Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
In This Section

Change and Adaptation in Socio-Ecological Systems

Climate Change, Social Changes, Technological Development

Ed. by Fürst, Christine / Geneletti, Davide

1 Issue per year

Emerging Science

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
In This Section

Climate Change and Rural Out-migration in Himalaya

Prakash C. Tiwari
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Geography, Kumaon University, Nainital 263002, Uttarkhand, India
/ Bhagwati Joshi
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Geography, Government Post Graduate College, Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, India
Published Online: 2015-10-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cass-2015-0002


This paper examines linkages between climate change and rural out-migration in Himalaya. Subsistence agriculture constitutes the main source of food and rural livelihoods in the region although the availability of arable land is severely limited and crop productivity is low. The constraints of the subsistence economy compel a large proportion of the adult male population to outmigrate from the mountain region in search of livelihoods and employment. Changing climatic conditions have stressed Himalayan agricultural and livelihood systems through higher mean annual temperatures and melting of glaciers and snow, altered precipitation patterns and hydrological disruptions, and more frequent and severe extreme weather events. The amount of rainfall events and number of rainy days has declined respectively by 52% and 34% during the last ten years and the incidence of high intensity rainfall and droughts have increased. These changes have disrupted the hydrological systems and reduced the availability of water resulting in frequent crop failures, declines in irrigation potential (25%), decreased agricultural productivity (26%), and loss of rural livelihoods (34%) in traditional rural sectors. These pressures have contributed to increasing trends of rural out-migration, specifically an overall increase of 2536% between 2001 and 2013. The increasing trend of outmigration among male youth has affected the quality of life of rural women through feminization of mountain agriculture and resource development processes.

Keywords : Rainfall variability; extreme weather events; decline in agricultural productivity; loss of rural livelihoods; feminization of agriculture; climate change


  • [1] UNEP-WCMC, Mountain Watch: Environmental change and sustainable development in mountains. UNEP, Nairobi, 2012, www.ourplanet.com/wcmc/pdfs/mountains.pdf

  • [2] Huddleston B., Atamam E., Towards a GIS-based analysis of mountain environments and populations. Environment and Natural Resources Working Paper No. 10, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 2003

  • [3] Viviroli D., Archer D.R., Buytaert W., Fowler H.J., Greenwood G.B., Hamlet A.F., et al, Climate change and mountain water resources: overview and recommendations for research, management and policy, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 2011, 15, 471-504

  • [4] ICIMOD, Mountains of the World –Ecosystem services in a time of global and climate change: Seizing opportunities – Meeting challenges, framework paper prepared for the Mountain Initiative of the Government of Nepal by ICIMOD and the Government of Nepal, Ministry of Environment, 2010

  • [5] Meybeck M., Green P., Vörösmarty C., A new typology for mountains and other relief classes: An application to global continental water resources and population distribution, Mountain Research and Development, 2001, 21, 34-45

  • [6] Sonesson, M., Messerli B., The Abisko Agenda: Research for mountain area development (Eds.), Ambio Special Report 11, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, 2002

  • [7] Tiwari, P.C., Land Use Changes in Himalaya and their impact on the plains ecosystem: need for sustainable land use, Land Use Policy, 2000, 17, 101-111

  • [8] Anmol J., Labour migration and remittances in Uttarakhand - Case study report, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal, 2011

  • [9] Eriksson M., Jianchu X., Shrestha A.B., Vaidya R.A., Nepal S., Sandström K., The changing Himalayas: Impact of climate change on water resources and livelihoods in the greater Himalayas, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal, 2009

  • [10] Messerli, B., Ives J. D., Mountains of the world – A global priority, A contribution to Chapter 13 of Agenda 21, Parthenon, New York, 1997

  • [11] IFAD, Rural poverty: The challenge of ending rural poverty report, Oxford University Press, 2001

  • [12] FAO, Food security in mountains – High time for action: Brochure of the International Mountain Day, 2008 http://www. fao.org/fileadmin/templates/mountainday/docs/pdf_2008/ IMD08_leaflet_En_LR.pdf

  • [13] United Nations, Report of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, United Nations, New York, 2012

  • [14] Borsdorf A., Tappeiner U., Tasser E., Mapping the Alps, In: Borsdorf A., Grabherr G., Heinrich K., Scott B., Stötter J. (Eds.), Challenges for mountain regions: Tackling complexity, Böhlau, Vienna, 2010

