Building Structural Resilience For Climate Change Mitigation In Baspa Basin, Western Himalaya

Building Structural Resilience For Climate Change Mitigation In Baspa Basin, Western Himalaya

Geography staff Shaktiman Singh and David Haro travelled to the Western Himalayas to conduce fieldwork to improve flood risk assessment in Baspa Basin

The Baspa River, located in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, India, faces challenges due to its unique climate influenced by both the Indian Summer Monsoon and winter Western Disturbances. Covering an area of 1100 km2, about 15% of the basin is covered by glaciers. Approximately 15,000 people across 36 villages, primarily relying on subsistence agriculture and tourism, inhabit the basin. The region is prone to frequent flash floods, landslides, and debris and mud flows, which cause damage to crops, property, tourism activities, and disrupt daily life, sometimes leading to tragic loss of human life. In the last years, the occurrence and severity of these events has notably increased. Local communities, with limited support from government authorities, have taken temporary measures like building check-dams, levees, and sandbag embankments to mitigate the risks. However, these efforts lack expert consultation/knowledge and often occur only after an event has taken place.

To comprehensively understand and evaluate the efficacy and resilience of these structures, we want to conduct streamflow simulations and geographical information system (GIS) visualisations in addition to gathering socio-technical data through surveys, focus groups, and interviews involving the local communities and other key stakeholders. This will foster a two-way exchange of information between the scientists and residents. This holistic approach seeks to assess the effectiveness of existing mitigation efforts for future risk reduction and to improve approaches for local interventions to reduce risks in the Baspa River basin.

In this fieldtrip, Dr. David Haro and Dr. Shaktiman Singh measured river section profiles across the catchment and catalogued the existing flood defences. This information will next be used to develop a HEC-RAS model to calculate flood extension under different streamflow scenarios, to determine the efficacy of the ad-hoc measures implemented by the local communities, and to identify additional measures that enhance their protection.

 

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