Nepal is a landlocked, mountainous country located in the Himalayas between India and China in South Asia. The terrain is generally mountainous and contains many of the world’s highest peaks, including Mount Everest (8848 m). However, there are also low-lying areas at elevations less than 100 m. The country is divided into five geographic regions, each with a distinct climate and culture. With only 12-15% of the population living in and around urban centers, the country’s 23 million inhabitants live primarily in rural areas (~690 people per km2). Small-scale, subsistence agriculture is the mainstay of Nepal’s economy, employing 78% of the country’s workforce. Water and forests are Nepal’s most abundant natural resources, with freshwater here (derived from glaciers, snowmelt, and rainfall) accounting for 2.27% of the total world supply. This water feeds the country’s major rivers: Koshi, Gandaki, and Kamali; together, these river systems supply freshwater to a large portion of the 500 million people who live in the Ganges river basin. Any changes in the length and intensity of precipitation will not only impact snow cover and glacial density, but also affect these downstream populations.
Nepal’s varied topography and social vulnerability make the country particularly susceptible to geological and climate-related disasters. A general lack of effective response mechanisms and strategies for dealing with natural disasters exacerbates this vulnerability. An increase in soil erosion, landslides, flash floods, and droughts has been reported in recent years across the country, with increased intensity and impact on the lives and livelihoods of the Nepalese. Erratic weather patterns projected in climate models may exacerbate these problems in years to come. High-resource dependent livelihoods are the norm in Nepal, and socio-economic data, including low literacy rates (53%), hunger (30-40% of the Nepalese suffered from hunger in 2007), and widespread poverty levels in rural areas all point to a limited capacity to adequately address future climate change risks.
Selected Indicators for Impacts and Vulnerabilities