Nepal mapped out a Response Strategy for Water Resources Management to conquer harmful effects of climate change

The Global Water Leadership in a Changing Climate Programme in Nepal marked its closure and unveiled a country specific Response Strategy for Water Resources Management on 29 March 2024.


The Response Strategy for Water Resources Management for Nepal consists of two components: an Action Plan and a realistic Finance Plan which makes the strategy unique compared to other development programmes because the actions that have been outlined in the strategy will only be abled if the finances are in place. Availability of a strong finance plan would enable the Government of Nepal (GoN) to integrate the strategies more easily into their planning and, most importantly, to their national budget. The strategy was launched on 29 March 2024 by Hon. Shakti Bahadur Basnet, the Minister of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, Nepal.

The Global Water Leadership (GWL) in a Changing Climate Programme in Nepal was led by the Government of Nepal where the water resources management component of the programme was led by the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) and supported by GWP Nepal/Jalsrot Vikas Sanstha (JVS). The WASH component was led by the Ministry of Water Supply and supported by United Nations Child Fund (UNICEF). The strategy formulation was overseen by the Secretaries of key government ministries and institutions including the WECS, the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, and the Ministry of Water Supply right from the beginning of GWL Programme to the strategy validation. Hence, the Response Strategy for Water Resources Management for Nepal is primarily owned by the national government. It is expected that all the relevant parties would internalise the strategy and take informed decisions in climate response and to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) by 2030. The multi-stakeholder consultations and partnerships generated through the programme facilitated in bringing different perspectives and “out of the box thinking” that brought novel ideas and concepts during discussions.  

Funded by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the GWL in a Changing Climate programme was launched in October 2021 in Nepal with the view of accelerating climate-resilient systemic change at the scale and pace required and to help the country to build back better as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Global Water Partnership (GWP) with its strong presence in Nepal partnered with FCDO and mobilised the required political leadership that is key to catalyse uptake of such strategies by keeping integrated water resources management (IWRM) intact. The programme in Nepal started in October 2021.


Nepal comes under the 10 most affected countries to climate change over the last two decades (2000-2019) based on the average weighted ranking (Climate Risk Index -CRI). Further, Nepal’s First National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2004) stressed that water resources, public health and terrestrial ecosystems are the three most vulnerable sectors to climate change (Group, 2011).

World Map of the Global Climate Risk Index 2000 – 2019 (David Eckstein, 2021)

Glaciers in the Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountains store more freshwater than any other region outside of the North and South Poles where almost 80 per cent feeds into three major rivers in South Asia: the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra and these river basins are home to 750 million people ((Editor), 2021). The rising temperature in the north of Nepal aggrevated the glacial melting and as a result increase the risks of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). Reportedly the rate of glacier melting in Himalaya, Karakoram, and HKHK mountain ranges are higher than the global average and preciselty the HKHK glaciers are retreating at a rate of 0.3 meters per year in the west to 1.0 meter per year in the east ((Editor), 2021).

Landslides and floods in Nepal cause an average annual loss of US $14.7 million (2001-2007). Some of the events have been triggered by rapid snow and ice melt in the mountains and by extreme, torrential rainfall episodes in the foothills during the monsoon season. There were a few disastrous flood events in Nepal, one was in 1993, when torrential rains in the Terai plains and the hills that feed them triggered dangerous landslides, affecting over 70,000 people, and killing over 1,000. Another was the GLOFs occurred when the Kawari glacial lake burst in 2003, destroying property and livelihoods along the foothills of Annapurna II.

Droughts are becoming more frequent occurrences in Nepal, particularly during the winter months and in the western Terai plains. In 2006-2007, when monsoon rainfalls fell to 16 percent below normal, the following months of drier conditions reduced rice cultivation by 21-30 percent (Group, 2011).

Although Nepal’s greenhouse gas emission is negligible, impacts of climate change and its risks remain challenging. Generally, water flow in the river is decreasing from Chaitra to Jestha, resulting in only half or one-third of hydropower generation of the installed capacity. Moreover, it is evident that the supply of water for drinking, irrigation and other uses is declining.

