Student-led efforts for flood mitigation in Nepal

A team of students from Aalto University embarked on a mission to Nepal as part of the Sustainable Global Technologies (SGT) programme to collaborate with local institutions and address the pressing issue of flooding in the Himalayan region in Nepal.
SGT programme, PBL South Asia project, Flood-prone village. Source: Csongor Hönich 2022.
SGT programme, PBL South Asia project, Flood-prone village. Source: Csongor Hönich 2022.

As part of the Problem-Based Learning South Asia collaboration, this student challenge was a collaboration between Aalto University’s SGT programme students and students and faculty from Sagarmatha Engineering College and Nepal Engineering College

Nepal is facing severe impacts of climate change due to its geographical positioning, and experiencing various types of floods, making it a crucial area for intervention. The student challenge aimed to raise awareness about the risks of flooding and empower local communities with effective mitigation strategies. The objectives of the project were to enhance the resilience of flood-prone communities by facilitating the transfer of knowledge from experts to locals, thereby enabling them to better prepare for and mitigate flood-related risks. With climate change leading to more frequent and unpredictable flood events, the need for community resilience has never been more urgent.

To achieve these objectives, the team crafted human-centric solutions, including the development of informative posters detailing flood protection and prevention measures tailored to local contexts. These posters, intended for distribution within the communities, aim to improve resilience and knowledge dissemination.

A crucial aspect of the project involved on-the-ground research, conducted during a study trip to Nepal in April 2022. Through interviews, surveys, and collaboration with local experts and academic institutions, the teams from Finland and Nepal gained invaluable insights into the realities of flood-prone communities and the challenges they face. One striking revelation from the fieldwork was the resilience and solidarity displayed by communities in the face of adversity. In villages like those along the River Seti, where the threat of flooding looms large, residents have come together to implement innovative solutions, such as community-funded infrastructure projects aimed at flood prevention.

Despite economic challenges and the allure of lucrative activities like river mining and fishing that draw people to flood-prone areas, the teams recognized the importance of information dissemination as a key strategy for mitigating risks. As a result, the Aalto team prepared a comprehensive catalogue of flood mitigation solutions implemented across South Asia, with a focus on the Himalayan region. This resource, set to be published online and distributed in print across Nepali villages, aims to equip communities with the knowledge and tools needed to combat flooding effectively.

The student challenge and fieldwork provided invaluable insights into flood mitigation strategies and facilitated personal and professional growth among team members. Cultural differences encountered during interactions with local experts served as learning opportunities, enhancing the team's cross-cultural communication skills and fostering a deeper appreciation for multicultural collaboration.

Reflecting on their journey, the team members expressed gratitude to their mentors and collaborators for their invaluable support and guidance throughout the project. The dedication, innovation, and collaborative spirit of the student teams and local stakeholders exemplify the transformative power of education in addressing pressing global challenges.

More information is available here.

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