Climate change and water resources in Bhutan
Author Karma Yangzom and Phuntsho Choden
Bhutan is a carbon negative country; however, we are vulnerable to climate change and the impacts of climate change on water resources, agriculture, water hazards such as flash floods, incessant rainfall induces landslides are evident in the country. Water also plays a crucial role in driving some of the major economic sectors of Bhutan.
Hydropower is a climate-sensitive sector as it is completely reliant on water levels and flows in the rivers, which is variable depending on good monsoon years. Threats from climate change may impact the hydrological regime and electricity generation from hydropower. The agriculture sector consumes over 90% of the water resources and employs more than half of the population of Bhutan.
In line with global projections, wet regions will continue to get wetter and dry regions will continue to get drier in Bhutan. The already water-stressed areas may be expected to further exacerbate in the future. An increase and shift in the overall snow and glacial melts is expected due to the implication of increase/ shift in temperature, this will in turn affect river flow. There will be a higher chance of reduced flow during warm and dry period and flooding threats during monsoon season. Bhutan is highly vulnerable to the threats of GLOFs since most of the human settlements and major economic activities are located along the main drainage basins.
As Bhutan’s way forward to a climate resilient society, numerous projects and policies are in place through proper planning and readiness which also proposes short-, medium-, and long-term adaptation measures for various key climate sectors. Agonisingly, they are few and far between leaving the country vulnerable to the threats of climate change leading to too little water in lean season and too much water in summer season.