Another October, another trip to Nepal. This trip however, concludes my tour of the major tributaries of the Ganga River, as we are working along the Karnali River in west Nepal. Two weeks ago, the five of us left Edinburgh as part of a small project funded by a EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund award to investigate geomorphically induced flooding along the Karnali River. I like to think the acronym KRUSTY (Karnali River: Understanding Sediment Transport dYnamics) will eventually catch on, but we will see. The added excitement of staying in the Bardia National Park promised for a very different trip to Nepal, dominated by jungles and wildlife, rather than the stereotypical mountains and steep hillside terraces which are typically associated with the Himalayas.
Unlike previous trips, it’s fair to say we had an excessive amount of equipment, which miraculously all made it through to Kathmandu. A lot of this equipment was fairly new to the group, so I’d spent a lot of time during the weeks before heading out testing and making sure everything was working and also more importantly, making sure that we all knew how to work it! This is often more stressful than the actual field trip….
Our work on the Karnali River builds from a collaboration with Practical Action (an international NGO), which started following the Ghorka earthquake last year. One of Practical Action’s big projects out in Nepal is developing flood resilience along the Karnali River in the Terai (downstream of the mountain front) region of Nepal, where a number of large floods have devastated this region in recent years. Funded by Zurich Insurance, a huge amount of work has been put in to develop safe houses, early warning systems and evacuation procedures for the populations living on these very low relief floodplain regions. The aim of our collaboration is to understand how sediment dynamics in these channels, which are very unstable and mobile, influence flood risk and how channel incision and aggradation could influence when these early warning systems (based on water level readings at a single gauging station) are triggered. Existing data in this region is pretty sparse, so the main goal of this trip was to collect detailed discharge, channel geometry, suspended sediment and floodplain elevation data which will be fed into a 2D fully coupled water-sediment model when we get back to Edinburgh.
Like all good fieldtrips, not everything has run smoothly and there have certainly been a few hiccups along the way. Flipping the ADCP over in the river in front of the Deputy General of the Nepalese Department Of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) probably wasn’t our finest hour….Hugh’s stomach finally gave in, losing its once indestructible status, and Maggie managed to talk her way out of a marriage proposal from a passing Nepali successfully.
Our few days off in Bardia National Park have started with a bang. Staying at Bardia Adventure Resort (http://www.bardia-adventure.com/), our first day off in the trip couldn’t have been anything other than a safari walk through the jungle. Within five minutes of entering, our guide Gautam paused and whispered that there were tigers nearby. Thinking this was some kind of ploy to excite us as tourists, Hugh marched ahead before stopping very abruptly and running back down the track with Gautam gesturing at us to run. They had stumbled into a family of tigers, a mother with four cubs, playing in the long grass at the edge of the track. Hugh had quite literally, stumbled into a tigers nest with nothing but a man and a long stick to protect us. A glimpse of the mother tiger crossing the track was more than enough for the rest of us! With Hugh and Mikael heading back to the UK tomorrow, Maggie and Laura and I are staying out for an extra week to finish off surveying and enjoying the Diwali celebrations over the next couple of days.