Draining Himalayan Glacial Lakes Before They Burst

by Richard Kattelmann,
Teiji Watanabe,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: North American Water and Environment Congress & Destructive Water


Glacial lakes are a common feature of the Himalaya in general and the Khumbu Himal region of eastern Nepal in particular. Some of these glacial lakes are naturally unstable because of the conditions that contain them. Many catastrophic floods have occurred in the Himalaya when a dam of moraine and (or) ice failed suddenly and released massive amounts of water that had been stored in a glacial lake. Such outburst events are, far more destructive than floods generated by rainfall or snowmelt. In recent years, several glacial lake outburst floods in and near the Khuithu region have demonstrated the hazard. An outburst from the Nare Glacier in 1977 destroyed several houses along the Dudh Kosi. In August 1985, the moraine dam of Dig Tsho in Langmoche valley failed catastrophically, and the resulting flood destroyed an almost-completed hydroelectric plant and disrupted trade and travel throughout the region. About three million cubic meters of debris were transported dozens of kilometers downstream. In July 1991, the flood from Chubung Lake in the Ripimo Shar Glacier scoured the Rowaling valley and damaged structures near the river in a village downstream.

Subject Headings: Lakes | Drainage | Floods | Developing countries | Disasters and hazards | Dam failures | Ice | Water storage | Himalayas | Nepal | Asia

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