Posts Tagged "icimod"

Military intervention at Nepal’s fastest growing glacial lake

Posted by on Jun 22, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Military intervention at Nepal’s fastest growing glacial lake

Spread the News:ShareTen kilometres south of Mount Everest lies Nepal’s “fastest-growing glacier lake”— Imja Tsho. In March 2016, acting to mitigate potential threats the lake might pose to over 96,000 people downriver, the Nepalese Army began installing syphons to lower the water level by 10 feet (3 m). The army’s engineering department, commissioned by Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), is now conducting “the highest altitude disaster risk mitigation work ever performed by any army in the world,” according Lt Col Bharat Lal Shrestha. Locally, the remediation will bolster the confidence of flood-prone communities, and is likely to assuage fears of downstream developers, which have been concerns elsewhere in the region. The soldiers can only work two to three hours a day, due to the thin air, and strain of working at 16,400 feet (5,000 m). The project aims to safeguard lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure throughout Solukhumbu District — home to Mount Everest and the major religious site of Tengboche Monastery — as well as further downstream. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) — the world’s largest fund addressing environmental issues — are financing the US$7.2 million remedial works at Imja Tsho,  often cited as an especially dangerous lake. This has been reinforced by local perceptions and its proximity to Everest’s trekking routes. A report by the  BBC in June 2016 claimed that the 2015 Gorkha earthquakes “may further have destabilised” the lake. However, the results of ’Rapid Reconnaissance Surveys’ made public in December 2015 revealed “[Imja] showed no indication of earthquake damage when viewed either by satellite or by a helicopter.” The UNDP and GEF’s selection of Imja pivots on a single study by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) from 2011, which defies much of the preceding and independent research on the lake. ICIMOD is an intergovernmental agency headquartered in Kathmandu, researching Nepal’s glaciers and mountains hazards and also involved  in the current engineering works. Studies by Japanese, British and American teams concluded that the surrounding topography shelters Imja from mass movements. ICIMOD deprioritized Imja’s status. Their 2011 national report stated, “[despite] the apparently alarming rate of [Imja Tsho’s] expansion…the danger of outburst came to be regarded as far less than originally expected.” Concurring with the international researchers, they also ruled out the possibility of a GLOF-triggering ice avalanche as ”[not] very likely.” The lead authors of the 2011 study subsequently gave compelling evidence in 2015 for remediation at another glacial lake — Thulagi Tsho. Narendra Raj Khanal and six colleagues from ICIMOD revealed Thulagi posed a “high risk.” Over 164,000 people would be directly impacted by a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), with a further 2 million indirectly exposed — four times the number at Imja. Threats to hydropower facilities were a key concern highlighted by UNDP and GEF. However, there are six hydropower projects below Thulagi, and one below Imja. Imja is being drained 10 feet (3 m) over 4 years — costing nearly US$7 per gallon. However, research led by the University of Texas has shown that this minor reduction would have a negligible impact on a GLOF. Daene McKinney and Alton Byers also stated that it offered an insignificant “3 percent risk reduction.” Imja Tsho presently covers 135 ha (1.35 km2), holding nearly 20 billion gallons (75.2 million m3) of meltwater — enough water to meet all New York State’s water needs for nearly two and a half days. It is fed by Imja Glacier, which has wasted 1.4 miles (2.2 km) over less than 40 years. Imja Glacier has “exhibited the largest loss rate in the Khumbu region,” according to...

