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Policy Brief: Traditional and Local Knowledge to Disaster Risk Reduction

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This policy brief is part of a project titled “Enhancing ecosystem-based adaptation to disaster risk reduction in the Himalayan river basin: Integrating traditional and local knowledge in disaster management plan in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh” which is funded by Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research. More information about the project can be found on the APN and KIAS websites.

Policy Brief 01: Paudel, P. K., Bohara, M., Timilsina, R. R. C., Bastola, R. (2023). Disaster-proofing our communities: The urgent need for local governments to prioritize development based on risk assessment. Policy Brief No. 01. Center for Conservation Biology, Kathmandu Institute of Applied Sciences, Kathmandu, Nepal.


Designing local development plans that consider site specifc hazard risks is crucial. However, this consideration is often overlooked, even in areas with high hazard risks, resulting in signifcant damage to public resources. This policy brief examines the challenges that arise from ignoring local conditions by using Gobargada, a flood-prone village in Eastern Nepal, as a case study. In this village, local people construct houses using easily disassembled, cost-effective, and easily repairable local resources, whereas the government school consists of permanent concrete buildings that were destroyed due to the shift of the river channel, a regular occurrence in the region. Such inconsistencies in the government’s programs reflect a complete disregard for local circumstances. In conclusion, local governments must prioritize local knowledge in disaster risk reduction to create more sustainable and resilient communities.



Policy Brief 02:Paudel, P. K., Bohara, M., Timilsina, R. R. C., Bastola, R. (2023). Strengthening traditional institutions for community-based disaster risk reduction. Policy Brief No. 02. Center for Conservation Biology, Kathmandu Institute of Applied Sciences, Kathmandu, Nepal.


The Koshi River in Nepal is prone to recurrent flooding. Local communities have been using their indigenous resources and knowledge to manage disasters through local institutions. However, government-led initiatives have largely ignored these institutions, resulting in missed opportunities to utilize proven and widely accepted practices at the local level to address the problem.



Policy Brief 03:Paudel, P. K., Bohara, M., Timilsina, R. R. C. (2023). Local crop varieties strengthen community resilience to disasters: a policy brief for Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Policy Brief No. 03. Center for Conservation Biology, Kathmandu Institute of Applied Sciences, Kathmandu, Nepal.


Agriculture is vital for livelihoods in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Local communities in these countries have developed unique farming systems well-adapted to their environments. This includes the use of local crop varieties with unique traits like flood, drought and disease resistance. Thus, community resilience to disasters was in place for centuries. However, such practices are at risk due to the promotion of foreign and/or hybrid seeds. This policy brief draws case studies from Nepal, India and Bangladesh, and highlights the value of local crop varieties in strengthening community resilience to disasters.



Policy Brief 04: Paudel, P. K., Bohara, M. (2023). Reinvigorating neglected land: a policy brief for harnessing economic opportunities in river floodplains Policy Brief No. 03. Center for Conservation Biology, Kathmandu Institute of Applied Sciences, Kathmandu, Nepal.


Floodplain areas in Nepal have been prime locations for agriculture-related activities, as these areas can be easily irrigated and consist of nutrient-rich soil. However, with the expansion of agricultural infrastructure in other areas (e.g., irrigation systems, chemical fertilizers, high-yielding seeds), many of these floodplains are now abandoned due to the risks of potential flood hazards. The Government of Nepal should focus on harnessing economic opportunities in these areas. This requires tailored-made programs focusing on agriculture production, animal husbandry, fisheries, and nature-based tourism.


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Policy Brief 05: Bohara, M., Paudel, P. K. (2023). Traditional knowledge of planting vegetation on verges and slopes for slope stabilization needs to be promoted in the local development program. Policy Brief No. 05. Center for Conservation Biology, Kathmandu Institute of Applied Sciences, Kathmandu, Nepal.


Landslides and soil erosion represent two common phenomena in mountainous regions, induced by heavy rainfall, floods, and human activities along the slopes. The practice of using vegetation to enhance slope stability is established in mountainous areas in Nepal and is deeply ingrained in traditional farming management, such as hedgerows, slope site plantation and agroforestry. Such techniques are gradually diminishing within the newer generations due to shifts in livelihood practices and a growing emphasis on engineering-based solutions. We advocate the integration of these practices into local development programs, which predominantly prioritize costly measures like embankments, gabion walls, and roadside canals. This shift not only offsets cost but also provides multiple benefits, including soil protection, the increase of green spaces, and biodiversity. There is a need for guidelines to promote traditional knowledge of planting vegetation on verges and slopes for slope stabilization.


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