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16 Feb 2021 | Nepal

Government officials train in the use of analytical tools and approaches for watershed management in Nepal

Subina Shrestha & Kabi Raj Khatiwada

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Participants attending the virtual training at the DoFSC office (Photo: Mahesh Dhungana/DoFSC)

Watersheds are fundamental for water supply and sustainable livelihoods for communities across the HKH region, and coordinated, science-based governance is needed to effectively manage watershed characteristics, processes, and functions. Accordingly, we teamed up with the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation (DoFSC), Government of Nepal, to incorporate Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) into a 10-day virtual training for officials from different levels of government agencies engaged in watershed management in Nepal. The participants learned about generating data and information of different watershed components, using analytical tools for watershed profiling. Watershed profiling is a key step in integrated river basin management, which provides a holistic solution to addressing water resources-related issues and maximizing socioeconomic benefits while protecting mountain ecosystems. It has also played a pivotal role in improving the coordination among the different stakeholders from different sectors and scales.

The Government of Nepal has already established river basin management offices in all the major river basins of the country to focus on the IRBM approach. These new institutional structures are working to foster the science–policy nexus through coordination among relevant stakeholders and institutions and to generate integrated data for efficient watershed management. These data and information inform proper understanding and quantification of the watershed resources and the changes they are undergoing. This can guide targeted watershed management actions through the participatory approaches.

Practical applications

Fourteen participants representing the Basin Management Office in Koshi, Mahakali, Gandaki, and Karnali basins; Watershed Management Research Center (WMRC); Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Offices (SCWMO); and the DoFSC actively participated in the training on generating watershed data and information. The participants learned about practical tools and took part in hands-on exercises related to concepts such as watershed delineation, land use calculation, soil erosion estimation, quantification of watershed climate variables (like temperature and precipitation), and use of the hydrological modelling tool for quantifying watershed characteristics.

The participants see practical applications of the concepts learned. Prabhat Pal, President of the Chure Terai Madhesh Conservation Development Board, sees himself applying the soil erosion (loss) quantification in the Chure region, which is experiencing increasing soil loss. Menuka Chhetri, Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Office, hopes to prepare soil erosion susceptibility maps to distinguish high and low priority areas and make budget and mitigation plans accordingly. Others see great potential in webHRU, an easy-to-use tool that helps in watershed layout and delineation. The participants also were able to understand the governance approaches and institutional frameworks related to river basin and watershed management, and the significance of integrating gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) into watershed management plans. Raj Kumar Gupta, Basin Management Centre Mahakali, pointed out that more emphasis is required on adaptive governance and GESI in watershed planning. He shared that watershed planners need to be able to assess existing land use and recommend appropriate land use on the basis of soil characteristics and land capability.

At the end of the training, the participants prepared and shared their watershed maps, climatic trends and future projections, and soil erosion maps. They also developed action plans for watershed management based on watershed profiling, climate data generation, soil erosion mapping, and watershed hydrological modelling. The participants shared that they were eager to attend more comprehensive trainings on watershed hydrology, climatic data analysis, soil erosion, and landslide analysis, governance tools, and GESI analysis, which would be beneficial for a government-driven, holistic approach towards watershed profiling and vulnerability assessment.

group photo
Group photo (Credit: Kabi Raj Khatiwada/ICIMOD)
More trainings, wider knowledge sharing

Santosh Nepal, Water and Climate Specialist at ICIMOD and training coordinator, highlighted the usefulness of the tools and approaches explored for developing watershed profiling at various scales, which will be instrumental for effective evidence-based decision making for IRBM. Badri Dhungana, Deputy Director General, DoFSC, remarked that the skills imparted by the training will be vital for DoFSC staff in evidence-based planning of watershed management activities. Arun Bhakta Shrestha, Regional Programme Manager – River Basins and Cryosphere, ICIMOD, explained that this training was the second in a series of training events planned. He stated that ICIMOD will explore opportunities to support DoFSC in action planning and implementation of plans developed through watershed information analysis.

We plan to continue building on our partnership with the DoFSC to systematically develop basin-wise information systems for watershed profiling that are accessible to local planners and decision-makers. We expect to conduct future trainings on the basis of participants’ needs – for instance, more in-depth trainings for soil erosion and landslides, governance and GESI analysis, and how these can be used effectively to conduct multi-hazard assessments in watersheds benefiting IRBM.

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