Yadu Pokhrel named Fulbright Scholar

April 25, 2022

MSU civil engineer to study water security in Taiwan

A civil engineer at Michigan State University has been named a Fulbright Scholar and will examine growing issues related to droughts, water scarcity, and flooding in Taiwan. Taiwan is known for the world’s massive semiconductor industry.

Yadu Pokhrel
Yadu Pokhrel

Yadu Pokhrel, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will explore an “unparalleled opportunity” to develop new projects related to the increasing hydroclimatic extremes brought on by climate change. He will be in Taiwan for six months from August 2022, collaborating with scholars at the National Taiwan University and beyond.

“Taiwan is rich in water resources, but it receives over 80 percent of its rain during May to October. A lot of that rain is brought by typhoons which are necessary to fill reservoirs and lakes under normal situations, but too much causes destructive floods. Then, there is little rain during the rest of the year, so there is either too much water from massive typhoons or too little during drought periods,” he said.

Climate change is making the disproportionate rainfall distribution even worse, adding challenges to secure water for drinking, food production, and industry needs.

ASK THE EXPERT: Hear Yadu Pokhrel commenting on Earth Day and the impact of climate change here.

“The 2020-2021 drought was the worst in over a half century,” Pokhrel continued. “Lack of sufficient rainfall caused the reservoirs to dry up, which exposed the vulnerability of Taiwan’s water systems. These changes in water systems have impacted water supplies for all societal sectors including the semiconductor industry, which likely affected the supply of modern gadgets ranging from cars and computers to dishwashers and even toys in the U.S.”

Pokhrel has a growing international reputation for his development and use of novel hydrological models to examine the security of global water, food, and energy systems under climate change and growing human influence such as dam regulation. In 2021, he led a global drought study and was part of an international research team that determined water available in global rivers is at the mercy of climate change. In 2018, he shared $3 million to study issues related to hydropower dams in the Lower Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia, the world’s largest freshwater fishery and home to 60 million people. He also studies the sustainability of hydropower dams in the Amazon River Basin in Brazil. He received the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to advance research and education on water systems management.

His other awards include the MSU Teacher Scholar AwardWithrow Distinguished Scholar Award, and Lilly Teaching Fellow Award.

“The need to better understand climate change is growingly urgent,” Pokhrel added. “Water systems around the world are being increasingly impacted, so my longer-term goal is to develop and sustain collaborations to address climate change impacts on water and food security and societal resilience. Through the Fulbright Award, I aim to substantially expand my research program in Southeast Asia, adding even stronger pillars to my global research portfolio.”

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Since 1946, it has provided more than 400,000 participants from over 160 countries the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright program is an annual appropriation by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.