Posts Tagged "india"

Glacier Lake Bursts in Bhutan

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Glacier Lake Bursts in Bhutan

Spread the News:ShareOn the morning of Sunday 28 June, an earthquake in India caused a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood in northern Bhutan.  Local residents alerted officials, who activated warning systems and ordered evacuations downstream. Rivers  rose to high levels, but no fatalities occurred. By Monday night, the rivers had begun to fall. The United States Geological Survey reported an earthquake of 5.5 on the modified Richter scale at 7:05 AM local time, at 17km north-northeast of the town of Basugaon, in Assam State, India and 22 km south of the town of Gelephu in  Sarpang District, Bhutan. Light to moderate shaking was reported from Nepal and Bangladesh as well as Bhutan and India. Sonam Choden in Thimphu in western Bhutan reported on Facebook “the earthquake rocked my husband right back on to sleeping.” Sangay Wangchuk, who lives in Jakar in central Bhutan, wrote “Ap Naka wags its tail again.” Ap Naka means “father earthquake,” referring to the common belief that the earth is held by a giant male spirit whose movements cause earthquakes. The immediate damage in Bhutan was negligible, and even in India it was slight. Three persons sustained minor injuries when an old wall collapsed near the railway station in Kokrajhar, Assam, injuring three people. At an ancient temple in Chirang district, Assam, a sculpture of a lion was knocked off its base. A glacial lake, Lemthang Tsho, located about 95 km northwest of the epicenter, burst later that day. This lake, also known as Shinchila Tsho, is located in Laya County in Gasa District in northern Bhutan, close to the border with China.   According to Kuensel, Kinley Dorji, a county official  in Laya, stated that mushroom collectors in the high pastures near glaciers had called him to let him know about the outburst from the lake, which is one of the sources of the Mochu, a major river of Central Bhutan. He, in turn, alerted district officials in Gasa and in Punakha and Wangdue, two large districts downstream on the Mochu. He also spoke with police, hospitals and officials at a large hydroelectric station at Punatsangchu. Officials at the three major gauges along the Mochu monitored the water levels closely. They began sounding the sirens around 6:30 pm, even before the rivers reached the level for alerts, because they were concerned about additional risks from the monsoon rains, which had been heavy during the preceding weeks. The sirens caused panic among many residents, and they were turned off after more than an hour. The Prime Minster ordered evacuations along the Mochu River and at the hydropower station at 9:30pm, and reports suggest that these were largely complete within an hour. Patients at a hospital close to the river were moved to a military hospital at higher ground. The river peaked late that evening, with high waters at Punakha a bit before midnight and at Wangdue later on. Fortunately, the towns were not damaged. The historic fortress or dzong of Punakha had been partially destroyed by a glacier lake outburst flood in 1994, so residents were concerned. The residents returned to their homes the next morning. Power, which had been cut in Punakha, was also restored. Teams traveled through the area on 29 and 30 June to examine the damage. They reported that six wooden bridges had been washed out, isolating some villages and Laya town, and impeding the assessment efforts. Several groups of mushroom collectors were stranded on the far side of the now-empty Lemthang Tsho lake. ++ without the bridges connecting to their villages. Laya stands totally cut off from Gasa or Lingzhi after the Shinchey La lake outburst!...

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A Dying Glacier, a Drought-Stricken Village, and a Good View

Posted by on Jun 25, 2015 in Adaptation, All Posts, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

