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Thursday, September 12, 2013

A regional roadmap for GLOF risk reduction

GLOF poses a serious threat to people and nature in the high mountains as well as downstream

To reduce the risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in the SAARC region, a road map for regional cooperation will soon be in place.

A two day SAARC workshop on “GLOF Risk Management in South Asia” concluded in the capital last week.

The roadmap will be developed by the SAARC Disaster Management Center (SDMC), New Delhi and will be approved by the concerned SAARC bodies.

SDMC has developed a number of roadmaps on different aspects of disaster management through participatory process involving the member states and experts on relevant fields.

During the workshop, Dr. O.P Mishra from the SDMC said the SAARC region has been making tremendous progress in mitigating GLOF related risks.

According to the SDMC, Bhutan is the second country that is vulnerable to GLOF in the SAARC region after Pakistan.

The SAARC region has over 7,683 glacial lakes. Of these, a total of 125 glacial lakes have been identified as potentially dangerous and pose high risk for GLOFs.

Bhutan alone has more than 667 glaciers and around 2,674 glacial lakes of which 25 glacial lakes pose high risks for GLOFs.

In Bhutan, one of the most dangerous glacial lakes facing a high risk of outburst flooding is the Thorthormi Lake in Lunana.

One of the most significant climate change impact in the Himalayas is the formation of glacial lakes. As global warming causes glacial to melt more rapidly, glacial lakes are getting bigger, increasing the risk of GLOF.
A GLOF occurs when a lake contained by a glacier or a terminal moraine dam fails. This can happen due to erosion, water pressure, an avalanche of rock or heavy snow, an earthquake or cryoseism, or if a large enough portion of a glacier breaks off and massively displaces the waters in a glacial lake at its base.
The collapse of Glacier Lake generates huge debris mixed flash flood downstream.

Dr. O.P Mishra said the region will be working together on various aspects including mitigating GLOF risks, developing technical capacity and social aspects as well as monitoring the initiatives.

The two day workshop also highlighted some of the constraints faced by the member states while implementing such initiatives.

Some challenges faced by the member states include not having a proper early warning system in place while dissemination of information has also been a challenge.

Others include lack of funding mechanism and timely interventions.

In South Asia, particularly in the Himalayan region, the frequency of the occurrence of GLOF events has increased in the second half of the 20th Century.

The two day SAARC workshop on GLOF Risk Management in South Asia was jointly organized by SAARC Disaster Management Center (SDMC), New Delhi, and Department of Disaster Management (DDM), Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.

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