KATHMANDU, Sept 8: A new report from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the United National Development Program (UNDP) in Nepal has identified 47 potentially dangerous glacial lakes (PDGLs) within the Koshi, Gandaki, and Karnali river basins of Nepal, the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, and India.
These glacial lakes are at risk of breaching, which would result in glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). GLOFs are a prominent water-induced hazard in Nepal and other mountainous countries in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), and occur when melting glaciers create reservoirs of water that can suddenly burst leading to floods downstream, according to the report.
The inventory of glacial lakes and identification of potentially dangerous glacial lakes, released on Monday, lists 25 glacial lakes in China, 21 in Nepal, and one in India, which need to be closely monitored to reduce the vulnerability of mountain people and settlements downstream in the three river basins. Of the 47 identified potentially dangerous glacial lakes, 42 are within the Koshi basin making it the river basin with the highest risk. The Gandaki and Karnali basins have three and two such lakes, respectively.
Records show that, on average, Nepal loses 333 lives and property worth over USD 17.24 million (Rs 2,099 million) each year to extreme climate events. Since 1977, Nepal has experienced 26 GLOF events of which 14 originated in the country. And, with the changing climate resulting in an increasing rate of glacial melt, GLOF remains an ever-present threat for Nepal.
ICIMOD and its partners have been involved in preparing and updating databases of glacial lakes and the identification of potentially dangerous glacial lakes in the HKH since the early 2000s. This report builds on a comprehensive study undertaken by ICIMOD in 2011, according to a joint press statement issued by the ICIMOD and the UNDP.
In 2016, in partnership with the Global Environment Facility and UNDP, the Government of Nepal successfully lowered the water levels in Imja Tsho and installed community-based early warning and response systems as a mitigative climate action.
Periodically updated and standardized glacial lake inventories like this one provide crucial information for evidence-based planning of tailored mitigation measures to address future GLOF risks. “This science-based report gives an alarm about the potentially dangerous glacial lakes. Now investments are needed to reduce the risk, and climate action is needed to limit global warming,” the statement quoted Director General of ICIMOD Dr David Molden as saying.
"Glaciers are part of global heritage, managing that is a trans-boundary issue and a collective responsibility so the decisions need to be made together. We are sure that these studies can connect scientists, researchers and climate activists together and thrust for strategic decisions that reconcile the people with Nature," said UNDP Resident Representative for Nepal Ayshanie Medagangoda-Labe while launching the report.
"Making climate finance a reality is a global promise, but in order to access climate finance, particularly for issues like glacial lakes, you need robust scientific studies and that's why we need to invest. You need data, research and analysis, experts and instructions. Countries like Nepal have to move fast to compete for less and less available climate funding. We hope that a study like this will give the country additional chances," the statement quoted Medagangoda-Labe as saying further.