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13 Sep 2019 | Cryosphere

Towards data-driven hydropower development in Nepal

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Countries in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region have been endowed with immense hydropower generation potential, but the changing climate and consequent changes in the hydrological regime pose grave questions regarding the future of sustainable hydropower development. The dearth of hydrological data, among other things, is a major impediment to harnessing the full potential of available resources in the region. Nepal, for instance, has a total hydropower potential of about 83 GW, of which about 43 GW is deemed technically and economically feasible. But without adequate hydrological data to support national strategies, its total installed capacity is around 1.1 GW, according to Economic Survey 2018–2019, released by the Ministry of Finance, Government of Nepal.

The survey also states that upon the completion of several ongoing hydropower projects, this capacity will be doubled by 2021. This is an uphill task, given the inadequate long-term data available on river flow during lean and wet seasons, precipitations patterns, and snow and glacier melt at the source. And with the hydrological variables changing rapidly owing to climate change, policy makers have the challenging task of accurately gauging the sustainability of Nepal’s hydropower plants.

Experts in the field have already identified the lack of data and standardized data collection guidelines as major problems in the current hydropower development industry. In a bid to address these data gaps, a group of hydropower experts including developers, government agencies, and researchers met on 5 June 2019 for a consultation workshop organized by ICIMOD and the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) under the second phase of the Snow Accumulation and Melt Process (SnowAMP) project. The group agreed that a coordinated effort is required to make hydrological data available to stakeholders and suggested the following interventions:

1. Hydropower experts including developers, government agency representatives, and researchers met to identify issues related to hydrological data and hydropower development. (Photo: Chimi Seldon/ICIMOD)

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