The GWL in a Changing Climate Programme was implemented through a strategic partnership between GWP, UNICEF, the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership (SWA) and the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP). It seeks to support governments in Least Developed and Lower-Middle Income Countries (LMICs) to implement inclusive, climate-smart water policies and strategies, ultimately resulting in better-served and more climate resilient communities. The strategies address the gaps of both WASH and IWRM and aimed at empowering new voices to advocate for the critical importance of sustainable IWRM and WASH services for health, livelihoods, economic growth, and climate resilience. The GWL in a Changing Climate Programme was implemented in seven countries including Central African Republic, Malawi, Nepal, Palestine, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda coordinated by GWP. The project started on 15 April 2021 and ended on 30 April 2024.

Actions Taken:

The process:

The GWL in a Changing Climate Programme in Nepal was launched in March 2022. The Programme Lead, WECS in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Supply (MoWS) and supported by GWP Nepal/JVS organised a multi-stakeholder consultation on 1 July 2022, to identify and prioritise barriers that impede sector performance on water resources management and WASH services in Nepal. The participants initially named nine barriers that were prioritised into three key challenges as policy implementation, institutional coordination and data and capacity building. Three working groups were formed, and participants were divided based on the areas of expertise and interest, providing equal opportunities of women and marginalized and ensuring the representation of different sectors of water resources management, WASH, and climate change.

The Working Groups prioritised 13 root causes for the occurrence of those three barriers and mapped the institutions, actions, and strategies to address those issues. Since the beginning of the programme, the team led by WECS organised nearly 30 consultations with the involvement of 1,370 participants from around 40 institutions. The government focal point, Dr Kapil Gnawali, Senior Divisional Hydrologist/Engineer at the WECS informed that “after going through several rounds of discussions in Working Groups we have developed an action plan by carefully selecting 29 doable activities that are capable to minimise the impacts of 13 specified root causes and proposed 22 strategies to enable implementation of the activities with a budget estimation of US$ 52.86 million”.

The strategy launch:

After validating and approving the Response Strategy by the GoN on 22 March 2024, the Minister for Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation officially unveiled and launched the strategy on 29 March in Kathmandu with presence of nearly 90 guests including the government officials from over 50 government agencies, the local government and their associations, inter-governmental organisations including UNICEF, non-governmental organisations, water users, academia as well as the media. The launch was organised with the aim of informing relevant parties, including the development partners on government approval for the new strategy and to urge them to support effective implementation of the strategy and the action plan here after.

Ms Sarita Dawadi, Secretary WECS chaired the event and during his speech the Minister, Hon. Shakti Bahadur Basnet thanked all those who engaged in the strategy formulation process. Engineer Sushil Chandra Tiwari, Secretary of the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation (MoEWRI), Ms Meena Shrestha, Joint-Secretary, the Ministry of Water Supply and Eng. Dinesh Kumar Ghimire, Former Secretary were among the speakers who appreciated the initiative.

Recalling his engagement since the launch of the GWL programme in Nepal, Eng. Dinesh Kumar Ghimire expressed four attractions of the strategy to the audience. First is the wider stakeholder engagement in each sequential step – prioritisation of barriers and their root causes, selection of appropriate and practical measures, development of finance plan, and formulation of the response strategy, including the timely collection of suggestions through the provincial workshops. “It is not just another isolated strategy, it harmonises with the existing policies, programmes, budgets, national priorities and international obligations of the country”. Thirdly the adoption of IWRM and river basin approaches in the strategy itself in line with the government priorities to ensure inclusive climate resilient water resources development. Finaly the inclusion of 29 activities with budgets that clearly guide the parties to add them to annual planning effectively.

Mr Bal Krishna Prasai, Vice-President of GWP Nepal/JVS thanked the Government of Nepal for accepting GWP Nepal/JVS as the co-convener of the GWL programme. He further thanked FCDO for financing and GWP for their coordination and guidance provided throughout the process. “Water resources are highly impacted by climate change – therefore, a Response Strategy for Water Resources Management with a finance plan is a need of the hour”. He further stressed that it is expected that the strategy would guide to plan water resources and WASH services in Nepal inclusive and climate resilient.

