Swelling Imja lake puts Khumbu region in peril

Kathmandu, May 14:

Imja, a fast-swelling glacial lake, is putting the entire Khumbu region in peril. The region,

a popular destination for mountaineers from all over the world, will be swept away

if the lake bursts.

Due to global warming, snow of the Himalayan region is melting faster and water is accumulating in southern valleys. Small piles of snow, hardly spotted in the 1960s, are melting and turning into big glacial lakes. Imja is one such lake.

The Everest region is one of the hotspots of glacial melting in the Nepal Himalayas. Out of 20 potentially dangerous glacial lakes in Nepal, 12 lie in this region. A study conducted recently by the United Nations Environment Progamme (UNEP) and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) states that Imja is the fastest-retreating glacier in the entire Himalayas.

Spotted as a group of small masses of snow in 1962, Imja has now turned into a one-square-kilometre lake.

“Imja is expanding at an alarming rate. It is growing by 74 metres a year,” says Basanta Shrestha, division head of the IKM-MENTRIS section of the ICIMOD.

“We ought to see how the lake is swelling and inform people about it,” he says.

To keep an eye on fast-swelling Imja, the ICIMOD has installed a pair of video cameras by the lake. These cameras take pictures of the lake every 10 minutes. Lake’s rising level is recorded on a website through wireless internet and satellite.

“After a year-long experiment, we have begun monitoring the lake through remote sensing. Now we can at least see what is happening there and make locals aware of any impending tragedy on time,” he says.

“The formation of glacier lakes and many other changes in the region may or may not be due to global warming, but we need to have some scientific database to predict possible accidents,” Shrestha maintains.