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Building up Bhutan’s resilience to disasters and climate change

Dechen Tshering's picture
Building Bhutans Resilience
Despite progress, Bhutan still has ways to go to understand and adapt to the impacts of climate change. And with the effects of climate change intensifying, the frequency of significant hydro-meteorological hazards are expected to increase. Photo Credit: Zachary Collier


The 2016 monsoon was much heavier than usual affecting almost all of Bhutan, especially in the south.
 
Landslides damaged most of the country’s major highways and smaller roads. Bridges were washed away, isolating communities.
 
The Phuentsholing -Thimphu highway which carries food and fuel from India to half of Bhutan was hit in several locations, and the Kamji bridge partially collapsed, setting residents of the capital city and nearby districts into panic for fear of food and fuel shortages.
 
Overall the floods drove down Bhutan’s gross domestic product by 0.36 percent.

While not as destructive as the 2016 monsoon, flash floods, and landslides are becoming a yearly occurrence along Bhutan’s roads.

Guided by its Gross National Happiness vision, Bhutan is the world’s single carbon-negative country and has demonstrated unparalleled leadership in fighting climate change.
 
But despite progress, Bhutan still has ways to go to understand and adapt to the impacts of climate change. And with the effects of climate change intensifying, the frequency of significant hydro-meteorological hazards are expected to increase.
 
To that end, Bhutan is partnering with development institutions including the World Bank, to strengthen its hydrological and meteorological services and better preparedness for disasters.
 
Building on the study Modernizing Weather, Water, and Climate Services: A Road Map for Bhutan, the Bhutan: Hydromet Services and Disaster Resilience Regional Project aims to do just that.
 
The project will pioneer flood forecasting and weather advisories to help farmers increase their crop yields—a first in Bhutan—and enhance weather forecasting and disaster management. As a farmer from Namseyling village noted: “Heavy rains at times damage our crops. We will be grateful if we get timely information on weather, such as when it will rain, it will be very useful for us.”
 
Supported by grants from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the South Asia Water Initiative, this project builds on ongoing investments in Bhutan and across the region as part of the World Bank’s broader efforts to strengthen hydromet services and disaster resilience in South Asia.
 
Trashi Namgyal, an engineer in the National Center for Hydrology and Meteorology, highlighted the importance of the project which, he said: “will enable us to scientifically visualize the available hydro-met data and make the information and services more usable to the public.”

 

Bhutan: Hydromet Services and Disaster Resilience Regional Project

 

Comments

Submitted by Murat Sungur Bursa on

Isnt it ironical to be a "carbon-negative" country and yet suffer from climate change effects at this scale. Better equipped hydromet services and more accurate weather forecasting are the foundation pillars of DRM efforts to mitigate flood and landslide damages associated with hydro-meteorological hazards . I am sure that the system will incorporate early-warning systems to enable last minute measures and preparedness as the farmer from Namseyling village is hoping. But let us not forget that the real impact the DRM specialists expect will be much broader in context .Naturally the data collected and weather forecasts will be used for agricultural planning decisions including selection, cultivation, and harvest of crops, but further efforts must be maintained for designing , constructing and maintaining structures and developing required infrastructure . Moreover, the land planning authorities must make use of the data.
In short: We all know that disaster losses and damages are best avoided or minimized by being prepared and by cautiously and consciously implementing our development projects including urbanization.

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