Water being drained out of Imja Lake

Kathmandu, September 24

To save over a dozen villages from the risk of glacial lake outburst floods, Nepal has begun draining water from Imja, one of the fastest growing glacial lake in the Himalayas, in Solukhumbu.

A team from the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology started work from 9:00 am today by releasing water through the lake’s main gate.

The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology said. “We have succeeded in releasing water from the lake and will continue the work for a week to lower the water level in the lake by up to 3.5 metres,” Director General at the department Dr Rishi Ram Sharma told The Himalayan Times, adding, “We have also alerted villagers of villages located downstream from the lake to the dangers of the rising water levels in Imja Lake and the Dudhkoshi River.”

Dr Sharma said the technical team is releasing water at the rate of three cubic metres per second, and the team plans to drain a total of 4 million cubic metres of water from the lake.

The project was initiated by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology under the  7.2 million dollar 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.

Spokesperson of the Nepali Army Tara Bahadur Karki said it was NA’s first experience in a disaster risk mitigation programme. “Although we have been involved in various rescue operations, working for disaster risk mitigation at a height of 5,010 metres was a first,” he said.

The Nepali Army had completed the construction works in and around the lake a month ago.

The glacial 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.