Back to top

Nepal reduced climate risk in Everest region

November 10, 2017
Nepal reduced climate risk in Everest region

As the Earth’s temperature rises, many glaciers atop the Himalayas are in retreat. That can cause disaster for mountain communities, as melting ice feeds glacial lakes that overflow and wash out everything in their path – a phenomenon known as Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs for short).
As awareness has grown, so have local fears, and governments in the region have been taking increasing measures to prevent such disasters. But there are major challenges to working at such high altitudes.
Nepal managed to lower the level of the Imja glacial lake by 3.4 metres in 2016. The lake sits at about 5,010 metres above sea level and there’s no road access, so materials had to be flown in by helicopter. Work on Imja Lake finally wrapped up at the end of November 2016, but only after it had taken six months for the army and about 100 volunteers from nearby communities to dig a channel to divert some of the water in order avoid the risk of a GLOF.
It was Nepal’s second such project. In 2000, the government lowered the level of the Tsho Rolpa glacial lake. It had increased from 0.23 square kilometres to 1.53 square kilometres over the course of five decades posing threats to the people and the million dollar investments down stream.

It’s not just Nepal at risk. Glaciers throughout the Himalayan region are melting. This means the volume of water in glacial lakes increases, but it also means that the natural barrier walls of the lake may crumble. Many barriers are formed from rocks and sediment fused to an internal core of ice, which is itself melting in some cases.

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, based in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, has documented 35 GLOF events in Nepal, Bhutan, and the Chinese autonomous region of Tibet over the past few decades. In one of the most deadly GLOF events in the Himalayan region, Bhutan’s Lugge Tsho Lake burst in 1994. At least 20 people were killed, along with livestock critical to the economic survival of the people who live in the mountainous region. The flood also damaged more than a dozen houses and other infrastructures.

Most GLOF events in the Himalayas take place in remote areas where there are few if any people, and they may even go unnoticed. But with global warming, the threat has increased greatly. Imja Lake did not even exist a few decades ago, but it started to grow rapidly in recent years and was deemed a serious threat by Nepali authorities.

Part of that risk was its location. Imja Lake is in the Everest region, an area popular with trekkers, as well as a home to Sherpa villagers who survive partly on the tourism dollars they bring.
The government has installed an early warning system in six highly vulnerable settlements on the Everest trekking trails. Local people from downstream are trained for “Imja Glacial Lake Outburst flood Risk Management” to build a resilient community for climate induced disaster in Dudh Koshi River Basin. Ngawang Tshering Sherpa from Toktok in Khumbu-Pasanglhamu rural municipality is one of the youths to take such training.
Karma Sherpa, who lives below Imja Lake in the village of Dangboche, said he and his family fled their homes twice last summer when small floods occurred, because they were afraid a GLOF might follow. He said the government’s initiative to drain the lake and set up a warning system has brought peace of mind.
  • Smoke emitted from a hotel in Debuche as the sun sets in Mt. Everest is reflected in the glass of dinning room. The smoke comes from the heating system for the dinning room. Recent study has shown that black carbon from such smoke is also cause for faster retreat of glaciers in Himalaya Region. Solukhumbu District, Nepal.
    November 20, 2016
    Solukhumbu Nepal
  • The frazile Imja Glacial Lake, one of the biggest glacial lakes in Everest Region of Nepal Himalaya. It is located at an altitude of 5010 meters above the sea level. Till 1960 there were small lakes in Imja Glacier. But dut to rise in temperature bacause of climate change, the lake has incresed to 1.28 square kilometers now. The depth of the glacial lake is 150 meters. Solukhumbu District , Nepal
    November 23, 2016.
    Solukhumbhu Nepal
  • Settlement at the frontline of climate change disaster. Jorsalle village on the flood plain of Dhud Koshi River, Solukhumbu District, Nepal. Due to climate change , increasing glacial lake upstream pose a threat to the down stream valley. Most of the houses in the settlement are hotels for tourists . Solukhumbu Nepal.
    November 25, 2016.
    Solukhumbu Nepal
  • Namche Bazaar during evening, the getaway to Everest. Thousands of local people, tourists guide earn their livelihood in Everest region due to the tourism. Many tourists, guides and local people are unaware of the threat posed by the Glacial Lake upstream. Solukhumbu District, Nepal. November 19, 2016.
    Solukhubu Nepal
  • Ajit Rai and his wife Ranjita Rai works as labourer in Dengboche Village, the way to Imja Glacier and Everest Base Camp. Ajit Says, " Last year a small flash flood tiggred from other glaicial lake that mixed with imja river, although ,it only destroyed one bridge near Dengboche, it has made me to think more about safety of my family". Solukhumbu District, Nepal.
    November 22, 2016.
    Solukhumbu Nepal
  • The controlled exit cannel built by Nepal Army in Imja Glacial Lake. Nepal recently managed to lower the level of the Imja glacial lake by 3.4 metres. The lowering project has tried its best to use locally available materials to make the cannel. Solukhumbu District Nepal.
    November 23, 2016.
    Solukhumbu Nepal
  • Local Monks from Everest region perform religious rituals during the completion ceremony of much-awaited Imja Lake Lowering Project on 23 November 2016. The lowering project involved the local people to keep the respect of indigenous people's belief. Local Sherpa people believe that these mountains and lakes are home of their god.
    November 23, 2016.
    Solukhumbu Nepal
  • Lakpa Themba Sherpa from Chaurkharka , Banker, member of community based Disaster Risk Reduction task force shows the equipment for first aid and light search and rescue supported by Community Based Flood and Glacial Lake Outburst Flood Risk Reduction Project in Solukhumbu, District Nepal.
    November 18, 2016.
    Solukhumbu Nepal
  • Early warning system installed in Phungithanka Village . The government has installed early warning system in six highly vulnerable settlements on the Everest trekking trails. The early warning system will get automated warning message from Automated Hydromet Sensor installed in Imja Glacial Lake. Phungithanka village, Solukhumbu District, Nepal.
    November 20, 2016.
    Solukhumbu Nepal
  • Local people from downstream are trained for “Imja Glacial Lake Outburst flood Risk Management” to build a resilient community for climate induced disaster in Dudh Koshi River Basin. Ngawang Tshering Sherpa from Toktok in Khumbu-Pasanglhamu rural municipality is one of the youths to take such training.
    July 25, 2017
    Solukhumbu Nepal