Government drains water from Imja Lake to safe levels

Kathmandu, October 23

The government has successfully drained out water from Imja Lake in Solukhumbu to safe levels, reducing the water level by 3.5 metres within five months in bid to save the downstream villages from glacial lake outburst floods.

Imja Lake is one of the fastest growing glacial lakes in the Himalayan region. According to the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, the targeted water level to mitigate the risk of GLOFs has been drained, and a formal programme will be organised to announce the project’s completion.

“We succeeded in reducing the water level to a safe point, and are preparing to organise a formal programme to hand over the project to the Nepali Army,” Rishi Ram Sharma, director general at the department, told The Himalayan Times. He said the Nepali Army will be handed the project by November this year.

A team from the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology had started project from September 24 by releasing water through the lake’s main gate. Before starting the draining process, the department had alerted locals of villages located downstream from the lake to the dangers of the rising water levels in Imja Lake and the Dudhkoshi River.

The project was initiated by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology under the $ 7.2 million budgeted Community Based Flood and Glacial Lake Outburst Risk Reduction Project. The project aims to reduce possible loss of human lives and infrastructure from GLOFs in Solukhumbu and the downstream areas of Mahottari, Siraha, Saptari, and Udaypur.

The Nepali Army constructed the outlet gate to release water accumulated since June 1 this year. NA personnel had constructed a three-metre wide and 1.5-metre deep outlet channel to drain the water. As many as 40 personnel and 62 civilians were involved in the task.

The lake is 180 metres deep, two kilometres long, 650 metres wide, and is spread over 130 hectares. The surface area of the lake is said to have expanded from 0.4 to 1.01 square kilometres between 1984 and 2009 due to the rapid melting of snow. An estimated 96,562 people are living in vulnerable areas downstream of the Imja lake. The programme to drain the lake water was funded by United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility.

Nepal is ranked as the fourth most vulnerable country in the world due to the impacts of climate change. A total of 3,808 glaciers and 1466 glacial lakes have been identified in Nepal. These lakes include 21 potentially dangerous lakes, out of which six are at very high risk. Thso Rolpa and Imja Lakes are among them. Around 21 glacial lakes pose high risk of glacial lake outburst floods due to climate change.