Kathmandu: As deaths and destruction are being reported after heavy rains caused a Himalayan glacial lake in Sikkim to burst its banks, climate change experts have raised the alarm over devastating impacts of climate change in the Himalayas.
The Lhonak Lake in Sikkim state burst its banks on Wednesday causing major flooding in the latest deadly weather event in South Asia’s mountains being blamed on climate change.
Arun B Shrestha, senior climate change specialist at ICIMOD, said, “We’re facing a devastating flash flood in the Teesta River, Sikkim. Information is fragmented, but it appears heavy rainfall from a Bay of Bengal low-pressure depression triggered the disaster.” “This seems like another unfortunate example of cascading hazards,” he said.
According to Miriam Jackson, senior cryosphere specialist at ICIMOD, intense rain has led to this catastrophic situation in Sikkim where the rain has triggered a glacial lake outburst flood and damaged a dam and caused loss of life and caused further damage to roads and infrastructure. “We observe that such extreme events increase in frequency as the climate continues to warm and takes us into unknown territory.”
Likewise, Jakob Steiner, High Mountain Asia hazards and hydrology expert and fellow of ICIMOD’s Himalaya University Consortium said: “It is possible that strong permafrost degradation in the vicinity of the lake may have destabilized the dam, which may have then failed upon an exceptionally strong rainfall event. “Tragically, what we’ve seen this summer in terms of flash floods is likely to pale in comparison with what’s to come unless we limit temperature rise,” he said.
Pema Gyamtsho, Director General at ICIMOD said: “Sadly, this is the latest in a series of deadly flash-floods that ricocheted across the Hindu Kush Himalayan region this monsoon, bringing the reality of this region’s extreme vulnerability to climate change all too vividly alive.”