Nepal is going to celebrate World Water Day with a theme ‘Water and Energy’.
The theme aims at raising awareness of the inter-linkages between water and energy and draw attention of policymakers as well as various stakeholders in promoting integrated approaches for attaining greater economic and social benefits, said ICIMOD director general Dr David Molden.
ICIMOD is also participating in a series of activities as part of the Nepal National Water Week – March 17-27 – coordinated by the Small Earth Nepal, Kathmandu. The week will see workshop, interactions and a photo exhibition on ‘Water and Energy’, apart from a back-to- back event on March 24, with a book launch ‘Research Insights on Climate and Water in the Hindu Kush Himalayas’ followed by a panel discussion on ‘Climate Change and Impacts on Water Resources’.
The World Water Day provides us an opportunity to join our friends and colleagues from the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) and the rest of the world in creating awareness about the importance of water for human and ecosystem well being towards achieving sustainable development, Molden added.
Water and energy are closely interlinked and interdependent, he said, adding that energy generation requires utilisation of water resources, particularly for hydroelectric energy. “Likewise, water supply requires energy, for example to pump water from groundwater.”
The HKH region when the countries are facing acute shortage of electricity to meet their demands, and thus are facing long hours of power supply interruptions that hinder the development of the region.
Moreover, many mountain people suffer from water scarcity in spite of high availability of water in rivers. The Himalayan region has the largest reserves of water in the form of ice and snow outside the Polar Regions and is the source of 10 of the largest rivers in Asia.
Atmospheric moisture in the form of monsoon and westerly and ground water are also major sources of water. The HKH river basins meet the needs for drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, fishery, and inland navigation for more than 1.3 billion people living in the mountains and downstream.
The river basins also support wetlands and varied habitats that contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity that benefits all.
“However, climate change and variability is increasing the uncertainty of water availability and the frequency of extreme weather events is making it difficult for the region to meet the growing demand for water for food, energy, and economic activities,” he added. “Moreover many of these rivers cross national borders, requiring cooperation to reap the most benefits.”
The water-energy-food security nexus is linked and interdependent making it important for an integrated approach towards its management.
Mountains play a vital role in energy security. The HKH region has a huge potential for hydropower development of more than 500 GW.
According to an ADB report, the contribution of hydroelectricity to total commercial energy is about 50 per cent in Bhutan, 17 per cent in Nepal, 13 per cent in Pakistan, six per cent in India, and four per cent in Afghanistan; and to the total electricity supply is about 100 per cent in Bhutan, 92 per cent in Nepal, 74 per cent in Myanmar, 33 per cent in Pakistan, 17 per cent in India, and 16 per cent in China.
Though hydro-energy potential is large, the actual capacity harnessed is only a small fraction of this potential. As a result, there is a severe electricity shortage in the region with wide gaps in demand and supply. To meet the large deficit in electricity there are plans of harnessing hydropower in the major river basins of the HKH region such as the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra. Despite many plans, the development of hydropower is not at the pace to keep up with booming demand. “But we do see across the HKH a boom of hydropower construction, and it seems in Nepal that boom is inevitable,” Molden said, adding that the question of whether or not to build hydropower is not as frequent as the question of when and where. “But in the quest to build new hydropower, let us not forget the question of how to do it better that serves mountain and downstream people, and minimizes environmental impacts.”