GLOFs threaten Hindu Kush region

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Mar 27, 2018-

Melting glaciers continue to pose serious environmental threats to the communities of the Hindu Kush region, with the latest report identifying 36 glacial lakes in Gilgit-Baltistan valleys as dangerous.

According to the survey conducted by Focus Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation, at least seven of them pose a major threat to the people living downstream.  

“The Khurdopin Glacier has touched the mountain which has formed a small lake,” observed Dr Nazeer Ahmed of Focus Pakistan. 

“The lake is frozen at the moment, but when the ice starts melting the flow of water would be intense. 

We are not predicting immense damage, but footbridges and Shimshal Valley, which is very narrow in nature; the road there might get affected.” 

Several studies conducted over the years have confirmed that changing climate because of the rising greenhouse gas emissions have left adverse impact on the environment in the region. 

The rising temperatures have contributed to excessive melting of snow and triggered natural disaster events like landslides, flash floods, and drought in recent years. 

Rated as the fourth most vulnerable country in terms of climate change impacts Nepal has also been witnessing impacts of climate change on its Himalayas. 

Persistent rise in temperature accountable for excessive glacier melting have formed glacial lakes in the Himalayas. Such phenomenon has intensified the possibility of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs).

In 2016, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) had warned that six glacial lakes in the high Himalayas were at serious risk of outburst. 

Tsho Rolpa of Dolakha, Imja, West Chambling and Lumdi glacier of Solukhumbu district, Thulagi of Manang district and Lower Barun of Sankhuwasabha district were identified as the ones posing high risk. 

Thanks to the Nepal Army, which worked continuously for eight months in 2016 to bring down the water level by 3.4 metres to avert the danger. 

Another study ‘Identification of Hazard and Risk for Glacial Lakes in the Nepal Himalaya Using Satellite Imagery from 2000–2015,’ had identified 131 glacial lakes in Nepal in 2015 that were greater than 0.1 square kilometres. 

After performing a first-pass hazard and risk assessment for each lake, the report had concluded that Nepal had 11 lakes as ‘very high risk’ and 31 as ‘high risk’.

According to the report, glacial lakes in Nepal’s Himalayas can threaten downstream communities and have large socio-economic consequences in the event of an outburst floods.

Published: 27-03-2018 07:47

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