Landscape shots of the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, where the effects of global warming are palpable. Nepal. 23/12/09.
Local communities blame the gods for the changing weather whilst the developed countries in the world continue to expand and further contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
The Nepalese government held a unique cabinet meeting at Kala Patthar near the base of Mount Everest following the Copenhagen climate summit.
Although Nepal's share in the global emission of greenhouse gases is almost nil, the consequences of global warming and climate change - receding snowlines, lake bursts and flash floods - threaten to wash away vast areas of this Himalayan country.
The meltdown of glaciers due to global warming has sent a chill through the Himalayan region. Over the last couple of years, this mountainous country has recorded a hazy winter, hotter summer months, reduced rain fall and frequent landslides, which experts attribute to climatic change.
Experts believe this could be a pointer to even more miserable weather to come. The average temperature in Nepal is rising by 0.75 degrees Celsius per decade says a senior official in the Ministry of Population and Environment.
Global warming has increased the pace of snow melting, which, in turn, has made glacial lakes swell. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) had warned five years ago that 20 big glacial lakes in the country are at risk of floods from glacial lake bursts, which could trigger huge loss of life and property. More than five glacial lake bursts occurred in the past few decades, according to records and satellite imagery, says a climate change officer at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Nepal Program).
WWF-Nepal acts as a member secretary organization of the Climate Change Network Nepal, which includes a number of domestic and international environmental bodies keeping a watch on global warming and its impact on Nepal.
One of the most startling results of climate change can be seen in the spectacular Tsho Rolpa glacial lake situated in the Rolwaling valley, north of the capital Kathmandu. The lake had an area of 0.23 sq kilometers in 1950. It has since swollen to 1.7 sq kilometers, says the officials in the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology of Nepal government. After the UNEP warning, the Nepal government immediately started the Tsho Rolpa Risk Reduction Project, with the help of foreign aid. The project has siphoned a huge quantity of water and has brought down the water level by 3 metres. According to UNEP, the water level needs to be brought down by at least 20 meters to ensure safety.
In August 2003, the Kawari glacier lake, situated in the foothills of the Annapurna II Mountain of the Himalayan region in Nepal burst, destroying property worth US $100,000. Five people were killed and dozens made homeless.
Glacial lake bursts on a smaller scale have been frequently reported in the past few decades. On September 3, 1998, the Sabai Tsho lake-burst killed two persons and washed away fields and trekking trails of Solukhumbu district, which is home to Mount Everest. Likewise, in September 1997, the Dudh Koshi burst destroyed a mini hydro plant there. On July 1991, the Chilbung lake burst, damaging houses in Beding village in Rolwaling valley. These are just a few examples.
Glacial lake bursts occurred in the past as well, but their frequency has increased of late because of the rising pace of snow melting. According to the studies carried out by ICIMOD (International Center for Integrated Mountain Development) and UNEP, there are 26 potential dangerous glacial lakes in Nepal that threaten millions of lives due to global warming.
There are around 3,300 glaciers in the Nepali Himalayas and nearly 2,300 of them contain glacial lakes. Scientists have documented a similar trend in glaciers throughout the Himalaya, the mountain range that houses Mount Everest. The range, which spans several Asian nations, is known as the Water Tower of Asia, since billions of people depend on its life-bringing flows. Scientists fear that these water supplies could eventually dry up as the glaciers melt due to global warming.
Experts claim that climate change due to global warming is responsible for erratic weather patterns such as the thick haze that shrouds Nepal's Terai (southern plains) area in winter. The haze destroys the cash crops of this region, which is the livelihood of the country. And due to the delay in regular snowfall, people living in the western Himalayan region are suffering from outbreaks of viral influenza, pneumonia, colds, diarrhoea and other diseases.
