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Research Progress on Water-induced Hazards in the Upstream Koshi River Basin

The Koshi River originates in the Middle Himalayas in southern China, passes through Nepal, and joins the Ganges River in India. The Koshi River is one of the most important transboundary rivers in South Asia, and its basin is prone to a range of natural hazards such as landslides, debris flow, and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) that can result in tremendous social and economic loss. To address these challenges, ICIMOD and the China-based Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment (IMHE) have begun a collaborative research project on water management and hazard risk reduction, with the goal of generating evidence-based knowledge to help confront these dangers in the context of global climate change. The work also receives support from the Australian government, which funds ICIMOD’s Koshi Basin Programme. To gather relevant information, the team held six project workshops and conducted several research trips to sites (e.g., Bhote Koshi, Zhangmu, and Tatopani) along the Koshi River to study the characteristics and space-time distribution of water-induced hazards. The team concluded that residents in the basin live at risk of water-related hazards including GLOF, debris flow, 2 CNICIMOD Newsletter: Vol 10, No. 1, November 2016 Koshi Field Trip landslides, floods, drought, soil erosion and sedimentation. All of these potential dangers are exacerbated by population increases in the basin, which also increases the demands on ecosystem services. To this end, the team generated some ideas for mitigating these hazards and for education people about the potential risks they face. Some of this research has already gone into publication, with the IMHE team publishing several articles in peer-reviewed journals. The team has jointly filed a policy recommendation report that earned praise from both Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Department of Land Resources (in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, or TAR). Future research will widen the scope of this Koshi Basin research, including investigations of post-2015 earthquake hazards in the Koshi Basin, building a hazard forecast system (for floods and landslides), and generating resilience models of sustainable socio-economic development. 

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