A Dying Glacier, a Drought-Stricken Village, and a Good View

Spread the News:ShareIn the course of researching my new book, “Fire and Ice: Soot, Solidarity and Survival on the Roof of the World”, I traveled to many communities living in the shadow of retreating snow and ice. I talked to Sherpa villagers who fear potential glacial lake outburst floods in Nepal’s Khumbu Valley, and with Naxi people adapting to drought conditions not far from the increasingly bare flanks of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in China’s Yunnan Province. But nowhere did I find the consequences of the Himalaya’s shrinking glaciers and snowfields as stark or sobering as in Kumik, a cluster of 39 households hugging a hillside in northwest India. Kumik is one of the oldest communities in the remote Zanskar Valley, and the first there to be abandoned due to a changing climate. Zanskar lies in the “rain shadow” formed by the Great Himalayan Range, where the only source of water – and therefore life – is melting snow and ice. The villagers of Zanskar long ago developed a sophisticated water-sharing system, to irrigate their fields of barley, peas, wheat and fodder grasses. But physics threatens to overwhelm this cultural ingenuity. “There are loud indicators that these glaciers are melting,” Shakeel Romshoo, a glaciologist at the University of Kashmir, told me. He has studied glaciers in Zanskar and other parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir since the mid-1980s. “Out of 365 glaciers in the Zanskar region that were there in 1969, about 6 of these glaciers are not there.” As in, completely gone. “I would say, all the glaciers I have seen, they are showing the recession.” Ulrich Kamp, of the University of Montana, measured thirteen glaciers in Zanskar, combining field measurements of glacier topography with thermal imaging and remote sensing data. “Most of the glaciers in the Greater Himalaya Range in Zanskar are receding since at least the 1970s,” he and his colleagues concluded. Kumik is on the sharp edge of this troubling trend. Its sole lifeline is one small stream coursing down from the glacier-capped mountain of Sultan Largo. This lifeline is frequently severed by the double whammy of declining snowfall and earlier, warmer springs. The stream now often dries up by August, before the harvest. Ishay Paldan, the oldest resident of Kumik, has watched as the snowfields and small glaciers on the mountains above have steadily retreated over the course of his lifetime. “When I was a child, we had no problems with water,” he told me on my first visit. The view from his window shows just how much things have changed: the snowline that once almost came down to the edge of Kumik is now several kilometers distant. Kumik’s chronic state of drought became so acute in the summer of 2000 that the entire community gathered and made a painful decision. They would leave their ancient homes, and start over somewhere else. The government offered them a dusty, wind-scoured patch of desert – a couple miles and almost a thousand feet below – where they could start over. So they began to dig a canal, five miles long, to bring water from the Lungnak River. They gathered stones and mixed mud bricks. They started to build a new village from scratch, hoping to green this no-man’s-land long known as Marthang, “the red place.” Since my first visit in 2008, I have spent many happy days with the people of Kumik, listening to their stories in the old village they are slowly leaving, and working alongside them in the new one they are slowly coaxing from the desert floor. The villagers are...

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Roundup: Climate Science and International Adaptation

Posted by on Jun 8, 2015 in Adaptation, All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Climate Science and International Adaptation

Spread the News:ShareIntegration of Glacier and Snow “Energy budget-based distributed modeling of snow and glacier melt runoff is essential in a hydrologic model to accurately describe hydrologic processes in cold regions and high-altitude catchments. We developed herein an integrated modeling system with an energy budget-based multilayer scheme for clean glaciers, a single-layer scheme for debris-covered glaciers, and multilayer scheme for seasonal snow over glacier, soil, and forest within a distributed biosphere hydrological modeling framework.” Read more of the article here.   Climate Science on Glaciers “The 2001–2013 sum of positive temperatures (SPT) record, as a proxy of snow/ice ablation, has been obtained for the high-mountain glaciarized Munku-Sardyk massif, East Sayan Mountains, using daily NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data. The SPT (and ice melt) demonstrates a significant decreasing trend, with the highest values in 2001, 2002, and 2007, and the lowest in 2013. We have investigated relationships between potential summer ablation and synoptic-scale conditions over the study area.” Read more of this article here. International Adaptation to Glacier Retreat “The transboundary Himalayan Rivers flowing through Bhutan to India and Bangladesh constitute an enormous asset for economic development in a region which contains the largest number of poor people in the world. However, the rapid retreat of Himalayan glaciers has made South Asia vulnerable to variety of water-related natural hazards and disasters such as floods, landslides, and glacial lake outburst.” Read more of this book chapter here. Spread the...

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Pad Yatra: A Himalayan Journey

Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Pad Yatra: A Himalayan Journey

Spread the News:ShareEnvironmental degradation and a rapidly changing climate have left populations in the Himalayas vulnerable. Cloudbursts and mudslides have destroyed villages while growing levels of plastic wastes and other kinds of trash pollute rivers, harming the people who drink from them. In a journey as spiritual as it was physical, 700 voyagers trekked through the land of 15,000 glaciers in 2010 to spread a message of love and ecological compassion. The journey, led by His Holiness Gyalwang Drupka, a Buddhist spiritual leader in the region, passed through 725 kilometers of some of the world’s most dangerous and most stunning landscapes. Pad Yatras, or pilgrimages on foot, have taken place annually since 2007 in different parts of the Himalayas and South Asia. “Many of the problems in this world are based on selfish and egoistic kinds of fighting,” said His Holiness Gyalwang Drupka. “But the spirituality is the kindness – real kindness – not only just being kind but real, true kindness to not only human beings, but nature. Including the trees and rocks and mountains.” The current Gyalwang Drupka, Jigme Pema Wangchen, is believed to be the twelfth reincarnation of the first Drupka, Tsangpa Gyare, who was born in the 12th century. Today’s reincarnation of the Drupka is known for his environmental activism. In 2007, he launched Live to Love, a humanitarian organization that aims to address the environment protection, education, relief aid, medical services and heritage preservation. For the Drupka, sharing a message of kindness and compassion is essential for people living in high altitudes who often feel forgotten by their country when faced with natural disasters and uncertainties caused by a warming world. In an interview, he said he wanted people in the Himalayas to feel they played a role in the protecting the world. The group survived conditions well below freezing, off-season snow storms and came close to starving when weather conditions made it impossible for them to carry some of their supplies through the mountains. The experience was documented by Himalayan monk Ngawang Sodpa, who used solar power to charge his camera, in a film produced by Michelle Yeo. Nearly a third of Sodpa’s footage was lost from weather and physical damage at altitudes higher than 5,000 meters. Along the path, the voyagers, all followers of the Buddhist Drupka Lineage, encountered hundreds of remote villages, passing on knowledge about the dangers of non-biodegradeable waste and planting trees. Native communities from the Himalayas were accompanied by travelers from around the world. As they walked, they picked up half a ton of waste, which they carried with them to the end of the journey. “While modern products have made their way to these areas, they have not come with a sustainable means for disposal,” narrated American actress Darryl Hannah. Trekkers planted more than 50,000 trees and rescued trapped and hurt animals. To avoid unnecessary suffering in the world, they gently blew ants off the paths they traveled along so the ants would not be crushed under hundreds of feet. “A respect for life, no matter how small, is a defining character for this philosophy,” said Hannah. “It is the same philosophy of compassion that motivates this effort to motivate the national environment at large.” The legacy of the Pad Yatra continues from year to year as one of the largest environmental movements the world has ever seen. Numerous villages in the Himalayas have banned plastics in their communities and have undertaken projects to plant trees. Watch the trailer here: Spread the...

