Open Access Article

Title: The costs of adaptation: changes in water availability and farmers' responses in Punakha district, Bhutan

Authors: Koen Kusters; Norbu Wangdi

Addresses: Wereld in Woorden – Global Research and Reporting, Eerste van Swindenstraat 391-I, 1093 GB Amsterdam, the Netherlands ' Department of Water Resources, Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment, Lamai Goempa, Bumthang, Bhutan

Abstract: There is growing evidence that monsoon patterns are changing in the Himalayan region, which could potentially result in loss and damage for local farmers. To understand how farmers adapt to changes in water availability, we conducted a study in Punakha district, Bhutan, using qualitative and quantitative research tools. According to 91% of 273 respondents, water availability for rice irrigation has been decreasing over the last 20 years due to changing rainfall. Most of them have taken measures in response. They may, for example, invest in the maintenance of irrigation channels, develop or modify water-sharing mechanisms, or shift to crops that need less water than rice. Of these farmers, however, 88% indicate that their adaptation measures are insufficient. Moreover, they come with extra costs. We argue that these costs should not only be conceived in monetary terms, but also in terms of time investment, social-cohesion and livelihood security.

Keywords: climate change; slow-onset changes; adaptation costs; household loss; household damage; rice irrigation; water availability; paddy cultivation; monsoon rains; monsoon patterns; Himalaya region; Punakha district; Bhutan; farmer response; agriculture; rainfall changes; coping strategies; social cohesion; livelihood security.

DOI: 10.1504/IJGW.2013.057287

International Journal of Global Warming, 2013 Vol.5 No.4, pp.387 - 399

Received: 05 Feb 2013
Accepted: 16 Aug 2013

Published online: 22 Oct 2013 *