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5 Aug 2022 | News

Supporting the Kamala Basin Water Resources Development Strategy implementation project

Sharmila Dhungana

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The inception meeting in progress. The discussion revolved around the project’s focus on agriculture and irrigation, GEDSI dimensions, ecosystem impacts, and collaboration. (Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

On 17 May 2022, we held a hybrid inception meeting to strengthen the development, planning, and implementation of the Kamala Basin Strategy. ICIMOD is supporting the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in the ‘Kamala Basin Water Resources Development Strategy implementation project’ to assess and analyse the costs and economic value of development scenarios proposed in the strategy and to improve the capacities of collaborators and stakeholders in mainstreaming gender in the basin model conceptualisation and information generation in Nepal. This strategy is part of Nepal government’s Kamala Basin Water Resources Development Action Plan.

 

The Kamala Basin

The Kamala Basin spreads across Udayapur, Siraha, Dhanusha, and Sindhuli districts of Nepal and provides much of the water used for agriculture in these districts. Despite the heavy dependence on water, data on hydrological, meteorological, and other water uses from the basin are scarce and concentrated to a limited period. Continuous long-term and consistence data is required to support predictions of future water resources in the basin, which has direct impacts on the irrigation and livelihood opportunities of dependent communities. The Nepal government is therefore devising a development plan that includes a set of water resources infrastructure, investment portfolios, and management actions to improve the livelihoods and environmental conditions while considering gender and social equity in the basin.

 

The Kamala Basin Water Resources Development Strategy implementation project

Auro Almeida, Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO, gave an overview of the project, including pathways to recommend actions and implementation plans. The development goals for Kamala Basin include – sustainable management of the Chure; improved availability, use, and allocation of water resource for livelihood generation; and commercial and scientific agriculture for local economic prosperity and livelihood security.

Following the overview, Arun Bhakta Shrestha, Regional Programme Manager, River Basins and Cryosphere, expressed ICIMOD’s commitment and support in this collaboration and hoped the lessons from the basin can be transposed to other river basins outside of Nepal.

Divas Basnyat, a consultant at ICIMOD, presented the hydro-socio-economic modelling and provided an overview of different intervention options and scenarios in the basin, preliminary modelling approach, and data requirements. The model outputs will assess the socio-economic costs and values of the development scenarios proposed in the strategy under baseline and future development scenarios.

Aditya Bastola, a consultant at ICIMOD, stressed the importance of adapting modelling practices to include gender equality, disability, and social inclusion (GEDSI). The project will be doing this by co-developing a training manual on how basin water modelling approaches impact water decision making and by conducting trainings for relevant professionals on GEDSI dimensions of impacts in Nepal’s context.

 

Experts from the water, energy, disaster, and environment sectors participated in the hybrid meeting. (Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

 

Key suggestions and way forward

The experts provided suggestions, which CSIRO and ICIMOD will be incorporating in the project moving forward.

Agriculture and irrigation: Agriculture is practised primarily for consumption in the Kamala Basin. Since the project includes commercial and scientific agriculture, prospects of both need to be reviewed. Furthermore, as the basin suffers management issues around irrigation, only considering the technical aspects might not be enough. For example, communities at the tail end do not have access to water. Even if they have an existing irrigation system, it is often not functional. Water supply is inadequate in the irrigation systems during the dry season.

Water availability including groundwater: There is limited data about groundwater volume and recharge, levels of the groundwater available in different seasons, and current volume and locations of groundwater extraction and use throughout the years. The project, therefore, needs to look into long-term sustainable groundwater utilisation.

Existing data also shows groundwater potential in parts of Siraha and Dhanusha districts is lower than in other parts of the Terai region in Nepal. The project should consider including the GDP contribution of its interventions in the Kamala Basin, not only for economic analysis but also to persuade the government, investors, and other decision makers to invest in places with viable groundwater resources. Similarly, water availability from the Sunkoshi River should also be considered during the development of the inter-basin water transfer scheme proposed in the strategy.

The project team prioritised the conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater, where available, to meet the water demands presented in the hydro-economic model. To optimise the conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater, they also assured that availability and supply costs from surface water and groundwater (pumping costs) will be accounted for.

 

Participants sharing their recommendations and suggestions. (Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

 

Gender equality, disability, and social inclusion (GEDSI) integration: Gender components should be integrated from the very initial stages of planning and modelling. As GEDSI is a great challenge for implementation, the planned training programmes need to help relevant experts and professionals incorporate GEDSI in integrated water resource management of the basin. In addition to water being considered for its economic value, the intangible benefits of water such as social, economic, environmental must also be taken into consideration and included.

The project team informed the participants about developing a training manual on gender analysis within the water modelling framework. They will be seeking inputs from ICIMOD gender experts for necessary revisions.

Ecosystems: As the Kamala Basin includes water-deficit sub-basins, the project needs to take into consideration the unintended consequences the adopted interventions may bring to the ecosystems. Similarly, strategic implementation actions regarding Chure should align with the efforts for its sustainable management, which is one of project goals. The project should also consider aspects such as degraded land reverberation and damage to agricultural land in the modelling.

Collaboration and capacity building: A representative from the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) suggested that the lessons from the digital soil maps produced by NARC could be adopted in the project. There is also an opportunity to foster partnership and collaboration between NARC and the project team. Similarly, it is crucial for relevant government officials to build their capacities and learn from experts about developing the model, data sharing, and technology transfer.

The CSIRO team highlighted the extensive process of bringing together policy makers to explore and identify the needs and aspirations of the people in Kamala Basin. They stated that over the course of time, the project may need to recalibrate some aspects and assured that they will take into consideration the suggestions provided in the meeting and will be reviewing the drawbacks and gaps in the hydro-socio-economic model.

 

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