If you have never heard about Nepal, go search the atlas and find the country with the most unique flag. Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia and a home to 26 million people. Known as the country of mountains, a part of Himalayan plateau and the mount Everest belongs to the country.
Many Nepalese’s lives depend on the presence of the mountain, both from its fame and resources. The example is how people who live near Imja Glacial lake are counting on glacier melt from the mountain for daily fresh water needs.
The amount of ice on top of the mountain is plenty, and for people who live around Imja that’s their fresh water reservoir. But having that much water in the reservoir is not always a good news, especially when the reservoir lays on top of your roofs.
For those people, glacier melting is almost similar to fire. When it’s small and controllable, it’s a friend, but when it is huge and out of control, it’s a foe. The problem is, for centuries the glacier melt has been nice to those people. What made them become a potent thread nowadays?
Before talking further about the Imja’s potent threat, let’s talk about simple science. What can make ice melt? Warm temperature, right? That’s also the answer for how Imja’s glacier melt becomes a potent threat for people around.
Many studies have proven that most glaciers in Mount Everest region are either disappear or retreat as the result of temperature rise. For your information, there are about 5,000 glaciers in Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, and most of them are under that threat.
“The signal of future glacier change in the region is clear: continued and possibly accelerated mass loss from glaciers is likely, given the projected increase in temperatures,” said Joseph Shea, glacier hydrologist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Nepal.
The melt is predicted to start at lower level glaciers first, because lower level areas are first to be affected by the air temperature. Slowly but sure, the threat will crawl up to higher areas and finally reach the top.
The melting of glaciers will result in ponds and lakes, like Imja Glacial lake. But unlike what happened in Imja Glacial lake, there will be more lakes and more water because this planet’s temperature is rising in more dramatic rate nowadays.
The Problem In Imja
Being one of the most vital resources for people around the glacial lake, additional fresh water rush from glacier melt should be a good thing as the population in the area is also increasing. However, it isn’t, additional fresh water rush to the lake poses two threats for people around.
The melting rate is dangerous enough to cause flood to areas around the lake. “The risk is getting bigger,” said Arun Bhakta Shrestha, a climate scientist from the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development to Times Live.
The amount of water sent by glacier melt can cause the lakes to swell and eventually collapse. Once it happens, there will be a terror of ‘glacial lake outburst flood’ which contains water, mud, and rock hurtling downstream.
Nepalese government has realized the potent danger, but there is nothing much that they can do about it. In other words, this is the burden that everyone all around the world are giving to the small country, and they have to solve it on their own.
“As a small country, there is little we can do to stop what is happening to our glaciers. But we have to do what we can do to adapt and protect our people,” said Rishi Ram Sharma, the director general at Nepal’s department of hydrology and meteorology.
Terror From The Lake
There are many other glacial lakes in Nepal, but why are we talking about Imja? Imja is the fastest growing glacial lake after tripling its size in the last 3 decades. The problem is, the only thing holding the lake from out bursting is natural wall of debris called moraine.
People are living just below the lake, and they know that the growth rate of the lake is abnormal. This is the reason why people who live near the area are living in terror. When massive earthquake happened in 2015, villagers in Surke had lost their hopes.
“We were terrified the quake would trigger a flood from the lake. All of us ran for safety,” villager Phudoma Sherpa told AFP. The lake held, but the quake awoken the people that they have already living in the red zone.
The last 3 decades indeed have been the golden era for the growth of glacial lakes in Himalaya. But the melt of glacier doesn’t happen only in Himalaya. A report conducted by NASA said that glacier melt also happens in Antarctica, and any other areas in the planet.
“The accelerated melting of glaciers in the last three decades is a key indicator of global warming, which threatens water flow in rivers fed by glaciers. The increased melting of ice also puts the local communities at risk of glacial lake outbursts,” said Samjwal Ratna Bajracharya, the lead author.
Many reports have proven that global warming leads to rising air temperature, and it is causing glaciers all around the world to melt at alarming rate. Roughly there are about 198,000 glaciers all around the world, and more than a quarter are in Himalayas.
Unlike Antarctica, there are people are living in Himalayan plateau. “The landscape is primed for lake development. Bigger lakes may increase the risk of catastrophic dam failure,” said Owen King, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
This is not a fictional movie plot, cause such thing has happened in the past. In 1985, a debris dam in Dig Tsho, eastern Nepal, burst and caused millions of cubic meters of water drowned the village of Ghat. Houses, bridges, and many other structures were destroyed, causing huge loss to the country.
The only thing that Nepalese government can do nowadays is draining the lake to prevent sudden outburst caused by overcapacity. A drainage canal has also been installed to lower the risk of flood catching vulnerable the villages below Imja lake.
But it doesn’t mean that people living in the area is safe, the threats are still lurking in the dark. The only way to completely eliminate the risk is by reverting the condition of this planet to what it used to be. This is something that we cannot reach yet without global support from everyone living in this planet.
If something happens to the villages in Himalaya, can we bear the burden for causing global warming which lead to the disaster? This is the prove that we need to change immediately.