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Lessons from Deluge

  • Published
    16th Oct, 2023


Glacial Lake Outburst floods (GLOF), like the one in Sikkim, could increase due to global warming. These lakes must be monitored, risk-management systems developed.

Increasing Vulnerability

  • GLOF in Sikkim: Recently, a catastrophic GLOF occurred in South Lhonak Lake, Sikkim, causing extensive damage to infrastructure and taking lives.
  • Potential causes: Remote location and scarce monitoring hinder the precise identification of the GLOF's cause, potentially involving rainfall, landslides, avalanches, or an earthquake.
  • Risks associated: Glacial lakes, formed by increased glacier melting, have become more frequent due to rising tropospheric temperatures, making them vulnerable.

Mounting Threat of GLOFs in India

  • Regional Vulnerability: Vulnerable glacial lakes in states like Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, and Arunachal Pradesh necessitate immediate attention.
  • Hills vs. Plains: Recent scientific studies indicate that over nine million people in High Mountain Asia are at risk of GLOFs, demanding urgent preventive measures.
  • Mitigation and Preparedness methods: Rigorous monitoring, forecasting, and alert systems, combined with satellite and drone surveillance, are essential to mitigate GLOF threats.

Comprehensive Strategies

  • Infrastructural safety: Rigorous safety standards for mountainous infrastructure projects and quality control measures are imperative to prevent GLOF-related damages.
  • Impacts: Stringent regulation of constructions near rivers is crucial to safeguard communities from the initial impact of GLOF floods.
  • Way forward: A scaled-up scientific assessment of glaciers in the Himalayan region is essential to understand their response to climate change and to develop effective disaster risk-reduction strategies.
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