06/07/2016, 17.15
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Water levels rising in Nepal’s glacial lakes, putting at risk tens of thousands of people

by Christopher Sharma

Glacier melting has reached alarming levels. Nepal’s Government and military are working on Imja Tsho, the highest lake in the world, which threatens camps and villages. The goal is to open a channel for the controlled flow of water. The prime minister calls for sustainable development policies, and environmentalists call for greater commitment.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Water levels in Nepal’s lakes, particularly on the slopes of Mount Everest, have reached dangerous levels as a result of climate change, global warming and melting glaciers.

This comes at a time when environment and development, nature and sustainable projects, climate change and ecosystem conservation have become hot topics in the Himalayas. indeed, the melting of glaciers has reached an alarming level, this according to experts.

Nepal’s government and military are closely monitoring Imja Tsho (Lake), the highest in the world, which threatens the lives and livelihoods of tens of camps and villages. Notwithstanding technical difficulties, the authorities plan to drain partially the body of water.

The lake is above 5,000 metres, about 10 km south of Mount Everest, and is the fastest rising glacial lake in the region. In 25 years, it has more than doubled and now covers a square kilometre. Its banks are at risk and experts warn that flooding is an imminent danger.

The Nepali army is working on opening a channel and installing a mechanical gate that can be operated manually to control water, a technically challenging operation.

Construction should be completed by the end of the year and should lower the water level by at least three metres.

For experts and environmentalists, should the lake burst, more than 56,000 people living in low-lying villages may be flooded away.

Nepal is home to some 3,000 glacial lakes, of which seven are regarded as high-risk.

A major international study warned that glaciers in the Everest region could shrink by 70 per cent or disappear entirely by the end of the century, owing to climate change. Nepal’s glaciers have already shrunk by nearly a quarter between 1977 and 2010.

On Sunday, Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli marked World Environment Day by insisting on the need to preserve the environment through sustainable development. So far, “Efforts taken for environment protection are not sufficient,” he said.

For Bhusan Tuladhar, a leading environment activist, “Highly polluting vehicular movements in Kathmandu have caused our sky to look dark and cloudy.” Hence, “The government should not just mark the day; it should rather implement the promises made on that day.”

What is more, “Emissions within the Kathmandu Valley are not the only source of its air pollution problem,” said Arnico Pandey, a scientist with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.

“There are also inputs from cooking fires, agricultural fires, and forest fires in the surrounding valleys and mountains, and more importantly, an inflow of air pollution up the Kathmandu Valley from the south.  There are around 120 brick kilns within the Kathmandu Valley.”

More globally, he notes, Nepal emits only 0.025 per cent of total GHG emissions but is one of the most vulnerable (4th) countries in terms of climate change.

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