Nepal, a country rich in water resources, has long relied on hydropower as a primary source of energy. However, the increasing effects of climate change, such as erratic weather patterns and extreme rainfall, are posing significant risks to investments in this sector. This article explores the impact of climate change on hydropower projects in Nepal and discusses the need for climate-resilient infrastructure.
The Impact of Climate Change on Hydropower
In recent years, Nepal has witnessed an increase in extreme weather events, such as floods and landslides, which have caused significant damage to hydropower projects. For instance, a devastating flood in June 2023 in the Panchkhapan Municipality of Sankhuwasabha district resulted in the loss of lives and caused extensive damage to hydropower projects in the area.
According to the Independent Power Producers Association of Nepal (IPPAN), at least 30 hydropower projects in eastern Nepal suffered damage estimated at around Rs8.5 billion due to floods and landslides during the first spell of the monsoon. These projects, with a combined rated capacity of 463 megawatts, included both operational and under-construction projects.
The Need for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure
The increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events highlight the need for climate-resilient infrastructure. While hydropower projects are typically built based on past water data, climate scientists argue that this approach does not ensure their safety in the face of escalating weather extremes due to climate change.
Manjeet Dhakal, a climate change expert, suggests that along with past data, the effects of climate change should be analyzed while building big projects. This means that our infrastructures should be made compatible with possible adverse effects of climate change.
The Role of Diversification in Energy Generation
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends diversification in energy generation as a strategy to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change. This could include wind, solar, small-scale hydroelectric, and demand-side management. Storage and energy efficiency improvements can also increase energy reliability.
Climate change poses significant risks to hydropower investments in Nepal. However, these challenges also present an opportunity to rethink our approach to infrastructure development and to build systems that are resilient to the impacts of climate change. As we move forward, it will be crucial to incorporate climate change considerations into our planning and decision-making processes to ensure the sustainability and resilience of our energy systems.