Building up Bhutan’s resilience to disasters and climate change

Building up Bhutan’s resilience to disasters and climate change

SAM Staff,

The 2016 monsoon was much heavier than usual affecting almost all of Bhutan, especially in the south.

Landslides damaged most of the country’s major highways and smaller roads. Bridges were washed away, isolating communities.

The Phuentsholing -Thimphu highway which carries food and fuel from India to half of Bhutan was hit in several locations, and the Kamji bridge partially collapsed, setting residents of the capital city and nearby districts into panic for fear of food and fuel shortages.

Overall the floods drove down Bhutan’s gross domestic product by 0.36 percent.

While not as destructive as the 2016 monsoon, flash floods, and landslides are becoming a yearly occurrence along Bhutan’s roads

Guided by its Gross National Happiness vision, Bhutan is the world’s single carbon-negative country and has demonstrated unparalleled leadership in fighting climate change.

But despite progress, Bhutan still has ways to go to understand and adapt to the impacts of climate change. And with the effects of climate change intensifying, the frequency of significant hydro-meteorological hazards are expected to increase.

To that end, Bhutan is partnering with development institutions including the World Bank, to strengthen its hydrological and meteorological services and better preparedness for disasters.

Building on the study Modernizing Weather, Water, and Climate Services: A Road Map for Bhutan, the Bhutan: Hydromet Services and Disaster Resilience Regional Project aims to do just that.

The project will pioneer flood forecasting and weather advisories to help farmers increase their crop yields—a first in Bhutan—and enhance weather forecasting and disaster management. As a farmer from Namseyling village noted: “Heavy rains at times damage our crops. We will be grateful if we get timely information on weather, such as when it will rain, it will be very useful for us.”

Supported by grants from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the South Asia Water Initiative, this project builds on ongoing investments in Bhutan and across the region as part of the World Bank’s broader efforts to strengthen hydromet services and disaster resilience in South Asia.

Trashi Namgyal, an engineer in the National Center for Hydrology and Meteorology, highlighted the importance of the project which, he said: “will enable us to scientifically visualize the available hydro-met data and make the information and services more usable to the public.”