  • [15] Haigh M., Headwater control: Integrating land and livelihoods, Paper presented at the International Conference on Sustainable Development of Headwater Resources, United Nation’s International University, Nairobi, Kenya, 2002

  • [16] UNDP, Summary of implications from the East Asia and South Asia consultations: Asia Pacific human development report on climate change, Colombo: UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Centre, Human Development Report Unit, 2010

  • [17] Woodroffe C.D., Nicholls R.J., Saito Y., Chen Z., Goodbred S.L., Landscape variability and the response of Asian mega deltas to environmental change, In: Harvey, N. (Ed.) Global change and integrated coastal management: The Asia-Pacific Region, Springer, 2006, 277–314

  • [18] Macintosh D., Asia, eastern, coastal ecology. In: Schwartz, M. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of coastal science, Springer, Dordrecht, 56–67, 2005

  • [19] Maithani B.P., Towards sustainable hill area development - Himalaya: Man, nature and culture, 1996, 16, 4-7

  • [20] Tiwari P.C., Joshi B., Environmental changes and sustainable development of water resources in the Himalayan headwaters of India, International Journal of Water Resource Management, 2012, 26, 883–907, DOI: 10.1007/s11269-011-9825-y [Crossref]

  • [21] Hassan R., Scholes R., Ash N., Ecosystems and human well-being: Current state and trends, Volume 1: Findings of the condition and trends, Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, (Eds.), Island Press, Washington, 2005

  • [22] IPCC, Climate change 2014: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability, Part A: Global and sectoral aspects, Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Summary for policymakers, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, USA, 2014, 1-32

  • [23] IPCC, Climate change 2007: The scientific basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, USA, 2007

  • [24] Tiwari P.C., Joshi B., Natural and socio-economic drivers of food security in Himalaya, International Journal of Food Security, 2012, 4, 195-207, DOI: 10.1007/s12571-012-0178-z [Crossref]

  • [25] Yao T., Duan K., Xu B., Wang N., Guo X.,Yang X., Ice core precipitation record in Central Tibetan plateau since AD 1600: Climate of the past discussions, European Geosciences Union (EGU), 2008, 4, 233-248

  • [26] Du M.Y., Kawashima S., Yonemura S., Zhang X.Z., Chen S.B., Mutual influence between human activities and climate change in the Tibetan plateau during recent years, Global and Planetary Change, 2004, 41, 241-249

  • [27] Ouyang H., Climate changes and water resources management in the HKH region: Strategy and implementation, Paper Presented at ICIMOD-MAIRS joint International Workshop on Climate Change Impacts on Water/Land and Adaptation Strategies in the Tibet-Himalayan Region, Pokhara, Nepal, 27 – 29 June, 2012

  • [28] Mukhophadayay S.C., Glaciers and water source appraisal of Himalaya with special reference to Central Himalaya, Uttaranchal, In: Rawat M.S.S. (Ed.), Resource appraisal, technology application, and environmental challenges in Central Himalaya, Vol 1. Transmedia, Srinagar, Uttarakhand, 106–119, 2006

  • [29] Xu J., Shrestha A., Vaidya R., Eriksson M., Hewitt K., Melting Himalayas: regional challenges and local impacts of climate change on mountain ecosystems and livelihoods, Status Report, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal, 2007

  • [30] Rawat J.S., Saving Himalayan rivers: developing spring sanctuaries in headwater regions, In: Shah B. L. (Ed.), Natural resource conservation in Uttarakhand, Ankit Prakshan, Haldwani, India, 41-69, 2009

  • [31] Seko K., Yabuki H., Nakawo M., Sakai A., Kadota T., Yamada Y., Changing surface features of Khumbu glacier, Nepal Himalayas revealed by SPOT images, Bulletin of Glaciological Research, 1998, 16, 33-41

  • [32] Kadota T., Seko K., Aoki T., Iwata S., Yamaguchi S., Shrinkage of the Khumbu glacier, east Nepal from 1978 to 1995, Debris Covered Glaciers, IAHS Publication No. 264, Wallingford, UK, 2000, 235-243

  • [33] Fujita K., Kadota T., Rana B., Shrestha R.B., Ageta Y., Shrinkage of glacier AX010 in Shorong Region, Nepal Himalayas, in the 1990s, Bulletin of Glaciological Research, 2001, 18, 51-54

  • [34] Tiwari P.C., Land use changes in Himalaya and their impacts on environment, society and economy: A study of the Lake Region in Kumaon Himalaya, India, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 2008, 25, 1029-1042

