Breaking myths about transboundary floods: Experiences from practitioners in the Koshi and Gandaki river basins

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Transboundary river basins in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) are home to millions of people who depend on river water for their survival. These people live in a multi-hazard environment—floods, landslides, and droughts affect them every year.

Their narratives are sculpted in a multi-hazard environment. With floods come the risks of disease, landslides, droughts, loss of livelihoods, and death. Given the complex nature of floods, their effects are never isolated. In the HKH, they often have cascading transboundary impacts. In this setting, the value of local knowledge is often unacknowledged or ignored. Given the complex and context-specific backdrop of these diverse communities, addressing flood risk can be quite a challenge.

Grassroots organizations and practitioners in the upstream and downstream reaches of Nepal and India are working to address the transboundary impacts of floods in the Koshi and Gandaki  river basins. Their focus is on disaster risk reduction.

Issues that are common to the upstream and downstream reaches provide an opportunity for transboundary cooperation to address threats such as floods, which cause loss of lives and livelihoods in the region. 

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is bringing together organizations and practitioners from the Koshi and Gandaki river basins for a cross-basin international dialogue. ICIMOD’s resident initiatives Himalayan Adaptation, Water and Resilience (HI-AWARE) Research, the Koshi Basin Programme (KBP), and HI-RISK are involved.

HI-AWARE focuses on research and pilot interventions, and capacity building on climate resilience and adaptation. KBP works to strengthen cooperation to address the transboundary scale of disasters. HI-RISK provides a common platform to support the development of adaptation policies and practices.

Findings from this dialogue will be drafted into peer-reviewed scientific articles after the event. They will also be presented at the upcoming Koshi Disaster Risk Reduction Knowledge Hub Inception Workshop, which will be held through 11–12 December 2018 at the ICIMOD headquarters in Kathmandu.