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Impacts of climate change and resilient solutions

November 15, 2017
Climate change is the reality today and some of the best evidences are from melting of glaciers from the mountains. Bhutan is a landlocked country located in the HKH regions and is no exception from the climate change affects.Bhutan is highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. One of the most direct impacts of climate change has been on glaciers and glacier lakes, which constitute a major source of water in Bhutan. The Bhutan Himalayas is known to have 677 glaciers and 2674 glacier lakes ( Bhutan Environment Outlook, 2008). These glaciers are reportedly retreating at an alarming rate due to which some of the glacier lakes are growing rapidly in size and increasing the risk of glacier lake outburst floods.
Under a warmer and more variable climate, onset of monsoons will be more erratic causing disruptions in natural and agricultural cycles and Bhutan is already experiencing increasing episodes of intense monsoon rains resulting in flash floods and landslides with loss of lives and damage to infrastructures.
The series of Photo below shows the mountains and glacier feed lakes and the downstream communities of under Trashiyangtse, Bhutan. The place called Pemaling which is located about 4500 has as around 108 lakes (as per Rinzin Nima a nomad of Pemaling) which are all glacier feed. These lakes are the main sources of river called Kholongchhu river which runs down to Trashiyangtse district. However, due to climate change,upstream glacier lakes pose threat to downstream valleys and communities. Further, due to climate change, the monsoons are erratic and flash floods from Kholongchhu damages many paddy fields and turned into waste land in Bumdeling Valley located around 10km from Trashiyangtse District.
Bumdeling valley was one of the main feeding grounds of cranes in the past before 10-15 years but due to a flash flood that occurred in the 1990s, most of the paddy fields located adjacent to the Kholongchu River were filled with sand, gravels and debris. As a result, most of the fields are left uncultivated (as per the villagers of Bumdeling community). Every year, flash floods destroys more of the paddy fields along the Kholongchhu river basin. There is also the risk of GLOF in this community due to climate change.
Due to these impacts, the issues and challenges of food insecurity comes in and people tend to move away from mountains and villages to the urban area since their hard work never pays off.
Therefore, to prevent damages to agriculture land and human settlements, mitigation measures and resilient solutions are put in place in this community by the government authority. The concrete structures like gabion walls, stone masonry walls, revetments, etc are built along the channel to divert the flow of water from the banks and reduce soil erosion and flood along the banks.

  • Photo captured shows the mountains of Trashiyangtse,Pemaling at 4600metres above sea level,which is the main source of kholongchu river ,
    People living the downstreams depend on kholongchu river for agricultural and livelihood.
    Trashiyangtse Bhutan
  • Glacier feed lake which is also one of the sources of Khlongchhu river
    Pemaling, Trashiyangtse District Bhutan
  • The Kholongchhu river as moves down gets bigger with other streams joining in from sub-basin
    Trashiyangtse, Bhutan Bhutan
  • The photo shows the flash floods from Kholongchhu river at Bumdeling Valley during monsoon. Earlier, the good agricultural and paddy fields for the people and now became uncultivated land.

    Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse Bhutan Bhutan
  • Sediments of flash floods occurred from Kholongchhu being deposited in the paddy fields. This was occurred in the month of June 2017 at Bumdeling under Trashiyangtse Dzongkhag
    Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse Bhutan Bhutan
  • The flash floods at Bumdeling has washed away the roads and damaged the excavator machines. There was no history of such kind of dramatic flash floods in this area but happened this year and this is one of the definite impact of climate change.
    Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse Bhutan Bhutan
  • construction of gabion wall as a part of Mitigation measures and resilient solution for floods .
    Trashiyangtse, Bhutan
  • The Government Authority undergoing recovery works in the damaged and destructed agriculture fields in Bumdeling valley, Trashiyangtse
    Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse Bhutan