Nepal: Responding Proactively to Glacial Hazards
Full Case Study (PDF, 638 Kb)
Glaciers in Nepal are shrinking due to warmer temperatures, forming glacial lakes which can burst and cause destructive glacial lake outburst floods (known as GLOFs) in downstream valleys. The Tsho Rolpa glacial lake is the largest of its kind in the Nepali Himalayas, and the threat of it flooding led the Government of Nepal to take proactive measures in the late 1990s. These included setting up an emergency warning system to alert local communities, and lowering the lake’s level by three meters. These measures, taken in 1997-98 are thought to have averted the prospect of a disastrous flood.
In addition, after detailed scientific and technical studies, a flood prevention system was put into place. This consisted of a channel cut to allow water to flow out of the lake, with the overflow used to power a micro-hydro plant. A permanent maintenance staff was also hired and the structures remain well-maintained. The early warning systems, however, ceased to be operational in 2002 despite the fact that a robust system was commissioned using the latest technology. This failure can be attributed to an absence of funding for maintenance, as well as lack of response by local communities, whom, the authors argue, had not been adequately educated about the risks of floods or trained in how to use the early warning system.
About the Authors:
Arun Bhakta Shrestha is a Climate Change Specialist in the Integrated Water and Hazard Management Program at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a mountain-focused institution working in the eight countries of the Himalayas. His main areas of expertise include climate change, glaciers and glacial hazards, glacial lake outburst mitigation, atmospheric environment, remote sensing, and hydrological modeling. He was actively involved in the Tsho Rolpa Risk Reduction Project and was on the scientific team preparing the First National Communication of Nepal to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Arun has a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from the University of New Hampshire, USA, and a Master’s degree in Hydraulic Engineering from Minsk, Belarus.
Susan Tambi Matambo has a Master’s degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. At Yale, she focused her masters research study on the influence of global institutions on domestic environmental policy. She worked in various capacities for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Secretariat and Evaluation Office from 2004-2010, as well as with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Africa. Susan has lived in Africa, South East Asia and the United States and is currently an independent consultant working on climate change issues.
- Expert Perspectives on...
- Does climate change require new approaches to making decisions?
- How can we balance today’s pressing needs with long term risks?
- How can development agencies help vulnerable countries adapt effectively?
- Must we fundamentally change course to conserve ecosystems in a changing climate?
- How can information for adaptation decision making be collected and disseminated so as to advance integration of climate risks into plans and policies and be useful for those who need it most?
- What types of information are needed for adaptation decision making?
- Thought leaders explore how to meet both today’s development challenges and tomorrow’s climate risks.
- How can national-level governments learn from the private sector and encourage investment and decision making to promote the public good in a changing climate?
- How can civil society best support, and hold accountable, national-level governments in their efforts to integrate climate change risks into planning and policy-making processes?
- Case Studies
- Controlling Yangtze River Floods: A New Approach
- Building Resilience to Extreme Weather Events: Index-Based Livestock Insurance in Mongolia
- Namibia: Combating Land Degradation with Tools for Local-Level Decision-Making
- Nepal: Responding Proactively to Glacial Hazards
- Increasing Food Security: Mali's National Meteorological Service Helps Farmers Manage Climate Risk
- Indonesia: Managing Peatland Fire Risk in Central Kalimantan Province
- Mangrove Restoration and Rehabilitation for Climate Change Adaptation in Vietnam
- Bangladesh's Comprehensive Approach to Disaster Management
- Rwanda: Ecosystem Restoration and Sustainable Hydropower Production
- South Africa: Ecosystem-Based Planning for Climate Change
- China's Agricultural Development: Adaptation in Action
- Brazil: Fire and Flood Responses in the Amazon
- In-Country Simulations
- Decision-Making In Depth