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Glacier Hazards Linked to Prolonged PTSD in Kids

Posted by on Dec 18, 2014 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Glacier Hazards Linked to Prolonged PTSD in Kids

Spread the News:ShareIn June 2013, several days of torrential rains bombarded India’s northern state of Uttarakhand causing devastating glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs), river flooding, and landslides. This event is considered to be the country’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami. Packed with Hindu pilgrimage sites, temples, and tourists, Uttarakhand saw entire settlements washed away. Roads were heavily damaged, stranding over 70,000 people and causing food shortages. Local rivers were flooded with dead bodies for more than a week, contaminating water supplies for the survivors. Based on post-disaster studies, researchers from St. John’s Medical College in Bengaluru, India recently published findings indicating that the Uttarakhand flooding may have provoked sustained levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adolescents in the region. The study, which was conducted three months after the disaster, found a 32 percent prevalence of PTSD and a wide-range of stress levels amongst the youth of one the hardest hit districts, Uttarkashi. In order to secure these findings, the research team obtained consent from 268 adolescents at a high school in Uttarkashi. They assessed the mental health of the students by administering the Trauma Screening Questionnaire, an PTSD assessment recognized in the U.S., the U.K., and elsewhere. Another structured questionnaire was used to gather demographic information. The average age of children who participated in the study was 14.8, with slightly more male respondents than female. Because of a lack of mental health care infrastructure in Uttarkashi, researchers were not able to prove the glacier-related event directly caused the high rates of PTSD amongst the students in this region. However, a similar study of 411 high school students, conducted prior to 2012 in Pune, India found a lower rate of PTSD (8.9 percent for girls, 10.5 for boys). These students had not suffered from a recent natural disaster related event. A meta-study of 72 peer-reviewed articles of US children and adolescents exposed to trauma found an overall rate of PTSD of nearly 16 percent.. A study of 533 tsunami victims in South India found a much higher rate of PTSD, roughly 70.7 percent for acute PTSD and almost 11 percent for delayed onset PTSD. Although there are many factors that may be able to explain the difference in rates, the increased prevalence of PTSD in the Uttarakashi youth certainly signals a link between glacial hazards and PTSD in children. The researchers from St. John’s Medical College note that past research has been able to establish the relationship in adult subjects between natural disasters and PTSD, “the most prevalent psychological disorder after disaster.” Thus, they claim there is a need for greater recognition of post-disaster stress disorder assessment and for interventions among adolescent victims in developing countries. “The majority of disaster studies have focused on adults, although adolescents seem to be more vulnerable to psychological impairment after disaster which manifests in a variety of complex psychological and behavioral manifestations,” wrote the authors of the study. The exact cause of the 2013 Uttarakashi district flooding is contested; however, the unyielding rains contributed to heavy melting of the Chorabari Glacier, 3,800 meters above sea level, and this was a significant catalyst in the event. During the week of June 20, melting at Chorabari, due to above average rainfall, led to the formation of a temporary glacial lake. Further torrential rains caused this lake to swell and overflow, inducing flash flooding and disastrous landslides and mudslides. “Eyewitnesses describe how a sudden gush of water engulfed the centuries-old Kardarnath temple, and washed away everything in its vicinity in a matter of minutes,” according to Down To Earth Magazine. Glacier-related PTSD risk is...

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