THIMPHU: Up in the mountains of northern Bhutan, ancient glaciers symbolize an amazing, fascinating landscape. This country is special, wrapped in myths and mysteries.
It is a clean place, especially untouched by mankind. Cultural preservation has been tolerated here.
The tallest peaks in the region have never been measured by man, and its beautiful lakes have never been disturbed. It is out of respect – the locals believe that mountains, lakes, and glaciers are idols, which should be revered and feared.
However, it is the effects of man-made land degradation that are slowly destroying it. Rising temperatures due to climate change accelerate melting glaciers in the highlands of Bhutan. In the stillness of the mountain, now, danger is approaching – a killer who can come at any time.
In some glaciers, annual runoff levels reach 35m, providing a large amount of water to nearby lakes. The danger of a collapse of these lakes – in what is known as the glacial lake outburst flood or GLOF – is a global one.
“With global warming, glaciers are melting and our water resources are flowing rapidly downstream. We call it the tsunami in the sky, which can come at any time, ”said Karma Drupchu, national director of the National Center for Hydrology & Meteorology (NCHM).
“Any form of violation will result in severe flooding coming to the river. It will have far-reaching consequences because more than 70 percent of Bhutan’s homes are in river basins … not only the loss of human lives, but also the massive economic losses, ”he said.
NCHM analysis identified 2674 glacial pools, 17 of which were classified as potentially dangerous. The rapid melting of 700 glaciers means that more lakes are being built and the risk to land and infrastructure is increasing.
Bhutan is the only carbon-free country in the world and plays its part in seriously preventing global climate change. The country’s constitution mandates the protection of the environment and industries that thrive economically but which harm the environment are banned for conservation purposes.
But the great burden of climate change has come without the resistance of this small nation. For Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, the impact of the iceberg is a physical and spiritual burden for Bhutan to bear.
“We are very concerned because from a spiritual point of view, it is not just a pool of water. Spiritually, we believe that there is life in it, we respect that and in nature it is a fact that we are losing glaciers due to global warming, ”he told CNA in an exclusive interview.
“We are constantly threatened and that is the most unfair part.”
He also said: “Lifted glaciers, lost forever. How many lives, not only people, but other lives depend on that? Not only the country and the economy but the whole life cycle will be destroyed. but in future generations there may be no erupting lakes. That would be a real tragedy ”.
GLOFs once took place in Bhutan and the impact remains in the memories of those who have experienced such a tragedy. Minor incidents are very common in the lakes region, but the last major event in densely populated areas is back in 1994.
Doley, former head of the Richena city of Punakha, fondly remembers that day. Following the eruption of Lake Luggye, many floods overthrew the Pho Chhu River and brought devastating debris.
“I was here in the village, in my house. Suddenly an elderly relative, who was living with us at the time, became angry and demanded that I look out the window. I ran to the window and looked down. What I saw shocked me, according to the 75-year-old boy.
“The river overflowed its banks with muddy and muddy water and saturated with hundreds of freshly plucked trees and logs, which included large tracts of forest. I was afraid it would ruin people’s lives and there was nothing I could do, ”he said.
Twenty-five years ago, there was no warning for villagers living along the river. The 1994 flood killed 21 people and caused extensive damage to agricultural fields, destroying houses and eradicating large amounts of fish from the river.