Water gives-and threatens-life in Bhutan

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Climate change not only means more extreme weather, it’s also having a direct impact on the 58 percent of the country who rely on subsistence agriculture.

For Phub Zem Doya who lives in the remote village of Singye in southwest Bhutan, water is precious, and not to be taken for granted.

In her village climate change has led many rivers and streams to dry up, causing shortages, particularly during the dry winter season.

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Climate change has led many rivers and streams to dry up, causing water shortages, particularly during the dry winter season.

Until recently, having enough water for the family meant making several two-hour hikes uphill through thick forest each day to the nearest spring. Water was strictly rationed and proper hygiene was simply impossible.

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Without water in their village, women and children endure arduous two-hour hikes to the nearest stream.

Meanwhile for Pema Dradul and his community living in Pasakha, climate change has presented the opposite challenge; their houses are near a river that rises each year during the rainy season. With climate change, floods have become more serious and frequent.

The Kingdom of Bhutan is an outstanding natural environment. Yet communities are constantly reminded of their geographical vulnerabilities, increasingly exacerbated by climate change.

The land-locked country is exposed to a wide range of climate change-induced threats, including glacial lake outburst floods, flash floods and landslides, windstorms, forest fires, and seasonal water shortages.

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As a result of climate change, drying forests are increasing the threat of forest fires.

Climate change not only means more extreme weather, it’s also having a direct impact on the 58 percent of the country who rely on subsistence agriculture.

If the weather is good, crops thrive; if the weather is bad, they fail and people go hungry.

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Women tend to face greater hardships than men, because they are usually responsible for cooking, cleaning, and providing sustenance for their children.

In 2006 the Government of Bhutan and UNDP developed Bhutan’s National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA). It was updated in 2012 to address new hazards.

With funding from the GEF-Least Developed Countries Fund, the first NAPA project, focused on reducing risks associated with glacial lake outburst floods. It was implemented between 2008–2013, the second NAPA project lasted from 2014 to 2018, and the third has been under way since 2017.

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The third GEF-Least Developed Countries Fund is implementing the third NAPA project focused on reducing risks associated with glacial lake outburst floods.

By UNDP Bhutan

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