Living with water stress in the hills of the Koshi basin, Nepal

The Koshi river has drawn the attention of scientific, engineering, and political leaders for decades. During the colonial era, the British rulers of India were concerned about the floods and high sediment load of the river and they aimed to control flooding in the Koshi delta in Bihar. However, they were not particularly concerned about drought or water shortages and showed little interest in such events in the mountainous region of the Koshi catchment. Their only interest in the Nepali hills generally, or the Koshi basin hills in particular, lay in the fact that the region provided young men to fight on behalf of the British Empire. The fact that the hardships of daily life and the impacts of natural hazards -- cloudbursts, landslides, flash floods, and droughts -- forced able-bodied men to leave their homes in search of a livelihood elsewhere received little recognition. The Koshi basin region encompasses the eastern highland and lowland system of the Ganges river. It bears the impacts of a rapidly changing ecosystem and livelihood processes. A recent study (DST 2008) suggests that in the coming decades, two interacting forces will influence ecosystem services and their role as a foundation for livelihood systems in regions, like the Koshi basin, in developing countries: intensifying processes of technological and economic globalisation, which simultaneously increase pressures on ecosystems and shift patterns of dependency on ecosystems from local to global levels; and environmental degradation at all levels, from local to global, including the impacts of climate change.