Today we will discuss India-Pakistan at risk of flooding in our today's edition of Current Affairs. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.
For Prelims: General issues on Environmental Ecology
Glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF), High-mountain Asia (HMA), the European Alps, the Andes, and the Pacific Northwest (PNW)
For Mains: GS Paper III (Conservation, environmental impact assessment.)
Highlights of the Study, About GLOF, Prevention measures for GLOFs
According to a new study published in Nature Communications, three million Indians and two million Pakistanis live in areas where a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) can happen at any time.
Glacial lake outburst floods, or GLOF, threaten millions globally. Explain how "millions'' in India and Pakistan are at risk of flooding from glacial lakes. (150 words, 10 marks)
Background of the Study
- The researchers grouped basins into four mountain ranges: High-mountain Asia (HMA), the European Alps, the Andes, and the Pacific Northwest (PNW).
- The remaining 131 (12%) basins outside of these ranges were referred to as ‘High Arctic and Outlying Countries’.
Highlights of the Study
- Globally, 90 million people across 30 countries live in 1,089 basins containing glacial lakes. Of these, 15 million (16.6 percent) live within 50 kilometers of a glacial lake.
- The majority of the globally exposed population, amounting to 9.3 million (62%) is located in the region of High mountain Asia (HMA).
- Over 50% of the global exposed population was concentrated in just four densely populated nations: China, India, Peru, and Pakistan.
- Indians and Pakistanis, who live at risk of glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF), make up a third of the total number of people worldwide facing such a risk.
- The risk to people was not influenced by the size or quantity of glacial lakes. Instead, it was the number of exposed people that greatly elevated the potential impact of GLOFs globally, especially across HMA and the Andes.
Lesser Distance Higher Risk
- The population exposed to GLOFs increases with distance from a glacial lake.
- Almost half (48%) of exposed populations are globally located between 20 km and 35 km downstream of lakes.
- Only 2% (300,000) of the global population exposed to GLOFs live within 5 km of one or more glacial lakes, with the majority of these 66% or 198,000 people found in high mountain Asia (HMA).
- The average distance between populations and glacial lakes in the HMA is closer than anywhere else, with 1 million people living within 10 km downstream of a glacial lake, where any early warning time is likely to be low, and uncertainty in GLOF magnitude high.
Most Dangerous Basin
- The most dangerous of the 1,089 glacial basins analyzed are found in Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa basin), Peru (Santa basin), and Bolivia (Beni basin) containing 1.2 million, 0.9 million, and 0.1 million people respectively who could be exposed to GLOF impacts.
- Climate impact is visible in the Himalayas, with 25 glacial lakes and water bodies witnessing an increase in water spread area since 2009.
- There has been a 40% increase in the water spread area in India, China, and Nepal, posing a huge threat to seven Indian states and Union Territories (Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh).
- The rapid onset and high discharge of GLOFs make it difficult to effectively warn populations downstream and take action, especially for those populations within 10 to 15 km of the source lake.
- Improvements are urgently needed in designing early warning systems alongside evacuation drills and other forms of community outreach to enable more rapid warnings and emergency action in these highly exposed areas.
The island of Greenland has the highest number and area of glacial lakes. However, nobody resides in such areas, giving them a danger score of zero.
A GLOF is defined as follows by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a local intergovernmental learning and knowledge-sharing center:
- A glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) is the sudden release of water from a lake fed by glacier melt that has formed at the side, in front, within, beneath, or on the surface of a glacier.
- GLOF has the potential to catastrophically threaten people’s lives, livelihoods, and regional infrastructure.
- A significant factor in determining the overall GLOF danger is the large population as well as their poor disaster resilience.
- GLOFs have been taking place since the ice age, and the risk has increased multifold due to climate change.
- In 2013, one such event took place in Uttarakhand’s Kedarnath when the region witnessed flash floods along with a GLOF caused by the Chorabari Tal glacial lake, killing thousands of people.
Prevention measures for GLOFs
- Reducing the risk of GLOFs is complex and no single solution would work.
- In order to halt the spread of glacial lakes, it is important to limit climate change and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, a certain amount of ice loss is already ‘locked in’, thus if we stopped all emissions today GLOF hazard will continue to increase for several decades.
- It's crucial that communities, as well as local, state, and federal governments, must work together to develop effective solutions. Working locally and coming up with solutions for the threatened populations are part of this.
News Source: The Indian Express, Down To Earth
Frequently Asked Questions about India-Pakistan at risk of flooding
What is meant by "glacial lake outburst flood" (GLOF)?
A glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) is the sudden release of water from a lake fed by glacier melt that has formed at the side, in front, within, beneath, or on the surface of a glacier. GLOF has the potential to catastrophically threaten people’s lives, livelihoods, and regional infrastructure. The large population and their weak disaster resilience are important factors in determining the overall GLOF danger.
What is GLOF formation?
A glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) is the sudden release of water from a lake fed by glacier melt that has formed at the side, in front, within, beneath, or on the surface of a glacier.
What are examples of GLOFs?
In 2013, one such event took place in Uttarakhand’s Kedarnath when the region witnessed flash floods along with a GLOF caused by the Chorabari Tal glacial lake, killing thousands of people.
How does global warming lead to glacial lake outburst floods?
The risk of devastating floods downstream has increased as a result of the region's glacier lakes expanding due to melting glaciers and warmer temperatures. Over the past thirty years, the melting of glaciers has resulted in a significant increase in the number of glacier lakes on the Tibetan plateau and the nearby mountain ranges.
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