On behalf of UNICEF Nepal Country Office, Mr. Muhammad Irfan Alrai, Chief of WASH appreciated the adoption of persistent link between WASH and IWRM in formulating the Response Strategy. “There are several key approaches that should always be considered in developing strategies to ensure climate-resilient and sustainable utilisation of water resources to address water scarcity in a country which have been used appropriately in this process. Acknowledging IWRM and river basin approaches, promoting multipurpose use of water resources by minimising climate change vulnerability and risks, enhancing private sector participation, strengthening government leadership, and focusing on climate-smart water policies and water-inclusive climate policies were some of those”.


The Response Strategy for Water Resources Management for Nepal consisted of 22 strategies and 29 prioritised activities. A total of US$ 52.86 million has been estimated for the effective implementation of the action plan which is included in the Strategy.

Response strategy was developed under the leadership, guidance, and facilitation of 17-member Programme Coordination Committee representing the Government of Nepal – under the Chairmanship of the Secretary of WECS and other members including Joint-Secretaries of NPCS, MoWS, MoEWRI, MoFE, MoHP, and MoAD and several other government institutions, consultants from FCDO, UNICEF and GWP Nepal/JVS, Chief of IWMI and Sambridi Energy Ltd. Some of the project outcomes have already contributed to improve the Irrigation Policy, WASH Policy, and River and Water-Induced Disaster Management Policy in Nepal by raising climate concerns.

Furthermore, WECS provided inputs to the 16th Periodic Plan (2024/25-2028/29) of the National Planning Commission reaped through the strategy formulation process which will be finalised immediately.

The collective action and leadership among the government institutes, non-government organisations, academia, and private sector working on water resources, WASH, and climate change throughout the programme provided a conducive environment for cross-idea sharing, respects concerns, organisational interest that made the strategy inclusive. The process also built the capacity of these institutions to modify their current strategies and ambitions. The presence of an action plan and the finance plan would leverage them to access international climate financing that is required to bring systemic change in addressing climate change as a nation at the scale and pace required.

Ms Sarita Dawadi, Secretary of WECS, while appreciating the participatory approach throughout the strategy development also urged for all the parties to continue their engagement during its implementation. The GWL programme generated a new trust among water sector stakeholders on making climate policies and plans ‘water-inclusive’ and water policies and plans ‘climate smart’. “I trust the strategy would guide the government accessing climate financing that would allow addressing climate vulnerabilities and risks timely and to ensure economic and environmental prosperity through sustainable management and utilization of water resources”.

Lessons learnt

This strategy was formulated through relentless efforts of nearly two years of intensive discussions of three working groups with the participation of representatives from around 40 institutions involved in water resources management (WRM), WASH services and climate change in Nepal. The multi-stakehdoer approach enables strategy development more comprehensive and effective. As ‘diversity leads to stability’, multi-stakeholder WG process engaged water communities in enhancing the understanding about climate change impacts on water resources and WASH services, and ways to address them through the multi-stakeholder-owned strategies.

In Nepal, a ‘learning-by-doing’ approach through a multi-stakeholder Thematic Working Group was initiated in 2009 to prepare the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) and the Thematic Working Group approach was continued to prepare the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) in 2021. Hence, the Working Group approach is deeply rooted in formulating such strategies which are also used during the process.

The programme committee shared the draft strategy at central and provincial level workshops and generated awareness on the process and gathered their inputs to further improve the strategy. The ‘leave-no-one-behind approach’ further expanded and encouraged the water communities to engage in the process. Therefore, it was observed that more than 85 per cent of attendance of the same Working Group member in the process during the strategy formulation period held from 1 July 2022 to 6 October 2023.


  • (Editor), M. M. (2021). Glaciers of the Himalayas. Woshington : International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank.
  • David Eckstein, V. K. (2021). Global Climate Risk Index 2021. Bonn: Germanwatch e. V.
  • Group, T. W. (2011). Vulnerability, Risk Reduction and Adaptation to Climate Change, Nepal. Washington: The World Bank Group.