Research discussion is an initiative to discuss the current research findings in the Natural-hazard domain in the Indian Himalayan region. We will try to understand the historical perspective from the experts and how they see the future scenarios. Co-prepare will provide will be a platform to hear voices from all the domains involved in natural hazards, i.e. practitioners, scientists and the younger generation entering this field. Discussion will be designed to highlight a need for wider collaboration to create relevant policies. The intention is to create a dialogue among various practitioners and researchers active in the Himalayan region. These discussions will provide guidelines for future research of natural-hazard domains in the Indian Himalayas.
Current and Future direction of Research in Himalaya: Learning from IPCC AR6
The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) and the latest IPCC Assessment Report (AR6) highlight the recent environmental changes and their impacts in high mountain areas. An increase in surface temperature and changes in precipitation amounts and intensities lead to profound changes in the cryosphere of High Mountain Asia. These changes have severe repercussions on mountain social-ecological systems and include changes in river runoff, geomorphological changes, as well as alterations to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Natural hazards such as flooding, landslides, and avalanches are projected to increase in magnitude and frequency. Moreover, cascading hazards and combined hazards may become more likely.
Research in high-mountain areas has equipped us with high confidence about several aspects of environmental change in High Mountain Asia. Yet, there are still key gaps in our knowledge that impede efforts to measure and predict trends quantitatively.
This panel discussion aims to spark conversation between experts on needs and future directions of research in the Himalayan region so that the audience can learn from their discourse and interaction. The panellists share facts, personal experiences, express and discuss opinions on diverse aspects of research on natural hazards and risks in the Himalayas. The discussion shall engage the audience and particularly Early-Career researchers.
Globally, the field of socio- hydrology is advancing in the direction and acknowledging the need to situate inquiries within social sciences discipline. There is a recognition of the aspect that the questions of physical sciences need to be asked within the socio-political context of the region. It requires a willingness to engage critically with the problem itself to be able to ask the right set of questions, thinking of creative ways to engage with knowledge pluralities along with the need to provide engineering solutions. Researchers also need to reflect on social movements to address ‘what is not included in the modelling of the system?’ There is also a need for good science communication tools to be able to engage back. It is also useful to understand how the communities receive the science and what they think of it. Or how useful this style of pursuing science is for them. The use of Earth observation and numerical models are ways to study broad patterns which can be further investigated using ethnographic methods (also to triangulate the datasets especially in contested basins) is important. An alternative role model can serve to illustrate problems and how things work, not how they will work. In explanatory mode (instead of predictive), acknowledging uncertainties can be tied to specific purposes defined through qualitative/participatory processes putting the process before the numbers.
These arguments are the motivation behind organising a panel discussion involving the young research-practitioner community within Indian Youth Water Network to take some of these aspects and discuss a way forward for research and engagement around resilience and adaptation in the Himalayas.
The 6th Assessment of the IPCC report highlighted that climate change is resulting in multiple changes in many regions. Specifically, mountainous areas are experiencing cascading consequences of several extreme events including earthquakes, landslides and floods. Increasing urbanization trends particularly in the Himalaya are exposing more people to risk from compound hazards making the lives of mountain residents and their settlements vulnerable to manifold intermingling natural hazards. The Indian Himalayan Region is one of the hotspots associated with mortality risk associated with various hazards. The occurrence of multiple intermingling hazards together with lagging development and inadequate risk mitigation strategies have had expensive and serious concerns. For mitigation of hazard risk associated with settlements, high-resolution evaluations of multi-hazard vulnerability and exposure are essential.
In NSIH 2022, the panel consisting of Dr. Schwanghart Wolfgang, Prof Manoj Kumar Jain, Dr. Arijeet Roy, Ms. Soumya Bhatt and Prof. Ajanta Goswami discussed the various aspects of multi hazards in the Himalayan region. Dr. Wolfgang discussed the risk and damages of hydropower due to natural hazards. He focussed on developing and analyzing a database of hydropower damages due to natural hazards. He also highlighted that to meet the dramatic projected increase in electricity demand in India until 2050, hydropower is growing rapidly in areas with higher exposure to natural hazards. The future of hydropower will depend on how well the institutions and policies will manage the risks. Prof. Manoj Kumar Jain highlighted that the impacts of compound events are far higher as compared to the events that occur individually. The increasing frequency of these events triggers economic loss. Therefore, study of concurrent and compound multi-hazards is very important. In his analysis all over India, he found that for historical periods, drought risk is escalating in northern India (except J&K) and southern India. A higher probability of co-occurrence of the two events (flood and drought) in the same year was observed for the future period as compared to the historical period. Combined flood-drought event frequency increases in 39%, 36% and 21% of total grid points corresponding to 5, 10 and 25-year return period values. Dr. Arijeet Roy discussed the landslide induced flood in Rishi-Ganga catchment that occurred on 7th Feb 2021 which led to several deaths and extensive damage to the river valley and the infrastructure in the downstream. He stressed on training for global resources and deeper penetration among the stakeholders, sharing of lessons learned and best practices and availability of all disaster related information on a single platform which will help in the development of effective mitigation approaches and early warning systems. Ms. Soumya Bhatt discussed the climate risk assessment in Himachal Pradesh. She highlighted that the trends in population and economic growth can provide insights which will help in projecting future economic development at the block or village-level. She also focussed that the unexpected changes in political, institutional or economic contexts could have large implications for vulnerability and exposure. Compounded by the fact that one significant natural disaster could have major repercussions on future development trajectories. Prof. AJanta Goswami discussed the issues and advances in cryospheric study in Indian Himalaya. He stressed on development of an energy-balance model to estimate glacier mass balance at basin scale using remote sensing. Furthermore, he focussed on the lake expansion and probable GLOF which may lead to the multiple hazards. In the discussion, all the panellists agreed that the data should be made available at a common platform so that the research community can use the data for predicting the hazards with least cost and effort.