Page last updated at 06:48 GMT, Friday, 28 August 2009 07:48 UK

Oxfam warning over Nepal climate

By Joanna Jolly
BBC News, Kathmandu

Streams have dried to a trickle in Nepal's villages

International aid agency Oxfam has warned that millions of rural poor in Nepal could face hunger as a result of climate change.

A report says that poor harvests, water shortages and extreme temperatures will put pressure on millions of Nepalis already living below the poverty line.

Nepal is only just emerging from a decade-long civil conflict.

The report comes ahead of a summit in the capital, Kathmandu, on the threat of climate change to the Himalayas.

Millions of people are dependent on the water which flows from the mountains.

It is also just 100 days until world leaders come together to discuss a new global climate change treaty in Copenhagen in December.

Nepal has experienced its driest winter in 40 years, followed by late and unpredictable monsoon rains, and this has meant the land is more susceptible to erosion.

But the prolonged drought has had a bigger impact.

Grim situation

Several million villagers living in Nepal's hills are facing water shortages which have, in turn, led to falling crop yields.

A lack of ground water has also contributed to the spread of diseases such as diarrhoea, as villagers use dirty streams and rivers for drinking water.

Prabin Man Singh from the international aid agency Oxfam said the change in weather patterns was putting more pressure on the rural poor.

"The people living in the rural areas were already having lots of problems in their livelihoods. But with the climate change, the whole scenario, the whole struggle of their survival has been exaggerated," he said.

Residents in the affected area have expressed their concerns about the nature of the problem.

In the remote village of Bhattegaun in western Nepal, the stream that provides water has dried up to a thin trickle.

Residents here have complained about water shortages in the area.

"We do not get a good production from agriculture at all. We cannot depend on farming and irrigation to make a living or educate our children," 35-year-old Naina Shahi told the BBC.

The changes seen in Nepal's climate over the past few years - drier winters, unreliable monsoon rains - are in line with what climate scientists are predicting will happen as the Earth gets warmer.

Oxfam has called on leaders from the world's richest countries to help Nepal better adapt to the effects of climate change when they meet to discuss the issue in Copenhagen this December.

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