Astrid Hovden – SEMINAR – 21 January

January 7th, 2014 by

Tuesday 21 January


All welcome

The Mond Building Seminar Room

Astrid Hovden

University of Oslo

Five Hundred Years of Flood Management – Environmental Adaption Strategies in a Community in the Nepal Himalayas

It is generally acknowledged that Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) constitute an increasing threat throughout the Himalayas, but little is known about the perspectives and the strategies of the people in the communities at risk. From 2006 to 2011, a series of GLOFs struck Halji village, Limi VDC in the upper Humla district of Nepal and washed away houses, fields, and important infrastructure. Based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork supplemented with the reading of historical documents from the region, this talk will discuss the past and present strategies employed by people in Limi in their efforts to cope with floods. In order to provide a historical perspective, the presentation will discuss an example from the turn of the sixteenth century, when people from Limi were asked to assist villagers from a neighbouring community protecting their monastery from floods. The monastery’s catalogue gives few clues about the cause of the floods, but offers ample information about rituals that were performed, embankments that were built, and about decision making and the capacity to mobilise workers and resources from a large region. Although the socio-political situation of the twenty first century constitutes a very different context, many parallels can be found in the villagers’ response to the recent GLOFs in Limi. The response includes both structural and non-structural measures and has involved appeals to the district and national levels of the Nepali government administration, development organisations, as well as religious authorities. The presentation will present some of the immediate and medium term coping strategies employed and discuss the limits to local adaptive capacity. Because of the recurring floods people have built resilience and have gained experience in how to cope. But the adaptation constitutes a serious strain to local resources and if climate change leads to more frequent and stronger floods in the future more sustainable long term solutions will be needed.