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4 Aug 2022 | News

Enabling the most vulnerable to adapt to climate change

ICIMOD and Australian Aid join hands to strengthen community-based flood early warning and springshed management

Sharmila Dhungana

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Many parts of the Koshi Basin are highly prone to flood-events and call for stronger disaster preparedness. Photo: Sharmila Dhungana, ICIMOD

‘We lose sleep when it starts raining…’, said a community member in Saptari district, Nepal voicing a common concern of recurring flood risk during the monsoon season. Communities in many areas of the Koshi River basin live in constant fear of losing their lives and properties because of floods.

Our Koshi Basin Initiative, with support from the Australian Embassy, has been working to help communities better prepare for disasters through the Community Based Flood Early Warning Systems (CBFEWS). In June 2022, our team, along with members from the Australian Embassy, visited the intervention sites in Ratu and Khando rivers in Saptari and Mahottari districts of Nepal, where we observed the CBFEWS technology and interacted with stakeholders – the local governments of Tilathi Koiladi Rural Municipality and Rupani Municipality, implementation partners, and community members – to discuss the impacts and sustainability of the CBFEWS.


Enhancing community ownership

Our discussion with the stakeholders largely focused on enhancing ownership of the early warning system by community and local leaders. This ownership is key to the sustainability and scalability of technologies such as the CBFEWS. Kavitha Kasynathan, Head of Development at Australian Aid, in conversation with the newly-elected chairperson of Tilathi Koiladi Rural Municipality also emphasised the pivotal role of local governments in prioritising disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation.

Representatives from ICIMOD and Australian Aid interact with the caretake, Mahendra Bikram Karki. Photo: Sharmila Dhungana, ICIMOD

The CBFEWS works well when communication between upstream and downstream communities is efficient and ensures timely flow of flood warning information. But for these systems to be sustainable, this cooperation must extend beyond information sharing. Upstream and downstream municipalities in the project area have taken a step further and created a basket fund for the operation and maintenance of the CBFEWS. The basket fund operates with contributions from Tilathi Koiladi Rural Municipality, Rupani Rural Municipality, Rajbiraj Municipality and SABAL Nepal, a local NGO.  The leadership and commitment of various stakeholder groups in ensuring the sustainability of the CBFEWS system has been commendable.


Reviving springsheds in Dhankuta

Our team also visited the springshed management site in Dhankuta, eastern Nepal from 31 March to 1 June 2022, where we met the mayor of Dhankuta Municipality and chairperson of Chhathar Jorpati Rural Municipality. Upon the request of Dhankuta Municipality, ICIMOD coordinated with the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation and the Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Office in Dhankuta to develop the Nibuwa-Tankhuwa Watershed Management Plan. The municipality faces seasonal water scarcity and is deeply concerned about the long-term supply and maintenance of water given its increasing population.

During our discussions, the local leaders informed us about their plans for prioritising water resource management through springshed revival and watershed management. We also discussed the importance of enhancing community knowledge on springshed revival and the need for capacity building activities for spring revival. Chintan Tamang, Mayor of Dhankuta Municipality stated: “Protecting the existing springsheds and watersheds will help us in the long term. We are collaborating with the stakeholders, including donor agencies, municipality, and line agencies to implement the Nibuwa-Tankhuwa Watershed management plan. We are hopeful that it will help us address the issue of water scarcity.”

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