POLICY BRIEF

Disseminating Climate Adaptation change Knowledge in the in Practice Nepal Tarai: Radio Dramas
Ajaya Dixit and Kanchan Mani Dixit ISET-Nepal and Nepal Water Conservation Foundation

Background
Climate change, with all its attendant possible adverse impacts on the environment, human health, food security, economic activity, natural resources, and physical infrastructures, is one of the most serious threats to sustainable development that exist today. Of course the global climate varies naturally, but scientists agree that it is the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere caused by human activities that have lead to unprecedented changes in both macro- and microclimates. In recent years, climate change has become a key concern of both scientific and policy-making communities, so much so, in fact, that a special multilateral climate change forum, the United Nation Framework Convention in Climate Change (UNFCCC), was established in 1992 to address it.There is consensus among almost all scientists and governments that climate change will directly alter the patterns of risk which populations face around the world. Despite these increasing risks, availability of scientific information about changes in the climate are very hard to get for communities that are likely to be the most impacted by them in the developing world. ISET-Nepal partnered with Sisnoo Pani Nepal, a radio production house, to produce radio dramas to be broadcast all over the country.While literacy levels in the country remain low, radio penetration is very high in most parts of the country and it is an effective medium to reach a mass Nepali audience. A sevenepisode radio drama in Nepali language, called Jal Bayu Purana (Climate Recitation), was developed under ISET’s technical guidance, produced by SisnooPani Nepal and broadcast over several regional FM stations.

increase. In its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) claims that within the next two to three decades, the rates of glacier melt will likely increase.This scenario will alter the region’s hydrological systems and the stock and flow of rivers. Glacial melt will also trigger rock avalanches on the fragile slopes of the high Himalayas.The problem is far more complex than a simple decrease in the size and number of glaciers. According to CBS (2001), more than 90% of Nepal’s population lives in the mid hills andTarai, and will not be directly affected by glacial melt. They will nonetheless be severely impacted as the resulting glacial melt will change both the long term and short term hydrological systems. Because climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of extreme events, in this case the monsoon rains, Nepalis can expect to witness more mass movements and landslides and, thus an increase in sediment flows, inundations and river bank cuts. Sediment eroded from the upper stages of rivers is transported to their lower reaches, where it is deposited on riverbeds, thereby raising river levels and increasing the risks of the overflowing and breaching of protective embankments.The deposition of the debris of floodwaters, including large boulders, can permanently destroy land fertility. In addition, bank-cutting and lateral shifts will consume land and crops, and threaten people’s livelihoods.To reduce the triple threats of inundation, erosion and sand deposition in the Tarai, the nation’s most vulnerable region, we must find out more about the nature of climate impacts and people’s responses to them. In particular, we need answers to questions like “How do local communities living in Nepal’s three main ecological regions whose livelihoods are most likely to be affected by the climatic changes perceive the associated risks? Do local-level understandings of such risk match global understandings of the risks of increased global temperatures and climatic changes?” Answering these questions will require not only an intensive and iterative inquiry into scientific and physical knowledge about global climate change but also on the relevance and accessibility of this knowledge to populations in diverse localities. Such an inquiry will have to take stock of the possible impacts of climate change on different populations and identify the various risks they face. We will need to identify specific measures that various populations can take in order to adapt to changing conditions.This is a difficult task but can be sought, in part, by listening carefully to local

Climate Change in Nepal
Because of its complex and varied natural geography, climate change poses a critical challenge for Nepal.The nation’s relative lack of development (ranked 142 in the Human Development Index for 2008), the great disparities between the rich and poor (the top 20 percent hold 80 percent of the wealth), and an unstable political context exacerbate the threat. Most studies by ICIMOD has focused on the accelerated rate of glacial melt, the resultant expansion of glacial lakes, and possibilities of Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). Scientists however suggest that impacts of climate change in Nepal will be more broad, as global climate change makes the country’s climate more unpredictable, and as the frequency and intensity of extreme events

experiences and providing communities with emerging scientific knowledge in formats they can understand and internalize. Using all the channels of communication at our disposal is key. Developing an understanding of the nature of climate change impacts and risks, and devising appropriate responses will require a synthesis of the expertise of both natural and social sciences.The solutions to climate problems need to involve mitigation, adaptation and development; it is not simply about controlling of greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptation and development are important because those facing risks must have access to choices for switching strategies in response to threats of climate change.

