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13 Jan 2023 | Cryosphere

Focusing on sediment load monitoring in Nepal

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Sunkoshi River, Nepal. Rivers in Nepal are known for their high sediment load, which presents multiple challenges, one of which is sustainable hydropower development. (Photo: ICIMOD archive)

There is increasing interest in developing seasonal reservoirs in new hydropower projects in Nepal because existing hydropower projects generally do not provide energy during the dry season. This requires a better understanding of sediment transport processes in all rivers, including identifying differences in sediment loads across rivers and timescales. The rivers in Nepal are known for their high sediment load, which presents multiple challenges, one of which is sustainable hydropower development. Long-term data on sediment dynamics is needed to understand their impact on sustainable hydropower projects. Sediment monitoring data available today are inadequate for improved decision-making.

As part of our collaboration with the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), we published a preliminary report entitled ‘Opportunities for strengthening sediment monitoring in large watercourses in Nepal’ in 2022. The report identifies opportunities for better coordination on sediment monitoring in large water courses in Nepal – an important issue in the hydropower sector. To highlight the findings of the report and recommendations for further work, we collaborated with NVE and the International Centre for Hydropower (ICH) to organise a half-day workshop on 8 November 2022. The workshop brought together various stakeholders from government bodies, the hydropower industry, and academia working on sediment monitoring in Nepal.

 

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Discussions during the workshop reiterated the findings of the preliminary report. Sedimentation processes and their impacts in river basins are not clearly understood, with studies ongoing on the impact of sediments on hydropower generation and other infrastructure in the catchments. During the monsoon, significant sediment load is generated in mountainous areas due to intense precipitation. There is also much degradation in catchments due to human activities (e.g. deforestation and construction of roads), leading to increased sediment generation.

Hydropower development presents a huge opportunity for the region, and a proper understanding of sedimentation processes is important when assessing the feasibility and sustainability of hydropower. Participants at the workshop agreed that there is a need to strengthen the monitoring system and explore collaboration to realise this potential.

stakeholders in the hydropower
The workshop brought together important stakeholders in the hydropower sector to discuss opportunities for strengthening sediment monitoring in large rivers in Nepal. (Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

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