The geography of Nepal, with its major rivers and steep gradients, provides excellent conditions for hydropower development, estimated to be as much as 83,000 MW. Currently only around 2 percent of this has been exploited, and Nepal has ambitious plans to better utilize this enormous potential. To this end, the World Bank has been supporting sustainable development of hydropower plants under the “Nepal: Power Sector Reform and Sustainable Hydropower Project”. The project aims to strengthen the capacity of Nepal’s power sector agencies to plan and prepare hydropower and transmission line projects, as well as to improve their readiness for regulatory and institutional reforms. The project is currently supporting the preparation of two hydropower projects, including the “Upper Arun Hydropower Project”.
However, the same geography features that make Nepal ideal for hydropower generation also make it highly vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters and changing weather patterns. The region is prone to seismic activity as well as heavy rainfall, which can lead to landslides and floods, including Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). There is a need to incorporate disaster risk management into investments in Nepal’s hydropower. The technical assistance grant, “Nepal Dam Safety and Disaster Risk Management”, supported by the Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries, has been supporting Nepal to develop a roadmap to prepare a disaster risk management plan for Arun Valley, to advise on dam safety regulation, and to prepare dam safety seismic guidelines.
On January 24, 2022, a virtual consultation was held to share the initial draft of the DRM action plan roadmap, prepared by the project consultant. The event was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation (MoWERI), Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), Nepal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA), member of the Arun Valley Hydropower Developers Forum (comprising of five hydropower companies), JICA Nepal Office, and Tokyo Disaster Risk Management Hub.
In addition to the presentation on the draft roadmap, as well as a software demo for a pilot monitoring system, Professor Toshio Koike, Executive Director of the International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM) under the auspices of UNESCO, gave a presentation at the event. Professor Koike, who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo and a member of the Science Council of Japan, presented on “Climate Change Impact and Resilience Enhancement with Advanced Rainfall/Snowmelt Forecasting & Reservoir Operation System”.
The discussions with stakeholders held at this virtual consultation provided valuable input towards finalizing the roadmap for a DRM action plan. The roadmap will be vital to increase the capacity of the Government of Nepal to manage disaster risk in Arun Valley, improve the knowledge and preparedness of downstream communities, and to inform operations of hydropower plants in the area.