First line of defence against climate hazards


Long time collaborator, supporter and friend of TGT, Dinanath Bhandari (pictured above with TGT in Nawalparasi), has just had a fantastic piece published on Spotlight Nepal.

In the article he warns against practices of ‘mal-development’, pointing out how many developers and many involved in climate change adaptation fail to give adequate attention to the collateral damage their interventions can cause.

In their rush to ‘solve’ one problem, they cause another; and it is often the natural ecosystems that we all depend on that suffer and deteriorate. TGT is fully committed to mindful adaptation to climate change; it is by working with experienced practitioners like Dinanath that we make good on that commitment.

We encourage you to read the full article, but have drawn out some key paragraphs to give you a taster [emphasis added in bold]:

The stress of climate change manifested by erratic precipitation works in tandem with deteriorating natural ecosystem. Disruptive development practices have scoured hill slopes which when exposed to intense rains aggravate soil erosion, landslides and flash floods. Improper land use, inappropriate settlement expansion, deforestation, construction non-engineered and agricultural practices involving excessive use of commercial fertilizers damages the ecosystems. In many places, the balance between rainfall and landscape has been disturbed.

Consequently, the capacity of natural ecosystem to absorb environmental stresses has weakened. Even a low intensity rainfall is likely to lead to devastating floods that have higher cost to society and infrastructure. Deteriorated watershed cannot buffer abnormal rainfall. Recent floods are the combined consequences of neglected disaster risk, faulty development practise, poor governance and intense rainfall. If this nexus prevails the cost is going to increase manifold in the future.

Improving the relationship between development activities and the health of natural ecosystems:

Development activities should be undertaken by keeping natural ecosystem healthy so that it acts as the first line of defence against climatic hazards. When natural ecosystems are robust enough to absorb intense rainfall, buffering weather induced hazards like floods is possible. A healthy watershed may not totally avoid landslides and floods when our mountainous landscape is saturated, but if ecosystem is healthy, recovery is quicker.

Shifting our approach and working with communities:

The recent windstorms, typhoons and rainfalls are indications of what the future may look like. These events seem to indicate changing weather events spawned by climate change. It is necessary to work with people to help them understand these changes and the benefits of investing in preparedness and avoid mal-development. Behavioural changes are needed so that development and livelihood practices are harmonised with nature.

Developing a holistic approach to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation:

Currently disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation actions are poorly linked. They exist in isolation. In the context of growing climatic risks, this must change if actions of risk reduction are to bring desirable results. Nepal’s national, provincial and local governments must integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as part of a holistic development approach.

This last piece of advice applies to NGOs (of all sizes) too; we can’t pursue our objectives in isolation; no cause is an island.

Dinanath Bhandari has been working on community centered approaches to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for many years. During his time at Practical Action Nepal he was instrumental in the design, delivery and monitoring of our project work in Nawalparasi. He remains heavily involved and often accompanies us on monitoring visits.