Nepal drains risky glacial lake near Ever­est

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

KATH­MANDU:

Nepal has suc­cess­fully drained part of a gi­ant glacial lake near Mount Ever­est, avert­ing risk of a dis­as­trous flood that could have threat­ened thou­sands of lives, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day. Sci­en­tists say cli­mate change is caus­ing Hi­malayan glaciers to melt at an alarm­ing rate, cre­at­ing huge glacial lakes which could burst their banks and dev­as­tate moun­tain com­mu­ni­ties. Imja Tsho, lo­cated at an al­ti­tude of 5,010 me­ters, just 10 kilo­me­ters south of the world’s high­est peak, is the fastest-grow­ing glacial lake in Nepal. The Hi­malayan na­tion was dev­as­tated by a 7.8-mag­ni­tude earth­quake last year, rais­ing alarm about the risks of flash flood­ing from glacial lakes.

“Drain­ing the lake was on the pri­or­ity of the govern­ment be­cause of its high risk. We have suc­cess­fully mit­i­gated a dis­as­ter right now,” Top Ba­hadur Kha­tri, the pro­ject man­ager of the Com­mu­nity Based Flood and Glacial Lake Out­burst Risk Re­duc­tion Pro­ject said. Kha­tri said that the lake, nearly 150 me­ters deep, had its water low­ered by 3.5 me­ters af­ter six months of rig­or­ous work-drain­ing more than five mil­lion cu­bic me­ters of water. The Nepal govern­ment worked to­gether with United Na­tions Devel­op­ment Pro­gram (UNDP) to drain the lake. A team of 40 Nepal army per­son­nel and more than 100 lo­cal high al­ti­tude work­ers worked in shifts since April to com­plete the pro­ject, air­lift­ing or us­ing yaks to trans­port the equip­ment.

“A 45-me­tres long tun­nel was con­structed to aid out­flow of the lake down­stream. We have also in­stalled a me­chan­i­cal gate to con­trol the dis­charge,” said Lieu­tenant Colonel Bharat Lal Shrestha, who led the army team. “Be­cause of the wind, snow and thin air, we could work only two or three hours a day. It was a chal­leng­ing task,” he said. The sur­face area cov­ered by the lake ex­panded from 0.4 to 1.01 square kilo­me­ters be­tween 1984 and 2009, trig­ger­ing con­cerns that it may breach its banks and flood vil­lages down­stream. Ex­perts say that a flood would have a cat­a­strophic im­pact on the lives of more than 50,000 peo­ple liv­ing in nearby vil­lages and even in south­ern dis­tricts of the coun­try.

As part of the pro­ject, early warn­ing sys­tems have also been in­stalled in vil­lages down­stream. “Our plan is to now repli­cate the work in other high-risk glacial lakes,” Kha­tri said. Nepal is home to some 3,000 glacial lakes. In 2014 a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional study warned that glaciers in the Ever­est re­gion could shrink by 70 per­cent or dis­ap­pear en­tirely by the end of the cen­tury, owing to cli­mate change. A study pub­lished by the Kath­mandu-based In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre for In­te­grated Moun­tain Devel­op­ment used satel­lite im­agery to show how Nepal’s glaciers had al­ready shrunk by nearly a quar­ter be­tween 1977 and 2010. —AFP

ST LOUIS: Deb­o­rah Gian­nec­chini, of Modesto, Calif poses for a photo in St Louis. A jury has awarded Gian­nec­chini more than $70 mil­lion in her law­suit al­leg­ing that years of us­ing John­son & John­son’s baby pow­der caused her can­cer, the lat­est case rais­ing con­cerns about the health ram­i­fi­ca­tions of ex­tended tal­cum pow­der use. —AP

In this file photo, John­son’s baby pow­der is squeezed from its con­tainer in Philadel­phia. —AP

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