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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

changing weather patterns might affect water sources

The agriculture ministry has taken several measures to ensure that wetlands in the country are protected

The water resources in Bhutan could be affected due to the changing weather patterns which in turn will lead to shifts in seasonal stream and river flows. This will also have an impact on the drinking water supply for rural communities as well as the ecosystem.

The recent climate change vulnerability assessment of the Wangchuk Centennial Park by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) showed that climate change might affect the water resources in the Park.

The conservation program director of WWF Bhutan, Vijay Moktan, said the seasonal flows of rivers might change with climate change. “Climate change might affect the flow of rivers which will probably change the existing diversity within the river systems as well as the source of water for many,” said Vijay Moktan.

The flow in the main river Chamkhar chu has decreased over the past 10-20 years, as has the flow of the Nikachu chu in Sephu gewog and the Mandge chu in Nubi gewog.

The conservation program director also said that due to climate change the rainfall pattern has also changed leading to various problems.

The report states that monsoons are expected to start later and end earlier. “It is likely that the monsoon component will intensify around June-September peak,” states the report.

“Monsoon rain is very useful for recharging the ground water which again comes out as spring water,” said Vijay Moktan.

He said if rainfall pattern changes, the ground water will also be affected which in turn will affect communities depending on spring waters.

The report states that some water sources in Sephu gewog in Wangduephodrang dzongkhag became dry around 10 years ago.

The report also states that pressure on existing water sources is also experienced through growing population which puts increased pressure on existing drinking water systems.

The study concluded that climate change projections indicate that snow melt contribution to stream flow will decrease. The snowfall season will also begin earlier according to the report.

A recent study by a team of specialist from the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) titled, “Monitoring of Snow Cover in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya,” revealed that snow covered areas in Bhutan decreased by an average of 1.74% over the past decade.

Speaking earlier to Business Bhutan, Deo Raj Gurung, the remote sensing specialist of ICIMOD, said that snow covered areas in Bhutan have been decreasing prominently during spring and summer. “There are various factors that contribute for the decrease in snowfall. One obvious example is climate change but we cannot be very conclusive only on the climate change,” said Deo RajGurung.

The report says that climatic trends such as increased intensity of rainfall events, erratic precipitation, a shift in the onset and end of the monsoon, and changes in snowmelt will have impacts that are unevenly distributed over space and time.

“It is expected that earlier an increased snowmelt, particularly in the western portion of the park, could have implications for the two hydroelectric projects being planned immediately downstream of WCP,” states the climate change vulnerability assessment report.

Such reports bode ill for hydropower projects, as it will also be affected due to the change in climate.

Recently the Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley, in an interview with AFP, said that climate change could have a great impact on Bhutan’s plans to be a world leader in hydropower. “The glaciers are retreating very rapidly, some are even disappearing. The flow of water in our river system is fluctuating in ways that are very worrying,” Lyonchhen was quoted as saying in AFP. “The climate is changing, global warming is real and the impact on our hydrology is very severe.”

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