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Transnational Solutions to Preserve Yak Populations in Himalayas

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, Policy and Economics | 1 comment

Transnational Solutions to Preserve Yak Populations in Himalayas

Spread the News:ShareIn the extreme altitudes and harsh conditions of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region, yak herding is more than a way of life–it is a way to survive. Environmental change currently threatens yak populations in the region, and undermines the livelihoods of the communities they support. However, a recent report raises hopes of protecting yaks through international cooperation within the region. The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) released a special publication in May on yaks in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, also known as HKH. The report, “Yak on the Move: Transboundary Challenges and Opportunities for Yak Raising in a Changing Hindu Kush Himalayan Region,” includes a compilation of studies and presentations from the 5th International Conference on Yak held in Lanzhou that suggest international, rather than local, policy decisions may be the key to preserving yak populations. Despite the species’ importance within the region, there is a significant lack of scientific research necessary to address the growing challenges posed by climate change. This report is an important first step in filling the gap of knowledge about yak herding and management. As David Molden, Director General of the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development, writes in the report, ‘The articles clearly indicate the need to develop a comprehensive understanding of the ecological, socioeconomic, and cultural role of yak, and its implications for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development at a local, regional, and even global scale.” The importance of yaks is highlighted by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, which states that yaks have played an important role in HKH life from Tibetan Buddhist ceremonies and economic activity, to preserving ecological diversity of high altitude rangelands through grazing patterns.   This report is the second publication on yaks compiled by ICIMOD following a 1996 report co-edited by United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization. It aims to bring multiple stakeholders together to discuss the growing challenges faced by pastoral communities in the high-altitude and glacier-covered ecosystems in the HKH region. Yak on the Move is representative of ICIMOD’s transnational approach to conservation and policy, including research on a range of Hindu Kush Himalayan member countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, India, and China. The report explores yak herding and challenges, policy and institutional arrangements, and yak cross-breeding practices. The analysis as a whole offers the case for developing international solutions to the many challenges faced by yak-herders—environmental change among the most pressing. The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, often referred to as the “Third Pole,” holds 30 percent of the world’s glaciers and is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change and glacial melting. Temperature increases are more pronounced at higher elevations, accelerating glacier retreat in the region and impacting yaks and pastoral communities. Yaks’ woolly undercoat makes them well-adapted for the intense cold of Himalayan winters, but also puts them at acute risk if temperatures increase. While struggling to protect their livelihoods, herders are displaced and forced to move to increasingly harsh landscapes and remote altitudes. Some of climate change’s negative impacts on yak, including habitat reduction, are outlined in “Coping with Borders: Yak Raising in Transboundary Landscapes of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region,” the first article in the report. When yaks are only able to graze in small areas, the rangeland cannot recover. The piece notes that pastoral communities have been forced to move to increasingly higher elevations, causing a cycle of further land use change and degradation. However, rising temperatures are not the only threat to high-altitude ecosystems and the communities that depend on them. Forest degradation, human-wildlife conflict and illegal trade of rare...

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ICIMOD Conference Focuses on Climate Change in Himalayas

