Karnali River System

Karnali river basin, drains most of the mid and far western development region of Nepal. Karnali river system also originates from Macha-khabab of Tibet and flows through Nepal and meets Ghaghara river in India. Karnali river is the longest river (507 km) flowing through Nepal along with other snow-fed rivers constitute Karnali river system. More than 90% area of the basin lies in Nepal (Panthi et al. 2018). Humla Karnali originates in Tibet and meets Mugu Karnali at Galwa forming the Karnali river. West Seti, Bheri, Kawari and Tila rivers are other tributaries of Karnali river system.

Karnali basin comprises 1,459 glaciers and 742 glacial lakes with Nepal (CBS 2019). Karnali basin receives about 80% of precipitation during summer monsoon (Khatiwada et al. 2016); while the region suffers winter drought most frequently. The average annual precipitation of basin is about 1479 mm (Khatiwada et al. 2016). The mean annual flow of Karnali basin is about 1392 m3/s at Chisapani.

Karnali river basin is the most vulnerable towards climate change in Nepal. Among them Upper Karnali watershed, Mugu Karnali Watershed and Budhi Ganga Watershed the most vulnerable ones (Siddiqui et al. 2012). Thus, these watersheds are at higher risk from hazards like landslides, flood, droughts, food insecurity and frequent intensive rainstorms.





Siddiqui, S., Bharati, L., Panta, M., Gurung, P., Rakhal, B., & Magarjan, L. D. (2012). Climate change and vulnerability mapping in Watersheds in Middle and High Mountains of Nepal. Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management (DSCWM), Government of Nepal.

Khatiwada, K., Panthi, J., Shrestha, M., & Nepal, S. (2016). Hydro-climatic variability in the Karnali river basin of Nepal Himalaya. Climate, 4, 17.

Panthi, J., Khatiwada, K., Shrestha, M. L., & Dahal, P. (2018). Water poverty in the context of climate change: a case study from Karnali river basin in Nepal Himalaya. International Journal of River Basin Management, 1-16. doi: 10.1080/15715124.2018.1531421

CBS. (2019). Environment statistics of Nepal. National Planning Commission, Government of Nepal