OM ASTHA RAI
KATHMANDU, March 6: A new study has revealed that three glacial lakes in Tibet are in very critical condition, posing serious threats to people living downstream on the banks of the Bhotekoshi River.
The study, jointly carried out by the Central Department of Geography at the Tribhuvan University (TU) and the Asian International River Center at the Yunnan University of China, has concluded that You-Mo-Jian-Co, Qui-Ze-La-Co and Jia-Long-Co glacial lakes, which are located within the watershed area of the Bhotekoshi River, are highly vulnerable.
“If these lakes burst out, severe impacts could be felt along the Bhotekoshi River, particularly between Tatopani and Dolalghat areas on the Araniko highway,” said Narendra Raj Khanal, a professor at the TU´s Central Department of Geography. According to Khanal, who was the team leader for the one-year-long study, there are several other potentially dangerous glacial lakes in the Bhotekoshi River´s watershed area but three could possibly burst out in future.
“These three glacial lakes in the Tibetan region require constant monitoring and immediate mitigation,” said Khanal. “Our government should also be constantly monitoring these lakes, considering the threats that the Nepali people face.” Khanal also stressed the need for setting up of effective early warning systems to protect human lives in events of Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in Tibet.
The finding of this new study, the final report of which is yet to be published, implies that the risk of GLOF in Nepal is higher than what is generally assumed. In Nepal, understanding of GLOF has been largely shaped by scientific studies carried out by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). A 2011 report by the ICIMOD states that Nepal has 21 potentially dangerous lakes – six of which need immediate mitigation measures.
“In our new study, we have tried to see the risk of GLOF in Nepal beyond the northern border,” said Khanal, who was also a member of the team that prepared the ICIMOD´s report on Nepal´s glacial lakes. “We cannot ignore possibilities of GLOF in the Tibetan region.”
Experts also stress the need for mitigating the risk of GLOF in four glacial lakes of Nepal, which the ICIMOD report says are as critical as Tsho Rolpa and Imja. Currently, mitigation measures, like lowering water level of glacial lakes, have been taken only in Tsho Rolpa and Imja. Such measures have not been initiated as yet in other equally vulnerable lakes like Lower Barun, Lumding, West Chamjang and Thulagi.
“These four glacial lakes also need immediate mitigation measures,” said Pradeep Mool, Coordinator of Cryosphere Initiative at the ICIMOD. “But, mitigation measures are very costly. Millions of dollars are required just for transporting equipment to glacial lake areas. So, cost-benefit analysis is done before starting such initiatives. Imja was chosen over other lakes for mitigation measures, considering tourist destinations downstream.”
Published on 2014-03-06 00:00:00
OM ASTHA RAI
LAWPANI (ASSAM), INDIA: Whenever the villagers of Lawpani, a nondescript village in the North Indian state of Assam, organize meetings to discuss local issues, Rita Devi Magar, a 40-year-old illiterate woman, represents her family there. Her husband never attends local meetings.
Like Rita Devi, many women in Lawpani village, which is located by the Brahmaputra River, attend local meetings as de-facto heads of their families. Usually, they are the ones who decide what contribution their families can possibly make to dealing with recurring problems like flood, inundation and erosion by the Brahmaputra River, which is the source of both livelihood and misery for hundreds of thousands of people in Assam.
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OM ASTHA RAI
One recent sunny afternoon, Krishna Maya Sharma, 42, was hoeing her crop field soaked in winter rain which lashed most parts of north India just a day before. “I used to plant paddy here,” says she, showing her land where the upper layer of soil looks covered with sand. “Now, I can grow just taro roots.”
In 2012, when a flood in the Brahmaputra River, seen as the most devastating since 2004, caused havoc in the north Indian state of Assam, Krishna Maya lost much of her fortune. “I was about to harvest my crops,” she says. “But the flood damaged everything.”
Not only did the flood damage Krishna Maya´s crop but also trigged a chain of effects, rendering her family poorer. When the flood retreated, her land was covered with such a thick layer of sand that she is still unable to grow paddy there. “After the flood, I tried to plant crops but nothing grew,” she says.
Krishna Maya´s family owned about 11 bighas of fertile land before the flood. “The land is still there but it’s just sand. Only a small plot of land is left for growing taro roots,” she says.
The flood, which reportedly killed at least 125 people and displaced thousands of families in Assam and Bangladesh, also damaged a vast area of grassland, adding to difficulty in collecting fodder. With no green pasture to graze on, all her five cattle died.
The severest aftereffect of the flood turned out to be the deaths of two oxen, which her husband, Punya Prasad Sharma, would use to plow the land. “After our oxen died, my husband couldn’t plow the land and now he works as a manual worker at a nearby construction site,” she explains.
Today, even for cultivating whatever land is left, Krishna Maya needs to purchase chemical fertilizers. Earlier, she used to grow plants by using compost fertilizers – mostly made up of cow dung. “As we have no cattle now, we can’t make compost fertilizers,” she says.
Krishna Maya´s is not a unique tale. In Lawpani, a nondescript village in Tinsukia District of Assam, which is mostly inhabited by people of Nepali origin, everyone has similar tales to tell.
Like Krishna Maya, most of people in Laowani, which now has more than 150 households of Nepali origin, are affected by floods, followed by inundation and erosion, every year. They find it very difficult to save their crops and livestock from floods in monsoon months.
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