Posted by on Apr 7, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

ICIMOD Conference Focuses on Climate Change in Himalayas

Spread the News:ShareThe International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) held a conference, “Climate and Environmental Change Impacts in Indus Basin Waters,”in Kathmandu in February. At this conference, scientists shared the common idea that a lack of data on the Himalayas is impeding their knowledge of the region and how climate change might affect it— and how that, in turn, could affect the region’s many millions of people. Over 80 people attended the conference, which was also supported by  the World Bank, and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).  It was focused on improving understanding of research on climate change’s effects in the Indus basin. The importance of this basin was underscored by Dr Eklabya Sharma, Director, Programme Operations at ICIMOD, who told the conference, “The Indus River supports a population of about 215 million inhabitants of Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan whose livelihoods are directly or indirectly dependent on it.” He indicated that cooperation among these nation was a necessary step for the development of research to understand climate change impacts in this basin. The conference’s opening speech was delivered by Hafeez-ur-Rehman, the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan,  a large autonomous region in northern Pakistan . “The seasonal shift in snowfall to late spring and the subsequent heat waves lasting two to three days have caused rapid melting of snow — preventing glacier formation — flash floods, early avalanches, and loss of life and property,” Rehman said, according to a statement. James Clarke, the director of Communications and Marketing of IWMI, followed with a speech to welcome journalists from all four Indus basin countries, signaling the importance of the media and of outreach to civil society.  "Water is shrinking to a level of being unsustainable" says Dr. Arif Anwar @IWMI_ #Indus Basin #media dialogue pic.twitter.com/Ccvnfx6Odc — Farah Ahmed (@farahamds) February 20, 2016 According to Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist from the University of Zurich, over 80 percent of glaciers in the Himalayas haven’t been researched. “The bulk of the glaciers in Himalayas are yet to be studied in detail,” Bolch said, according to a report on SciDev.net. There are still many problems with scientific assessments and appropriate policy action because of significant uncertainties on Himalayan glacier changes. Scientific studies and data are currently inadequate for analysis of the status and trends of glaciers in the Himalayas. This in turn impedes the development of future predictions about the region, and obstructs effective action to adapt to anticipated changes there. The conference took some concrete steps to address this need for regional coordination of research.  It suggested the importance of strengthening the Upper Indus Basin Network, a group which promotes coordination among organizations in the region and the involvement of policy holders and other stakeholders in defining research programs. This Upper Indus Basin Network includes ICIMOD as well as other organizations, including Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the branch of the World Wildlife Fund in Gilgit Baltistan, and FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, which is part of the Aga Khan Development Network. These organizations have already collaborated on other issues, including water resources and biodiversity protection. They have issued policy briefs which discuss concrete forms of management and governance for more effective water use under conditions of climate change. The conference lent provided strong support to this network at a critical moment, when collaboration is an urgent  need. As Shakil Romshoo, of Kashmir University, told SciDev.Net, a lack of data and modeling impede studying glaciers and climate change. “Such constraints do not allow us to make scientific estimates as to how the future climate change will affect the water resources of Indus basin,” he said. The conference may well help the different parties in the region work together to...

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Everest’s Glaciers in Peril

Posted by on May 27, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Everest’s Glaciers in Peril

Spread the News:ShareEven the highest glaciers in the world will not escape the effects of climate change, according to a study published today (27 May) in  The Cryosphere, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). This study shows that the glaciers in the Everest region are very sensitive to warming, and will shrink massively by 2100. The precise amount of ice loss will depend on the levels of greenhouse gas emissions, but even if these emissions were greatly reduced, the volume of ice will be greatly reduced. The projected decrease by 2100 range from 70% to 99%–a loss of at least two-thirds. Joseph Shea, the leader of the study, states “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.” Shea, a glacier hydrologist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal, and his colleagues  from Nepal, the Netherlands and France, conducted a study in which they developed and applied glacier models. The researchers follow the snow that falls in the region and track it as it converts to ice and moves downslope. They worked with a set of 8 different scenarios of temperature and precipitation changes to develop a full range of estimates of  accumulation and melting of glacier ice. Walter Immerzeel of Utrecht University, one of the study’s authors, described the combination of methods in the study to GlacierHub. He writes, “In these kind of environments such a smart combination of field observations, remote sensing and modelling is the way to go. There is a huge variability in meteorological conditions over short distances and it is impossible to measure this directly in the field. With remote sensing it is possible to get spatial information, but only at specific times when the satellite passes over and usually a lot of problems due to cloud cover during the monsoon. Forcing and calibrating a model with both types of observations largely overcomes these major limitations.” These projected lossese of glaciers are a sobering message to the whole world, because Everest is an iconic peak. They also have a regional influence in the Himalayan region, which, along with neighboring mountain ranges such as the Hindu Kush and Karakoram, contain the largest volume of ice outside the Arctic and Antarctic. And on a smaller scale, the consequences are devastating. The Dudh Kosi basin in Nepal receives the meltwater from the glaciers on and around Everest. “Glacier changes will affect river flows downstream,” says Shea. Agriculture in the region will be affected by the loss of irrigation water, especially in the critical dry  months in springtime before the monsoon rains begin. Hydropower facilities are likely to face multiple impacts: flows will be lower, they will be concentrated in the monsoon months rather than spread more widely, and they will vary more from year to year, because glacier meltwater will be less available as a supplement in dry years. The risk of glacier lake outburst floods will also increase as new glacier lakes form and expand. These results, published in The Cryosphere, point to the need for future research, which can narrow the range of estimates of ice loss in Himalayan glaciers as climate change advances. Patrick Wagnon, a visiting scientist at ICIMOD and glaciologist at the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in Grenoble, France, says “Our estimates need to be taken very cautiously, as considerable uncertainties remain.” In particular, the researchers would like to be able to model more precisely the movement of snow in avalanches and the downward flow of ice across the rugged terrain of the region. They...

