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Monday, January 24, 2011

climate change is changing bhutan

Unlike in the past, Bhutanese people understand climate change and its impacts according to a recent study on Bhutanese communities.
The report - Understanding Sectoral Impacts of Climate Change - under the Regional Climate Risk Reduction Project studied three communities in three dzongkhags on the risk posed by glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF). The report focused on Samdingkha community in Punakha, Bajo-Thango community in Wangdue and Bathbalathang in Bumthang.
According to the study, at Simdingkha, people were aware of the process of global warming and climate change “to some extent.”
“People now understand how increase in population, increase in machineries, and forest depletion causes global warming and thereby climate change,” the report says.
Many people also mentioned the change they saw in their communities. Phurba Namgay, a deputy village headman from Tsheytshog Gewog, Wangduephodrang, said that flooding caused by cyclone Aila last year was more severe than the 1994 glacial flood.
“We cannot follow the pattern of cultivation we have been doing for ages due to rainfall inconsistency. We sometimes get rain during our usual harvest period in August-September,” said Tauchu, the village headman of Taewong, Punakha. Some said that snowfall during winter has now decreased.
The report also showed consolidated impact on various sectors. Rainfall in most places has become very intermittent, untimely and heavy in some instances. The general trend of increase in volume of water during monsoon and decrease during lean period still exits.
According to the report, in recent years, there has been a shift in rainfall both in terms of duration and period of occurrence. “Consistency is at stake,” the report says.
While there has been some shift in rainfall, snow, and frost, there has also been a change in agriculture and cropping pattern.
In Punakha and Wangduephodrang, inconsistency in rainfall has led to a shift in paddy cultivation. Chili growers also share similar brunt. Chili plants start flowering in March-April while early rain destroys them all.
A decade ago, farmers in Samdingkha had enough oranges in their orchard but now there is hardly enough for consumption. This is attributed to a new disease called citrus greening. Other pests like the Common Cutworm (Agrotis Segetum) and Bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) have become rampant in recent years which feed and damage chilies and tomatoes.
Due to inconsistency in frost occurrence there has been drastic reduction in potato production in Bumthang.
However, not all changes are bad. There are also positive impacts of climate change.
According to the report, in Bumthang, the temperature and the surrounding environment has become conducive for the growth of chili, paddy and maize.
These are crops for low altitude where it is much warmer. The emphasis on cultivation of these new crops by the farmers in Bumthang has taken a revolution, so much so that buckwheat, the main cereal in Bumthang, is declining.
So is the case in Punakha, dying orange trees have given way to the growth of Mangos.
Various measures are now taken up by the communities to counter the negative impacts of climate change. Apart from government led interventions, the communities have started planting trees to counter landslides and soil erosion.
In Bajo-Thango, gabion walls have been constructed along the river banks to avoid flooding.
Although the understanding of climate change between the educated and illiterate seems to differ, there is a consensus on its impact.
The compilation of the report involved three components. The first one is focused on assessing the impact of hydro-meteorological hazards on mountain communities and the socio-economic infrastructure. It was designed to help develop a better understanding of the nature, occurrence, impacts and trends of hydro-meteorological disasters and their inter-relationship. This would also identify risk mitigation and preparedness measures which can be implemented at community and local administration levels to address them.
The second component emphasizes more on identification and implementation of low cost, easily implementable community based disaster risk reduction initiatives including community based natural resources management.
The third component focused more on knowledge networking, information sharing, and policy documentation which will help develop institutional frameworks and appropriate policies for disaster risk reduction.
“The project is also contributing toward better understanding of specific hazards and feasible risk mitigation measures at the community level,” stated the report.

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