  • [35] Tiwari P.C., Joshi B., Environmental changes and status of water resources in Kumaon Himalaya, In: Libor J., Haigh M., Prasad H. (Eds.), Sustainable management of headwater resources: research from Africa and Asia, United Nations University, Tokyo, 2005, 109-123

  • [36] Oki T., Global water resources assessment under climatic change in 2050 using TRIP’, Water resources systems – Water availability and global change, IAHS Publ. No. 280, Fontainebleau, France: IAH, 2003

  • [37] Stern N., Peters S., Bakhshi V., Bowen A., Cameron C., Catovsky S., et al., Stern review: The economics of climate change, HM Treasury, London, UK, 2006

  • [38] Kohler T., Maselli D., Mountains and climate change – From understanding to action, Geographica Bernensia, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Bern, 2009

  • [39] IPCC, Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, Working Group II contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007

  • [40] Beniston M., Mountain climates and climatic change: An overview of processes focusing on the European Alps, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 2005, 162, 1587-1606

  • [41] Mool P., Glacial lakes and glacial lake outburst floods, ICIMOD Mountain Development Profile, MDP 2, Kathmandu, ICIMOD, 2001

  • [42] Yamada T., Monitoring of glacier lake and its outburst floods in Nepal Himalaya, Monograph No. 1., Tokyo: Japanese Society of Snow and Ice, 1998

  • [43] Joshi S.C., Joshi D.R., Dani D.D., Kumaun Himalaya: A perspective on resource development, Gayanodaya Prakashan, Nainital, India, 1983

  • [44] Tiwari P.C., Joshi B., Environmental changes and their impact on rural water, food, livelihood, and health security in Kumaon Himalaya, International Journal of Urban and Regional Studies on Contemporary India, 2014, 1, 1–12

  • [45] Tiwari P.C., Joshi B., Land use changes and their impact on water resources in Himalaya, In Malik A., Grohmann E., Akhtar R. (Eds.), Environmental deterioration and human health: Natural and anthropogenic determinants, Springer Science and Business Media, Dordrecht, 2014, 389-399, DOI: 10.1007/978- 94-007-7890-0-18 [Crossref]

  • [46] Aase H.A., Chapagain P., Tiwari, P.C., Innovation as an expression of adaptive capacity to change in Himalayan farming: Mountain research and development, 2013, 33, 4–10, DOI: 10.1659/MRD-Journal-D-12-00025.1 [Crossref]

  • [47] UNEP, The fall of water, United Nations Environment Programme, 2004, GRID-Arendal. http://www.grida.no/_ documents/himalreport_scr.pdf

  • [48] Sherpa D., New vulnerabilities for mountain women: A different light on the Greater Himalaya, Status Report, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal, 2007

  • [49] Hoermann B., Kollmair M., Labour migration and remittances in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, Status Report, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal, 2007

  • [50] Kollmair M., Manandhar S., Subedi B., Thieme S., New figures for old stories: Migration and remittance in Nepal, Migration Letters, 2006, 3, 151 – 160

  • [51] Rasmussen S.F., Parvez S., Sustaining mountain economies: Sustainable livelihoods and poverty alleviation, Thematic Paper for Bishkek Global Mountain Summit, UNEP, 2002

  • [52] Leduc B., Shrestha A., Gender and climate change in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas: Nepal, Case study report, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal, 2008

  • [53] Tiwari P.C., Joshi B., Changing monsoon pattern and its impact on water resources in Himalaya: Responses and adaptation, In: Palutikof J., Boulter S.L., Ash A.J., Smith M.S., Parry M., Waschka M., Guitart D. (Eds.), Climate adaptation futures, Wiley Publishing Company, U.K., 2013, 633-644

  • [54] Joshi B., Tiwari P.C., Women and sustainable mountain development: An illustration of Indigenous women’s adaptation to climate change in Himalaya, In: Aneel S.S., Haroon U.T., Niazi, I. (Eds.), Proceedings of sixteenth sustainable development conference, Creating momentum: Today is tomorrow, Islamabad: Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad, 2013, 131–144

About the article

Received: 2014-11-10

Accepted: 2015-03-30

Published Online: 2015-10-09

Citation Information: Change and Adaptation in Socio-Ecological Systems, ISSN (Online) 2300-3669, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cass-2015-0002. Export Citation

© 2015 Prakash C. Tiwari, Bhagwati Joshi. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in