'Climat change may cause poverty'

KATHMANDU: Oxfam, a group of non-governmental organisations working worldwide to fight poverty and injustice, said that Nepal was being badly affected by the climate change as poor crop yields, water shortages and more extreme temperatures were pushing rural villagers towards poverty day by day.

According to a new report 'Even the Himalayas have Stopped Smiling: Climate Change, Poverty and Adaptation in Nepal', launched by Oxfam today, farmers are barely able to feed themselves and are in more deeper debts due to bad yield of crops following the current changing weather patterns.

Wayne Gum, country director of Oxfam-Nepal, said that several communities were suffering as crop yield this year had reduced to half compared to the previous years. "Some said that they used to grow enough food for three to six months in previous years, while they could only grow enough food for one month last year," said Gum. "Poor farmers rely on rainfall. They farm small areas of land which, at the best of times, can barely produce enough food for the family," he added.

Currently, more than 3.4 million people in Nepal are estimated to require food assistance, due to a combination of natural disasters, including last year's winter drought - one of the worst in the country's history. Higher food prices have also reduced people's ability to purchase food. Although single drought cannot be attributed to climate change, climate models predict less winter rain, indicating how the current situation could get worse.

Increase in temperature, more intense rainfall and increased unpredictability in weather patterns, including drier winters and delays in the summer monsoons are the recent changes in weather patterns in Nepal. The melting of the Himalayan glaciers will also affect places beyond Nepal's borders. Scientists warn that the melting of the Himalayan glaciers will impact more than one billion people across Asia.

"The predicted impacts of climate change will heighten existing vulnerabilities, inequalities and exposure to hazards," said the report.

"Poor and marginalised communities are most vulnerable to climate change and are least able to cope with weather-related disasters due to lack of access to information and resources to reduce risk."

Nepal is one of the world's poorest nations, with 31% of its 28 million population living below the poverty line. Most of Nepal's poor live in rural areas that are most at risk to disasters such as floods and landslides.