New York: Climatic changes, an increase in agricultural land use and population growth could lead to severe water shortage in Nepal in the coming decades, warns a new study.
Using a sophisticated modeling tool called the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), the researchers were able to account for land use, soil types, topography and meteorology to predict future climate change and project snowmelt and stream flow to assess the effects of land use on water availability in Nepal.
Their findings indicated that the region may be at severe risk for water shortages.
"Water availability has become problematic due to changing climate and land management practices in this region," said the study's lead author Ram Neupane, postdoctoral research associate at South Dakota State University in the US.
"How people in Nepal are using what little land is available for food and habitation is very sensitive to changing water supplied by snow water, glacier melt and monsoonal precipitation," one of the study authors Joseph White, professor of biology at Baylor University in Texas, US, explained.
In a country where roughly 70 percent of the population are dependent on agriculture, this could signal major problems for the most vulnerable in the region - those in poverty.
"The Nepalese population in this region will face many challenges over the coming decades as soil degrades and water resources continue to place enormous strains on food production and intensify recent trends of subsequent malnutrition, particularly in young children," said Sara Alexander, associate professor of anthropology at Baylor University.
"In mountain regions, continuing climate change exaggerates impacts of temperature and precipitation,” White noted.
"This research highlights how geography plays a role in what potential impacts climate change is having on stream flow and erosion in this steep landscape," White said.
The study was published in the Journal of Hydrology.