Nepal

REAP Country Case Studies: Nepal - December, 2021

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Context

Nepal is highly susceptible to earthquakes, flooding, landslides, droughts and glacier lake outburst floods (GLOF) due to its diverse topography and complex geography. Water-induced disasters, such as floods and landslides, cause on average 300 deaths each year, and have substantial economic damages, wiping out almost 1.5 percent of the country’s GDP per year. They are occurring with increased frequency, intensity and scope, particularly during the monsoon season within the densely populated southern Terai plains.

Flooding is a generally cyclical and consistent occurrence, and it is anticipated that flood-related disasters will increase. Monsoonal precipitation during June and September triggers regular flooding in the low-lying Terai Plains. In 2017, the heaviest rainfall in 60 years was recorded which caused flooding across 35 of the 77 districts. This affected 80 percent of the Terai region and approximately 1.7 million people, causing US$ 584.7 million in damages (Government of Nepal, 2017).

Nepal is also vulnerable to climate change, as more than two thirds of the country’s economy depend on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and forestry (OPM, 2020). Models suggest that the number of people annually affected by river flooding could more than double by 2030 because of climate change, and the economic impact of river flooding could triple (World Bank, 2021). Unusual patterns of rain and droughts have caused yearly crop production losses ranging between 5 and 35 percent in 2001-2010 (apart from the years 2003 and 2007), amounting to a loss of approximately US$ 1.5 billion (UNDRR, 2019).

The country also experiences high social vulnerability, with high levels of poverty and social inequality based on ethnic and caste-based discrimination. Nepal is classified as a low-income country, ranking 157 out of 187 on the Human Development Index. Rapid unplanned urbanisation and low-quality construction compound this social vulnerability by adding significant risk when natural disasters strike. The 2019 NDGAIN index, which summarises a country’s vulnerability to, inter alia, climate challenge and their readiness to improve resilience, ranks Nepal as 128th out of 181 countries