Improving water availability, ecosystem governance and livelihood security in the Hindu Kush Himalayas

Part of the Indian research team (Kataria and Kumar [left], Everard [right])
by the Kosi River discussing ecosystem-livelihood interdependencies with
women from the Himalayan village of Jamira, Uttarakhand state, India.

This month, Dr Mark Everard (Associate Professor of Ecosystem Services, UWE) and Dr Nishikant Gupta (Visiting Research Fellow, UWE) have had one paper published, and another in press, on aspects of water and natural resource management in the Middle Himalayas, respectively addressing issues in Nepal and India. Professor Chris Scott (Udall Center, Arizona), also part of the International Water Security Network, is one of several co-authors of the paper about India.

The first of these two papers – Can control of invasive vegetation improve water and rural livelihood security in Nepal? by Everard, Gupta, Chapagain, Shrestha, Preston and Tiwari – makes a case for the potential for control of invasive alien plants (IAPs) to serve as a tool for water and rural livelihood security in Nepal. The authors use the STEEP (Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic, Political) framework to explore success criteria behind South Africa’s Working for Water (WfW) programme, and its potential translation into the geographically, culturally and politically very different Nepali context. The authors conclude that this novel vegetation management approach could potentially contribute to water, food, biodiversity, forest, soil, gender equity, community development and security outcomes, supporting Nepal’s national and international policy priorities. Their initial observations warrant trial management of IAPs in a test area with monitoring to evaluate outcomes for water, food and livelihood security, with potential for subsequent regional or national roll-out of a management programme.

The second of these two papers is: Assessing livelihood-ecosystem interdependencies and natural resource governance in Indian villages in the Middle Himalayas by Everard, Gupta, Scott, Tiwari, Joshi, Kataria and Kumar (in press, Regional Environmental Change). Case studies are drawn from two contrasting village communities, exploring linkages between people and adjacent forest and river ecosystems. The authors found that, although local people currently perceive high biodiversity as a constraint to agriculture within an increasingly dysfunctional rural mountain economy, many ecosystem functions in the middle Himalayas were of significant value to remote communities through such services as water supply. Therefore, with appropriate institutional development, the Himalayan landscapes could potentially constitute an asset through promotion of managed bioprospecting, guided ecotourism, and payment for ecosystem services (PES) schemes for water supply and under the UN REDD+ programme.