crucial to ensuring investment, and the sharing of benefits. Umbrella mechanisms like the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) can help address regional knowledge issues, and provide new avenues to bring together diverse stakeholders on common platforms. These would be platforms for social action, basin-wide learning, and advising policymakers on how to arrive at more socio-ecologically robust and egalitarian governance transformations.

For more information 

Programme Coordinator, Koshi Basin Initiative

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