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Himalayan plunder: 3 million Indians live in areas that can be swept by glacial lake floods, says study

GS Paper 1

Syllabus: Disaster Management/Geography


Source: DTE

 Context: The article highlights GLOF, associated risks and risk mitigation.


What is a GLOF?

  • A GLOF is a sudden release of water from a lake fed by glacier melt
  • Threatens people’s lives, livelihoods and regional infrastructure.
  • In the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), GLOF events can be traced back to the failure of moraine-dammed glacial lakes
  • The pressure on the dam, water seeping through the structure, fragmentation of the source glacier, landslides, etc., can trigger a GLOF.
  • The frequency of GLOFs is expected to increase due to climate change.


Recent findings:

  • The majority of the globally exposed population is located in the region of high mountain Asia and more than 50% in India, Pakistan, Peru and China.
  • The population exposed to GLOFs increases with distance from a glacial lake.
  • Rapid deglaciation over the last 20 years has led to the growth of many large glacial lakes.
  • Increase in the population living in close proximity to glacial lakes between 2002 to 2022.


Situation in India:

  • According to the ICIMOD, Himalayan glacial lakes increased by about 9% in number, and 14% in the area.
  • The best-studied glacier is north India’s Chhota Shigri, which has lost three times its mass.
  • The rapid onset of GLOFs means there is insufficient time to effectively warn downstream populations.


Way ahead:


Conclusion: Improvements are urgently needed in designing early warning systems alongside evacuation drills and other forms of community outreach.

Insta Links:

Tackling glacial burst


Mains Links:

 Q. What is Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding? Examine the vulnerabilities of hydropower projects in the Himalayan eco-sensitive region and suggest measures to overcome the same.