Bhutan: modeling and adaptation in the Eastern Himalayas

Meenawat, Harsha and Sovacool, Benjamin K (2012) Bhutan: modeling and adaptation in the Eastern Himalayas. In: Climate change modeling for local adaptation in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. Community, environment and disaster risk management (11). Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 141-158. ISBN 9781780524863

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Bhutan is the smallest country in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) region and one of the least developed countries in Asia. The most imminent threat to the country related to climate change is that of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) – floods resulting from a breach in the moraine dam walls of glacial lakes that can release millions of cubic liters of water within seconds. Given the topography of the country and the stark differences in altitudes between the northern mountains and south-central plains, a GLOF event could devastate downstream communities.

The Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB), with help from other countries and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has undertaken several projects to prepare the country for GLOF events, recurring floods, and landslides. These projects are creating an adaptation model for the country, and based on the implementation of the pilot projects, the activities would be replicated in other parts of the country. The pilot projects are aimed at developing three broad types of resilience: infrastructural, institutional, and community resilience. The modeling of the glaciers and glacial lake system has provided the authorities with measures for structural mitigation that can help delay a major catastrophe, reduce risk, and increase infrastructural resilience. The use of modeling techniques, glacial surveys, and the development of hazard zoning maps is only one side of the coin – only half the story. It has been coupled with the development of institutional resilience to manage disaster events and community resilience to cope with and adapt to changing circumstances.

Three conclusions are established in this chapter. First, numerous climate change impacts are affecting the least developed countries in the region, and Bhutan is a pertinent example of countries and communities already at risk to a changing global climate. Second, it is important to choose the “right” models that can actually provide benefits to communities at risk. The projects in Bhutan demonstrate that adaptation activities work best when they blend different forms of resilience. Third, there are numerous barriers to successful implementation of adaptation projects. These barriers remind us that no matter how great the benefits of adaptation may be in specific communities, accomplishing those benefits in practice will take time, effort, and targeted public policy intervention.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Depositing User: Benjamin Sovacool
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2016 08:15
Last Modified: 05 May 2016 14:30
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