Special session: Climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in Koshi River Basin and a Workshop on the NSFC–ICIMOD Joint Project

At the International Conference on Mountain Development in a Context of Global Change, with a Special Focus on the Himalayas (21-26 April, 2018)

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Background and rationale 

The transboundary Koshi Basin is home to more than 40 million people who depend on its rich natural resources. It is a multi-hazard environment, one of many in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), where floods, landslides, and droughts affect millions of people every year. Disasters in the region often have a cascading trans-boundary impact because of upstream-downstream linkages. An increase in the incidence of extreme weather events from climate change and environmental degradation will magnify the frequency and impact of such disasters. Women and marginalized communities are most vulnerable as they lack access to information and the capacity to prepare for disasters and deal with their aftermath; this vulnerability is accentuated by gender-based norms and other sociocultural factors. Communities affected by disaster often struggle to resume their livelihoods or take up alternative ones several years after its occurrence. 

Although there have been efforts to improve disaster risk reduction (DRR) in the Koshi Basin, DRR policies and practices often lack a multi-hazard risk assessment. Additionally, stakeholders are often unable to capitalize on the knowledge and consolidated potential presented by the transboundary nature of disasters. Effective cooperation would include sharing knowledge and fostering practices that address the trans-boundary nature of disaster. Institutions and stakeholders could collaborate to adopt a standardized, multi-hazard risk assessment approach. Rural livelihoods are the focus for sustainability research in the basin. Because of the linked impact of environmental changes on rural livelihood, sustainable livelihoods in basins need a corresponding mesh adaptation. The natural and socioeconomic processes have strong upstream-downstream linkages, which present challenges as well as opportunities for a trans-boundary regional initiative.  

The Koshi Basin Programme (KBP) at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has been working with partners, including the Institute of Mountain Hazard and Environment (IMHE), Chinese Academy of Sciences, to increase understanding of water-related disasters, rural livelihood adaptation in the basin, and the capacity of stakeholders to improve preparedness. A series of knowledge platforms and discussions have helped identify key areas for collaboration in policy, research, and practice. The special session on climate change adaptation and disaster risk management continues this conversation. The program is part of the International Conference on Mountain Development in a context of Global Change with Special Focus on the Himalayas, and follows the “Leveraging Collaboration for DRR in the Koshi Basin,” conducted as a satellite event for the Resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya Conference in December 2017. That workshop followed up on the “Cascading Adaptation of Rural Livelihood to Changing Environment in the Koshi River Basin” workshop in October 2017. Key lessons that have emerged include:

  • DRR in the HKH must be approached as a transboundary challenge.
  • Further strengthening of Knowledge and data-sharing opportunities demonstrating multidirectional benefits flow institutionalizing formal and informal channels.
  • Establishing a Knowledge Hub for DRR in the Koshi Basin as a platform for like-minded diverse stakeholders may assist in achieving the objectives.

Objectives of the special session

The special session on “climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in the Koshi River Basin” aims to bring together key policy and decision makers, scientists, and practitioners to: 

  • Highlight and provide updates on research work in DRR and livelihood adaptation in the Koshi River Basin.
  • Discuss past efforts and progress, and identify gaps.
  • Discuss how to strengthen regional collaboration on DRR and sustainable livelihoods, including multilateral application of international cooperation programmes.