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29 Jun 2022 | Koshi Basin Initiative

Joining hands for stronger disaster preparedness and response in Dolakha, Nepal

Kripa Shrestha & Sharmila Dhungana

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Discussions during a consultation meeting among Upper Koshi Basin stakeholders focused around understanding different types of hazards; exploring various measures for preparedness and response; and integrating gender equality, disability, and social inclusion (GEDSI) in these measures. In Dolakha, Nepal, communities have been combating multi-hazard risks through awareness programmes, integrating traditional mitigation solutions, and implementing other concrete preventive measures. The meeting served as a platform for building on these activities – with discussions on comprehensive assessments, multi-level planning, and ground-level implementation – and to strengthen community–government coordination.

Group discussions during the consultation meeting revolved around existing hazards, potential solutions, preparedness, communication and dissemination, and partnership for project implementation. (Photo: Kripa Shrestha/ICIMOD)

 

The consultation meeting was held on 3–4 March in Dolakha as part of the ‘Transboundary cooperation in building multi-hazard risk resilience in the Upper Koshi Basin’ project. This SDC-funded entry phase project (Nov 2020–June 2022), jointly implemented by ICIMOD along with the Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment (IMHE) and Sichuan University, aims to understand the challenges, issues, and potential interventions for the communities living in the Upper Koshi Basin. The project aims to synthesize secondary information and undertake fieldwork to develop a case for intervention in the full implementation phase.

Facilitated by the Rural Development Tuki Association, the consultation meeting on the potential project brought together over 40 stakeholders and was chaired by Rajendra Sharma, Under Secretary, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA). Dabal Pandey, Chief, District Coordination Committee, Dolakha, attended as the chief guest. Discussions revolved around potential partnerships between various stakeholders, and the scope of implementation of the project on the ground.

 

Community action underway

The participants identified landslide and debris flow, monsoon floods, glacial lake outburst floods, and soil erosion along the Tamakoshi River as key hazards. They noted that while natural causes such as erratic rainfall and fragile geological formations lead to the occurrence of these hazards, human-induced activities such as overgrazing, forest degradation, improper drainage management, and haphazard construction also significantly contribute to the hazards. To adapt to and mitigate these hazards, communities in Dolakha have already been conducting awareness and information programmes through local TV stations, radio channels, and newspapers. They have implemented afforestation programmes and adopted bioengineering structures for controlling landslides and soil erosion, such as checking dams, spurs, and gabion walls on riverbanks.

The participants shared about traditional disaster risk reduction (DRR) solutions such as planting bamboo and amliso (broom grass) to stabilise slopes and control soil erosion in some villages. However, the participants noted that much is yet to be done, including hazard mapping, implementation of risk-sensitive land use planning, institutionalisation of multi-hazard transboundary early warning system (EWS), and capacity building of stakeholders. The group also mapped out potential EWS installation sites in the district.

 

Integrating GEDSI in disaster risk reduction

Considering that vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, pregnant women, the elderly, and children are disproportionally affected by hazards, the participants pointed out that monitoring and assessment of GEDSI and its integration in policy and grassroots planning are crucial for meaningful participation of these groups in DRR activities. Furthermore, the group discussed how communication channels such as phones, social media, community watch groups, and sirens can be a potential source of timely information dissemination. The group also explored how existing networks and communication channels such as the Municipal Emergency Operations Center (MEOC), District Emergency Operations Center (DEOC), and the ward DRR team could be strengthened and made accessible to vulnerable groups.

 

Multistakeholder engagement

The participants reflected on the expectations and benefits of the potential project to the different stakeholders such as local government bodies, NGOs, INGOs, CBOs, and security agencies. They discussed potential operational challenges, sustainability, success indicators, and co-development of EWS and identification and mapping of vulnerable areas. Likewise, the participants identified payment for ecosystem services as an important policy, along with other social and technical parameters, in project implementation and sustainability.

Considering the vulnerability of the sub basin towards multi-hazard risks, the participants agreed that an in-depth assessment needs to be conducted for different hazards. Identification of vulnerable areas and populations is crucial, based on which solution packages can be tailored, including EWS, nature-based solutions, awareness raising and capacity enhancement, technology transfer for early warning, preparedness, and resilience building. Such initiatives need to be planned and implemented in close coordination with the local government line agencies and vulnerable communities.

The meeting concluded with the local government representatives and participants expressing their strong commitment to support the implementation of the project.

 

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