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Climate change heavily impacts on monsoon withdrawal in Nepal

Climate change heavily impacts on monsoon withdrawal in Nepal
The global alarm of climate change in Nepal, as in South Asia region, has heavily impacted on monsoon withdrawal in the last two decades. Following the impact, experts suggest making a shift of paddy planting calendar by 10 days to two weeks delay. According to the data of the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), the data analysis accumulated since 1968 shows that the monsoon withdrawal was traced in October in 1986 for the first time in the recorded weather history of Nepal. Indira Kadel, chief at the Climate Analysis Section, DHM, said that monsoon withdrawal  remained delayed till October from 2004 to 2022. “Only two times after 2004, the monsoon withdrawal occurred in September, once on September 29 in 2006 and another time on 28 September 2012,” she said.

Kadel further said that the delay in monsoon withdrawal heavily impacted paddy harvesting. “Now, we need to reschedule the paddy plantation by 10 days to two weeks.”

According to the DHM, the monsoon onset time has shifted from June 10 to 13 while the withdrawal time moved from September 23 to October 2 on average. Farmers in Nepal mostly plant paddy saplings from June 15 to July 15 in the plains of Tarai, where around 51 percent of the total population lives. Paddy farming in Nepal mostly depends on the monsoon rains rather than a systematic irrigation system. The paddy plantation ends in July in the hilly region. The representative paddy farmers from the Tarai region faced loss of rice production in both spring and autumn harvesting periods due to erratic monsoon rains. Purna Maya Adhikari, 42, from Chitwan has maintained her life from agriculture. There was a time when she used to save up to Rs 1m annually. But in recent years, she has been suffering losses during both harvesting periods, owing to rains, floods and hailstorms. “Sometimes, we face floods, heavy rainfalls, which inundate our paddy fields, and sometimes drought causes difficulties,” she said. “Rainfall used to be regular and normal until some years ago, but not these days.” The paddy planted in early June-July yields in early October. But there have been incidents where  ready to harvest paddy have been widely damaged by freak rains. “It’s all because of climate change,” said Kadel, of the DHM. “In our records tracked since 1968, the monsoon withdrawal took place mostly in September before 2003.” Rameshwar Rimal, agro-meteorology scientist at the Agriculture Environment Research Division, Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), said global warming has affected the agriculture sector. “Though we are yet to conduct a detailed study on varieties of rice and its production dynamics, general speculation based on monsoon patterns suggests that the paddy plantation calendar must be shifted forward by 9-10 days to avoid paddy damage during harvesting time.” Nabin Shrestha, 44, a resident of Chitwan, and his family have been involved in rice farming for the past 40 years. Like other farmers, his family too have been facing troubles in paddy harvesting due to monsoon disturbances. “We harvest paddy in the first two weeks of October, but the rains have disturbed us in recent years, affecting the quality and quantity of rice production,” he said. Climate change is triggered by carbon emissions, pollution, deforestation and chemical oriented agriculture farming. Though Nepal emits low carbon (14.31 metric tons in 2021), it lies between highest carbon emission producers China (12,466.320 metric tons in 2021, highest in the world) and India (2,648.78 metric tons in 201, third highest in the world, following the US). Climate change concern for Nepal is a cross border problem. It's the regional concern, said Dr Abid Hussain, senior economist and food systems specialist at International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). “Climate change affects the sowing period of crops as well as the harvesting calendar. Adaptation processes must be changed as per climate change impacts.” The Nepal government has few policies on climate change and its mitigation, and they too are largely unimplemented. The Ministry of Forest and Environment, the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development are the key stakeholders that should be working on climate change issues. However, no ministry has translated the policies into action. The government officials themselves admit to this.  “Implementation part is less effective,” said Buddhi Sagar Paudel, division chief at the Climate Change Division at the Ministry of Forest and Environment. Climate change can cause droughts, floods, freak rainfalls and landslides, damaging human lives, productive lands, forests, and properties worth billions. Nepal has more than 6,000 rivers and streams, which constitute a total length of about 45,000 km, as per the government records. According to the temperature data recorded by the DHM between 1971 and 2014, the annual temperature rise remains 0.056 degrees Celsius on average. “Moreover, we witnessed an unusual heat wave in the eastern Tarai districts this May,” said Kadel. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Authority (NDRRMC), 876 people died of floods in the last 12 years. In the same period, 563 people disappeared and 209 people got injured. Similarly, the NDRRMC record shows that 1,483 people lost their lives in the landslides, 347 disappeared and 1,224 injured. Likewise, 126 people were killed by the heavy rainfalls, two disappeared and 336 injured. A lowest estimate of properties worth NRs 20 billion was damaged by monsoon disaster during the last 12 years. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Nepal faced a loss of about one million metric tons of ready to harvest paddy due to October rains in 2021. Similar damage recurred in 2022, owing to the freak rain in October. The country witnessed a severe drought in the plain areas of Tarai in 2006, causing decrease in paddy production. The economic cost attributable from climate hazards disasters is 80 percent owing to water related events, the Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoFE) report in 2018 revealed. Climate change impact on agriculture sector including drought affects 10 to 30 percent loss in its productivity, MoFE report 2021 said. The same report stated that average economic loss from climate induced disasters is over NRs 2,778million every year. Since 1993, the frequency of flash floods has increased rapidly, minimizing the gap years between two flash floods. In 1993, around 60,000 hectares of agricultural land was inundated and 67 irrigation schemes were washed away in central Nepal. Following this, other such floods occurred in 2007, 2008 (two times), 2012, 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2022. The Asian Development Bank reported that Nepal lost one million hectares of cropland in the last 41 years due to floods. The Ministry of Science and Technology, and Environment in 2014 estimated the annual economic cost for climate change with additional 2-3 percent of GDP by 2050. However, the government has done nothing more than formulating policies on climate change. “Climate financing in the country is very poor,” said Bishnu Hari Devkota, senior agro economy expert at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.  “We have developed nine projects worth NRs 11.2bn related to climate change to be executed by 2050, but these projects have not progressed due to the financial crunch.”