It is very disappointing that while Nepal does not emit many greenhouse gases, it has to face the consequences of actions of other developed countries. Due to their actions, Nepal's white gold mountains that are also called the water tower of Asia, are under threat. Fear has risen that even the bio-diversity may have been affected by the change in climate. This could be particularly true in a country like Nepal where different species are found at different altitudes and climatic conditions. Nepal is already party to the international convention on climate change and is working to ratify the Kyoto protocol. But despite its deep concern, Nepal might not be able to cope with the challenge thrown open by global warming on its own, say government officials.
According to ICIMOD, mountainous Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 tallest peaks, including Mount Everest, is vulnerable to climate change despite being responsible for only 0.027 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, among the world’s lowest. Average global temperatures are rising faster in the Himalayas than in most other parts of the world. The Khumbu Glacier on Mount Everest has retreated more than three miles (five kilometers) from the time when Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay famously set out to conquer the world's highest peak in 1953.
WWF has released a report warning that Himalayan glaciers are currently receding at an average rate of 33 to 50 feet (10 to 15 meters) per year. In India the Gangotri Glacier, the source of the Ganges (or Ganga) River, is retreating at a rate of 75 feet (23 meters) annually. The report has also noted that air temperatures in the region have risen by 1.8°F (1°C) since the 1970s—twice as much as average warming in other northern hemisphere countries over the same time period.
Meanwhile, Nepal's Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has proposed five key-points for the success of Copenhagen Climate Conference with urge of Nepali people for keeping the earth green so that humankind can keep the majestic Himalayas, the Alps and Andes eternally white under the snow. Addressing the High Level Segment of the Copenhagen Climate Conference, Prime Minister Nepal stressed that "If we fail to act now and act decisively, not only will future generation be deprived of experiencing the beauty of the white mountains, but also the livelihoods of over 1.3 billion people residing in the great river basins of the Himalayas will be seriously affected." Briefing the High Level Segment about Nepal's Cabinet Meeting held at Kalapatthar, the Base Camp of the Mt. Everest, Prime Minister Nepal said he saw up close from the top of the world the alarming impacts of climate change in the Himalayan Region. He also urged the developed countries to abide by their existing commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as already agreed within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol. He has also urged the Summit Conference to set ambitious global goals and targets for Annex I countries to further reduce greenhouse gas emission.
According to PM Nepal, Nepal is prepared to play its part and have developed one of the most successful community forestry programs. Given the huge potential of hydropower, solar and wind energy in Nepal, it can aspire to become a carbon neutral country in the long run contributing to lessen carbon emission in the region through the development of clean hydro energy in Nepal. He also added that the temperature in Nepal is increasing at a rate much higher than the global average. This in the long term would also adversely impact the hydrological system of the entire region. Formation and outburst of glacial lakes are perhaps the most visible impacts of climate change. Global climate change is thus adversely affecting the fragile mountain ecosystem while endangering its great biodiversity. As a landlocked and least developed country with subsistence agriculture, Nepal has the challenge to the changing life support system and protecting the environment and natural resources from the negative impact of climate change.
PM Nepal proposed 5 Key points to make the Copenhagen summit a success in bringing effective solutions to fight with the Global warming. He has stressed that an ambitious and legally binding deal in Copenhagen following the Convention and Kyoto tracks is a must. Developed countries should have ambitious goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Atmospheric temperature should be kept below 1.5 degrees. LDCs and most vulnerable countries must be uppermost, as they are least able to withstand the adverse impacts of climate change.
The effect of global warming is not an abstract scientific theory any more in the Himalayan Mountains; it has become a fact of everyday life. Its effects are visible everywhere: in snow-capped mountains that are turning into stark, exposed rock, and swollen lakes that have made traditional yak-herding routes impassable. There is also less direct impact that is more difficult to measure: droughts and cloudbursts, delayed monsoons and huge forest fires are a few. What many in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal and neighboring countries still do not know is the cause of this warming, and what to do about it. Some blame the gods for erratic weather — not the emission of greenhouse gases by rich countries. They do not know how the futures of their children and grandchildren are tied up with this Global warming. In fact, the messy development and fake promises having come out of the Copenhagen Summit for the international climate-change conference has given a pointer that these ignorant people will continue suffering from the Global warming not caused by them.