Programme details
In order to develop an effective radio docu-drama, we first reviewed the literature on climate science as it relates to Nepal, looked at impacts identified so far, analysed government policies and interviewed experts on various climate change issues. We also held discussions with the media to determine how they view climate change and to ascertain how they think climate change information could be disseminated. This initial scoping exercise identified six key themes on climate change: 1) Fossil fuel-based energy as a cause of global warming 2) The greenhouse effect 3) The impacts of global warming on precipitation, and on glacial melt, 4) Floods 5) Droughts 6) Watershed management. In terms of the first theme, we noted the importance of promoting carbon-neutral vehicles like Nepal’s electric “safa tempos” (threewheeled public transport vehicles which run on hydroelectricity, a clean, renewable source) and carbon-displacing bio-gas plants at the local level. In terms of global issues related to the same theme, clean development mechanisms (CDMs) and the Kyoto Protocol received our attention.We also recognized the role different government agencies can play in climate-related issues. Summaries of our findings were prepared in English and then translated in Nepali in a format that could be communicated to the general audiences via FM radio. Radio dramas can stimulate the curiosity of listeners if the issues are presented well. The radio dramas were called Jal Bayu Purana (Climate Recitation), following the traditional practice of reciting purana (religious stories) in the country. Preparing the script was a challenge because the six climate-related topics identified above had to be elucidated in a manner that did not rely on technical jargon and was accessible even to the literate. Finding equivalent Nepali terms for scientific facts was difficult. It took us almost six months of intense work to prepare a script the actors, all members of a local drama production house Sisnoo Pani Nepal felt comfortable presenting. Each actor represented one of the three climatic regions of Nepal—the Himalaya, the middle hills and the Tarai—and elements of local language were used in recognition of the contemporary political discourse on social inclusion.The drama was broadcast over Lumbini FM from Butwal, Rupandehi District and from Parsa FM in Birjung, Parsa District to reach the populations of Nawalparasi and Rauthaut districts who have settled Rohini River Basin and over Nepal FM to reach the Kathmandu Valley. These three stations were selected on the basis of a survey which determined their coverage, their popularity and their willingness to broadcast the drama. Later, Clean Energy Nepal, a national-level NGO dedicated to promoting clean energy in Nepal, broadcast the seven episodes via seven other FM stations . Subsequent to the broadcasts of each episode by Lumbini, Parsa and Nepal FM, feedback was solicited from 50 randomly chosen listeners. Those questioned said that they found the program useful and that its content helped them to appreciate the problem of climate change and its impacts. At the same time however, listeners also said that climate change was a remote phenomenon for them, something akin to former US Vice President Al Gore’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and important only at the global level. Problems like access to reliable basic services such a drinking water, sanitation, health and education as well as the ongoing violence in the Tarai were more serious causes of concern for these respondents. Even so, they were able to identify some local-level changes such as the early flowering of plants that they attributed to climate change.They suggested that such programs that assimilate global knowledge also be broadcast in other local languages. This seven-episode radio drama was an innovative way of communicating the nature of the climate change problem to people who are likely to be profoundly impacted. Climate change adds a new dimension of stress to Nepal’s already drastically changing social systems. Addressing the challenges posed by climate change requires the participation of many different stakeholders and cannot be addressed alone by using predictive and control measures. Along with ascertaining the likely effects of climate change and working to reduce carbon emissions, we need to promote adaptive strategies and climate-sensitive development initiatives. Our approach cannot be strictly global; it must capture the nuances of rapidly-changing local contexts too.

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