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Glacier Meeting in Kathmandu

Posted by on Mar 24, 2015 in Adaptation, All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Images, News, Policy and Economics, Science | 0 comments

Glacier Meeting in Kathmandu

Spread the News:ShareKathmandu, a Nepalese valley with a rich cultural and religious history, was the venue for the International Symposium on Glaciology in High-Mountain Asia early this month. From March 1 to 6, 240 scientists from 26 countries gathered there to further interdisciplinary understanding of the science of glaciers, snowpack, and permafrost in the high-mountain Asia region—the Himalayan, Hindu-Kush, Karakoram, Tien Shan, Pamir, and Tibetan Plateau mountain chains. The conference was organized by the International Glaciological Society (IGS) and hosted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). IGS, founded in 1936, aims to stimulate interest in and encourage research into the scientific and technical problems of snow and ice in all countries; ICIMOD is a regional intergovernmental organization aimed at spreading knowledge about the impacts of climate change on the Hindu Kush Himalayas of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan—both their fragile ecosystems and the communities that live there. Participants of the symposium exchanged the latest research findings on glaciers and glacier contribution to river flow in high-mountain Asia. This researched looked at past, present and future glacier change, glacier dynamics modeling and observations, glacier and snow melt and glacier hazards, among other subjects. While the coming together of so many scientists and specialists in the field helped to fill knowledge gaps across the region, additional questions were raised during the symposium. In particular, participants believe a more complete and accurate picture of glacier change must still be achieved. Field observations, improved models, inter-comparisons of models, and regional data sharing are considered among the most critical directions and needs for future research. The high-mountain regions in Asia have been more acutely impacted by climate change than many other regions of the world in recent years, given the high concentrations of glacier ice found here. Glacial melt has overwhelmed not just regional ecosystems, but traditional livelihoods. These glaciers feed rivers that support the agriculture and livelihoods of over one billion people and are crucial for hydroelectric power generation. In addition, accelerated melting can aggravate natural hazards such as flooding and avalanches. Creating an interdisciplinary understanding of glaciers was one of the primary focuses of the symposium. Glaciology brings together the atmospheric and hydrologic sciences, required to understand the connections between atmospheric processes and cryospheric change, as well as downstream impacts in the region. The cryosphere is defined as the part of Earth’s surface that consists of solid water, including snow cover, glaciers, ice sheets and ice caps, among other formations, and which plays a critical role in global climate and its changes. The interdisciplinary approach to glaciers in the region has provided the opportunity to capture regional and local changes in glaciers, snow and water availability. Scientists also discussed advances in measurements, modeling, and interpretation of glaciological changes in high mountain Asia, in order to better understand the impacts of these changes. While there is evidence of glacier retreat in the eastern Himalayas and glacier melt rates are projected to rise, river flows will not decline significantly in the coming decades due to projected increases in precipitation. It is one of the major findings presented at the conference. Meanwhile, scientists noticed that the Karakoram glaciers have been identified as an anomaly in the region, given that they are not experiencing retreat, something that has not yet been fully explained by scientific research. The IGS president Doug MacAyeal pointed out at the symposium that the role of debris cover and black carbon in glacier melt is still unclear, and the insufficient observations of high-altitude precipitation remains unsolved. The results of the meeting will be published in Annals of...

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