Following the Gandaki river from peaks to plains

Himalayas to Ocean (H2O) follows the Gandaki river in Nepal from high up in the Himalayan peaks to hundreds of kilometres further downstream in the country’s floodplains. Along the way, it recounts the stories of those who live at the water’s edge – the women, men and children who rely on this vital resource for their daily survival – and the way their lives are inevitably tied to the fate of water in a changing climate.

At first glance, water is plentiful in Nepal. The country’s 6,000 rivers and its glaciers are major sources, ensuring a year-round water supply to millions of people in South Asia. Yet, the Himalayas are currently undergoing dramatic changes and are estimated to be warming three times faster than the global average. Nepal has already been ranked by the Climate Change Risk Atlas (2010) as the fourth most vulnerable country in terms of impacts of climate change; by 2050, parts of the Himalayas could see a 4-5 oC warming.

However, the impacts of climate change in Nepal extend far beyond the melting of iconic glaciers in the high Himalayas. Shifts in the hydrological cycle are leading to more erratic monsoon rains, and extreme rainfall events becoming less frequent but more intense in nature. Such changes are likely to lead to an increase in natural disasters such as floods, landslides, droughts, springs drying up, fire and storms.

Join us here for a preview of our expedition along the Gandaki River in Nepal, beginning with the above video trailer, from the high Himalayas of Mustang to the low floodplains of Nawalparasi. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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‘Siao is Siao', Apples are a Headache

In the upper reaches of the Gandaki river, on the flanks of three of the world's highest peaks, we meet Kamala. Her presence is every bit as towering as the mountains that surround us. Gentle but ambitious, Kamala runs the local women’s coop, a restaurant and guesthouse, and her family’s apple orchard. The rhythms of daily life here feel timeless: the morning chants of Buddhist monks echo over the valley as they have for centuries, and families carve their livelihoods from the same traditions as their ancestors. Yet for Kamala and her surrounding community, change is afoot. Traditional livelihoods are threatened as rapidly as the glaciers above. Join us as Kamala recounts her life story at the river’s edge: a story that weaves water and weather, old traditions and new developments, and the mysterious case of migrating apples.

 
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Damned if they do, damned if they don’t: Crumbling mountains and blocked rivers

In Ullikhola we meet Dodiram, an old man with a lifetime of wisdom and a mission to save his village. Here in the Himalayan mid-hills, his village has the infamous title of being the home of one of Nepal’s largest landslide. Ullikhola sits on the banks of the Badhighat river - tributary of the Kali Gandaki - where the river picks up force, fed by countless glacial runoffs upstream and by the monsoon deluge in the summer. The villagers know these dangers acutely, yet even they cannot explain the increasingly intense rains which seem to erode the flanks with more vigour every passing year. What happens when half a mountain falls away? What happens to those who are trapped between sliding slopes, crumbling rocks and unruly currents? Join us in exploring the complex and intertangled lives of Dodiram and other members of the community as they fight to protect their village from the devastation of the ongoing landslide. 

 
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Global change, local balance: Changing livelihoods at the end of the road

Further south, the climate is hot and humid, and the mid-hills turn to lower lush green foothills covered in tall trees, colourful flowers and flourishing fields. In Durlunga, a small indigenous village that is a four-hour journey by foot from the nearest accessible road, the beauty, peace and quiet seem to only be interrupted by the joyful sound of children playing, climbing trees and chasing goats. Yet Anumaya and Rami, two widows of Durlunga tell us of another reality. Like that of all other women in the village, their lives and daily chores, which include farming, cleaning and cooking, are intrinsically linked with water. When water is too scarce or too abundant, they face little choice but to work harder, longer and further to meet their basic needs. Landslides may have severed road access to Durlunga from the outside world, but this is the story of how global forces shape local lives; young men migrate overseas for labour work leaving those left behind to bear the brunt of a changing climate. Join us as we follow the stories of Anumaya and Rami, and share their fears and their hopes of a better future for themselves, their children and their community.

 
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Floating Rhinos & Flooded Realities: Living in the Gandaki River Floodplains

The story of Nawalparasi is one of immersion in floodwaters and in new realities for those that call this floodplain home. The land of glaciers, treacherous mountain conditions, landslides, and white water are now far behind us. Here, the river meanders through lush jungles and verdant green rice paddies. Yet not all waters are calm. Arjun, a hotel owner, and Keshari, a flood-displaced widow, mother of two and farmer, share their stories of life at the water’s edge with us. They speak of turbulent waters and emotional turmoil, as their lives and livelihoods are threatened by increasingly severe and frequent floods, such as those that struck the southern part of the country in August, indirectly affecting two million Nepalese. Their emotions and experiences bring to light surreal stories that reflect their changing circumstance. Join us as meet those charting a strange new landscape, one being already transformed by anthropogenic climate change. 

 
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