Digo Jal Bikas – River basin planning and ecosystem services in Western Nepal

Water is arguably the single most important natural resource underpinning Nepal’s economic development: freshwater species are a key protein source for local communities; water transported in irrigation canals or piped from the ground allows for the intensification and expansion of agriculture; access to clean water allows for healthy families and permits urban development; pristine mountain streams draw the trekkers, rafters, and adventure seekers who comprise the base of the tourism industry; and water drives the turbines that produce hydropower for both domestic consumption and regional sale. However, the management of water is a major challenge for Nepal. The deterioration of water resources, due to poor management and exacerbated by climate change, threatens to directly affect the food security and livelihoods and health of rural communities as well as key economic sectors like hydropower and tourism. In 2007, the IWMI Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture labelled Nepal as an area of economic water scarcity due to “a lack of investment in water or a lack of human capacity to satisfy the demand for water.”

The overall goal of this research program is to promote sustainable water resources development in Western Nepal through balancing economic growth, social justice and healthy, resilient ecosystems. The geographic focus is on the watershed basins and sub-basins within the Mid-western and Far-western Development Regions of Nepal, with a particular focus on the Karnali basin including the Mahana sub-basin in the Terai and the Mahakali basin. Three objectives are proposed to achieve this goal:

1. The construction – by IWMI researchers – of a sound knowledge base on the current state and use of ecosystems and their services and the impact of climate change as well as other drivers of future change in west Nepal to identify key information and knowledge gaps.

2. The development and application of tools, models and approaches (taking into consideration opportunities and risks) for sustainable water resources development under current state and future scenarios at the basin and local community scale.

3. Support for the development of integrated policy and management guidelines on options and technologies for sustainable water-infrastructure development for government and local communities.

Main research collaborators:

  • Emily Pakhtigian (Duke)
  • Ram Bastakoti; Luna Bharati; Sanita Dhaubanjar; Vishnu Pandey; Aditya Sood; Diana Suhardiman; David Wiberg (IWMI)