Reducing Climate Change-induced Risks and Vulnerabilities
This project will take the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) process a step further by translating its priorities into reality and developing the capacity of the Royal Government of Bhutan and local communities to adapt to risks posed by climate change.
The objective of the project is to reduce climate change-induced Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding (GLOF) risks in the Punakha-Wangdi and Chamkhar Valleys in Bhutan. Through the project, the Government of Bhutan will integrate long-term climate change-induced risks into the existing disaster risk management framework.
The project will integrate climate risk projections into existing disaster risk management practices and implement capacity development measures. The project will demonstrate practical measures to reduce climate change-induced GLOF risks from Thorthormi glacier lake, and facilitate replication of lessons learned in other high-risk GLOF areas, both within and outside Bhutan.
The most significant climate change impact in Bhutan is the formation of supra-glacial lakes due to the accelerated retreat of glaciers with increasing temperatures. The risk of potential costly economic damages on key development sectors such as agriculture, hydropower, and forestry by Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) is mounting. Climate change is attributed as the primary reason that water levels in glacial lakes approach dangerous thresholds. This poses a new dimension to the existing range of threats to lives, livelihoods, and development. The objective of this project is the reduction of climate change-induced Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding (GLOF) risk in the Punakha-Wangdi and Chamkhar Valleys in Bhutan. Recognizing the need for systematizing the country’s disaster risk management system to account for climate change induced GLOF hazards, the Government of Bhutan seeks to integrate long-term climate change-induced risks into the existing disaster risk management framework.
Results and Learning:
Project Objective: To reduce climate change-induced risks of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) in the Punakha-Wangdi and Chamkhar Valleys.
Key lessons learned:
- Involve stakeholders from different government departments to create appropriate adaptation measures: Adaptation measures require involvement of stakeholders from different government departments as climate change adaptation cuts across different sectors of development. For example, an adjustment made within the project shifted the Early Warning System (EWS) component of the project to the Department of Energy (DoE) instead of the Department of Geology & Mines. EWS setup was reviewed and design aligned with ongoing EWS investments by the DoE.
- Ensure that there is ongoing cooperation and consistent support between the stakeholders and the government: Cooperation among the stakeholders and consistent support from the government is crucial in successful implementation of the project. This has been evidenced throughout the inception and implementation phases of this project and directly affects the realisation of Outcome 1: Improved national, regional, and local capacities. The outputs include the institutionalization of climate-resilient disaster risk management (DRM) legislation, policy frameworks and guidelines (1.1) and strengthened capacities for climate risk planning at the district administrative levels (1.2). Close collaboration ensures that the scope, objectives and outcomes are actionable and appropriate. Consistent support and communication also allows for adjustments to be made as necessary (as evidenced from the shifting of EWS responsibilities from the Department of Geology to the DoE).
- Involve district authorities and local communities at an early stage of project design: Involvement of district authorities and local communities and their acceptance of the project are crucial for successful implementation of project activities. For example, from a cost-benefit analysis the project found it difficult to decide whether to transport project goods and materials to the project site via yak/horse or helicopter. With input it was determined that although much slower and more time-intensive, yak/horse transportation was preferred as it is cheaper overall, provides economic benefits to local communities and engenders a level of responsiveness in the local community to the project. Additionally, several rounds of awareness and advocacy programs have been conducted in vulnerable communities and institutional arrangements for GLOF preparedness and response were improved through targeted advocacy and awareness actions. A community-based disaster risk reduction curriculum was formulated and tested through a Training of Trainers program in May 2009. District Disaster Management Committee members have been trained in disaster management planning processes and expected to train sub-district DM committees and prepare district DM plans. The design of a GLOF Early Warning System has been upgraded to include communities further downstream, mobilizing additional co-financing resources.
- Plan field work well in advance: Given the remoteness of the project area and the limited time window of opportunity for excavation works (4 months per annum), it became clear that field work needs to be planned well in advance. An adequate minimum of working months during the season needs to be maintained each year in order to keep the workforce interested and motivated (otherwise, the financial incentives will be insufficient). Delays in the commencement of excavation works has resulted in the reduction of overall working days at the project site, which has diminished the interest of some workers joining the team. As a result, some workers have dropped out from the work force
- Cast a wide net to find the desired expertise (and compensate the labour appropriately): For the project it was necessary to draw labour from a wide range, since the required work force strength was not available from immediate project area. A targeted announcement for workforce recruitment was made in the local media. Financial incentives were made more attractive, and additional insurance was provided. As a result, over 400 people came for recruitment along with mandatory medical certificates.
Although DGM has adequate engineering geology skills and carried out a number of geotechnical assesments and mapping, the approach of fielding a multi-disciplinary team proved to be very important for achiving the objectives of the engineering and safety plan at the Thorthormi lake and for the implementation of GLOF risk mitigation work. The 31 trained DM team members will be further training the teams in each block at the local government level to ensure that local DM plans are formulated to incorporate climate change risks.
Adaptation measures require involvement of stakeholders from different government departments (DOE was included as additional partner) as climate change adaptation cuts across different sectors of development / Cooperation among the stakeholders and consistent support from the government is crucial in successful implementation of the project / Involvement of district authorities and local communities and their acceptance of the project are crucial for successful implementation of project activities.