From building low-cost, easily accessible meteorological stations that help citizen scientists fill data gaps, to securing the grants necessary to purchase vital computer modelling equipment, the Kathmandu Institute of Applied Science is helping Nepal deepen its understanding of how climate change, and drought in particular, affect the country.
“Nepali people talk about floods and landslides—they are visible disasters—but not about drought,” writes environmental scientist Hemu Kafle, the institute’s founder, in a recent feature article for the journal Nature.
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Determined to get Nepalis talking about a dimension of the climate crisis that is having profound impacts on food security, Kafle’s Institute has spent the past three years working on prototypes for low-cost, local meteorological stations that record all the key parameters for understanding drought: rainfall, humidity, temperature, air pressure, and wind speed and direction.
The stations are now up and working, seven years after Kafle began her push to use satellite data to “fill in the gaps and build the whole picture of drought in Nepal.”
Kafle refused to be derailed when her institute at the time declined to supply her with the necessary modelling computer. Instead, with the help of colleagues equally determined to give their country greater agency in its fight against climate change, she established her own institute. The Kathmandu Institute has since produced a drought analysis not only for Nepal, but for parts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
“Thanks to foreign grants, we have a very good institute,” Kafle said, pointing to particular support for “research in wildlife conservation, extreme climatic conditions, and environmental pollution.”
She stressed the value of a new science institute in a country like Nepal, where “so much local research work needs to be done.”