impacts of climate change
- The Pacific - flight from paradise
- Malaria - the big winner
- Meltdown in Everest - Himalayan villages under threat
rest on unstable ground
- Climate change in Central America
- Climate change in Nigeria
Climate change in
Impacts of Climate Change - Part 3
BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany
Meltdown in Everest - Himalayan Mountain Villages Under Threat From Glacial Melt
Where Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay trekked over never-ending ice on their first ascent of Mount Everest 53 years ago, they would today have to wade through mud. To reach the glacier, which at that time ended just beyond their base camp, they would have to walk for a further two hours today because the Himalayan glaciers – once so majestic – are now melting rapidly at a rate of 15 metres per year.
Goodbye Glaciers, Hello Floods
From his office window, Prakash Sharma can see the highest summit of the Himalayas. Sharma is director of Friends of the Earth, Nepal. Since his childhood, he has known and loved the harsh landscape of the Roof of the World. His voice cannot conceal his concern about what he has observed for years now: “Glaciers are melting everywhere in the Himalayas, leaving behind them a desert of sludge and rubble. These are hideous scars on nature.” It's no wonder this is happening when you consider that the average temperature in the region has increased by one degree Celsius since 1970. As the temperature increases, so the glaciers melt. The economic livelihood of the local community is at stake. “The Sagarmatha National Park, whose highest peak is Everest, is losing its natural beauty”, bemoans Sharma. Endangered species, like the snow leopard and the lesser panda, are disappearing. Sharma fears that tourists will lose interest and will seek out other travel destinations. This would be catastrophic for the country, which ranks as one of the ten poorest in the world.
Friends of the Earth, Nepal, along with the international Climate Justice Programme, have consequently applied to UNESCO to have the Mount Everest National Park included in the list of endangered Natural World Heritage Sites, thereby according it special protection. They are supported by well-known personalities such as Reinhold Messner and Sir David Attenborough and the campaign has met with its first success: a UNESCO panel of experts is assessing the application.
Rising Lake Levels Threaten Mountain Villages
Yet another outcome of climate change is a source of worry for the Himalayan experts. Immense volumes of water are being released from the melting glaciers and are turning what were previously gently flowing rivers into torrents, destroying bridges, ripping away plant life and flooding villages. Elsewhere, the melt water collects in natural hollows and creates new lakes. Where deserts of scree existed 50 years ago, today we find natural reservoirs measuring kilometres in length, which are filled to the brim and are ready to burst. Nothing could withstand the flood that would then plunge towards valleys – the inhabitants of villages lying in those valleys would have no chance. Using satellite images, scientists from the United Nations have come to the conclusion that 44 lakes in Nepal and Bhutan could flood in the next few years. Thirteen of these alone lie within the Sagarmatha National Park.
Theoretically, man-made drains could take the pressure off the glacial lakes and could deliver a controlled flow of water to the valley. But this method for alleviating the threat would be too expensive for Nepal. The rich industrialised countries recognise in principle that they are responsible for climate change and that, therefore, they should pay for protective measures. However, concrete negotiations are very slow-moving, perhaps too slow-moving for the mountain villages of Nepal.
Translation: Sharon O'Brien