By Amber Rasool
It’s good to be a part of KNCC and I strongly believe that this network will be very useful in channelling information to the right people and through them to a wider audience.
I would like to introduce UNDP-CPR’s (Crises Prevention and Recovery Unit) Regional project “Glacial Lake Outburst and Flooding (GLOF) Risk Reduction” initiative for the Himalayas and would welcome any related information, comments and suggestions. The project was designed keeping in view the current issue of global climate change and its impact on the mountain glacial environment, giving rise to the incidence of Glacial Lake outburst and Flooding (GLOF) events. Climate change is exacerbating the natural hazards leading to significant impacts on the country’s development.
The most severe impact of climate change in the region is its effect on the glaciers. Accelerated global warming the glaciers of the region are retreating with rapid accumulation of water in mountaintop lakes. Recent studies suggest the rate of glacial retreat in the Himalayas is as high as 30 to 60 metres per decade.
As glaciers retreat, glacial lakes form behind moraine or ice ‘dams’, which can breach suddenly, leading to a discharge of huge volumes of water and debris. Such outbursts have the potential of releasing million cubic meters of water in a few hours causing catastrophic flooding up to hundreds of kilometers downstream with serious damage to life, property, forest, farms and infrastructure. Known as Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), these floods can in a single devastating event result in major economic damages and social repercussions for a sizeable population living in the Hindukush – Himalayan belt covering the countries of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. Impacts include loss of lives, domestic property, cultivable land, mountain infrastructure downstream, forced migration and long-term secondary environmental degradation. National Agricultural Research Council (NARC) and International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) conducted a detailed research in 2004 – 2005 and prepared a detailed inventory of the glaciers and glacial lakes in Pakistan. 52 potentially hazardous glacial lakes have been identified through the research, which pose a great threat to mountain communities
The project will be centered on community based and non-structural GLOF risk reduction measures. Its overall objective is to compliment engineered approaches with non-engineering approaches to GLOF risk reduction in the Himalayan Belt.
As various agencies have been working on the theme of GLOFs in the region, a collaborative approach will be promoted. This project will enhance the benefits of disaster risk reduction initiatives already in place (e.g. appropriate early warning systems, awareness measures, preparedness and land use planning) in Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan.
A coordinated approach combining non-structural and community based methods will be used to prepare vulnerable communities against the threat of GLOFs and glacier melts in the targeted sub-region. You are kindly requested to share:
1. Any Study/research material containing information about • probable glacial lakes in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region and past events when such lakes burst; • the socio-economic and physical impacts of those GLOFs; and • risk mitigation and preparedness measures undertaken before and after the event especially community-based initiatives
2. Experiences from across the globe of adapting to mitigate the risks of GLOFs in particular and flash floods in general especially any community based activities undertaken for reducing such risks with specific focus on the successes and challenges.