Nepal: Bamboo keeps villagers dry


A UNDP supported scheme is planting bamboo and other trees to protect Nepali villages from flooding, landslides and in some cases, even wild animals.

“When my village floods, which it does almost annually, we never know how bad it will get. Some people lose their whole house, most will lose some crops and everyone will be affected in some way,” says 32 year-old Ms. Sita Gaire, of Shivamandir village in Southern Nepal.

Mother of two Gaire lives in Nawalparasi, the most flood-affected part of Nepal. Every monsoon, the district on the border with India suffers landslides and flooding from the Kerunge River. Deforestation has made the situation worse.

Highlights

  • Since 1980, flooding in Nepal has on average killed 178 people, affected 114,000 and caused over US$ 34.5 million worth of damage per year.
  • UNDP is planting bamboo, acacia and rosewood plants to hold the soil together and prevent erosion and landslides.
  • Floods and landslides account for over three quarters of economic loss caused by disasters in the country.

The lack of vegetation causes erosion and triggers landslides and sedimentation in the rivers. The highly fertile land and physical infrastructure downstream are routinely damaged, threatening already precarious lives and livelihoods.

A United Nations Department Programme (UNDP) supported scheme is helping the government to mitigate these floods and landslides, which account for over three quarters of economic loss caused by disasters in the country.

Selected villagers in the district are trained in flood control and mitigation measures; landslide and erosion prevention; and drought mitigation. The low cost solutions focus on bio-engineering; or planting various plants, such as bamboo, to hold the soil together.

Since 1980, flooding in Nepal has on average killed 178 people, affected 114,000 and caused over US$ 34.5 million worth of damage per year. Those trained, often village heads or leaders of women’s groups, return to their villages and in-turn, hold workshops to train their neighbours to mitigate flood damage. They are also given money to prepare and plant community forests, especially in gullies, and areas prone to landslides or erosion.

Gaire was recently chosen by her village to attend one of the UNDP supported five-day training sessions. “This is a simple enough flood protection system to be maintained independently, and cheap enough to be implemented without many hassles in oversight,” she says. “When I got back to my village I held a workshop for over 300 women on the bio-engineering measures I learned.”

Besides reducing vulnerability to water-induced disasters, bio-engineering techniques for flood control have other benefits as well. They can produce resources, such as fruit and wood and they deter wild animals from venturing too close to settled areas, increasing village safety in a country that occasionally sees fatal attacks from wild elephants.  

The approach has been used by UNDP for many years in Nepal and has been shown to be effective. When flooding of the Rapti River almost two decades ago killed 24 people and destroyed 2,200 houses in Katthar village in Chitwan district, UNDP worked closely with the villagers to plant flood protection trees. Katthar is now seen as one of the best examples of bio-engineering at work to mitigate the effect of floods. Flooding is less severe, causes less soil erosion and harms less people than it did 20 years ago.

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