Lake Imja, Nepal: Shifting climate stokes deadly deluge fears on 'Roof of the World'

Lake Imja, glacier lake in the Mt. Everets region, Nepal.
© WWF / Steve Morgan

The Story:

Lake Imja, Nepal

Climate change is by no means limited to the Arctic as most of the current visual vocabulary on the subject might lead you to believe.

WWF commissioned photographer Steve Morgan to investigate the effects of climate change at the roof of the World in the Everest region of the Himalayas in Nepal , wher
e the melting of glaciers and formation of glacial lakes is a key indicator of the temperature rise.

It is also having a very real impact of the Sherpa people who live there. 

The Imja Glacier, which looms ominously above Dengboche, has been retreating at a rate of roughly 230 feet per year say scientists.  The resulting lake formed by the melting run-off would potentially wreak havoc on the small town should it grow too large and burst through its banks.

And of the more than 2,300 glacial lakes in the country, officials say that at least twenty are in danger of bursting. The Imja lake is the second largest glacial lake in the country and is considered the most dangerous.

For a number of Nepalese residents, the threat of bursting lakes is more than an abstract contingency. Native mountaineer, and WWF climate campaigner, Apa Sherpa who has summited Everest 19 times, says he lost his house and farm when the Dig Tsho glacial lake burst in 1985. When Dig Tscho burst, seven people were killed, and bridges, houses and even a new hydro power plant were destroyed as the deluge rushed down the side of the mountain, sweeping away everything in its path.

Though the exact magnitude of the potential threat from Lake Imja is not entirely understood, Nepal’s Environmental Secretary Uday Raj Sharma has stated the bursting of Imja lake would be the equivalent of a “Nepalese tsunami.”

The fact of the matter is happening now. Real people, living in real fear everyday of their lives as a result of climate change.


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