ICIMOD partners with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project to spread the word about risks of melting glaciers

In collaboration with the Climate Reality Project, a non-profit founded by Al Gore based in Washington, DC, United States, ICIMOD accompanied 14 media representative to the Sun Koshi basin to observe the risks of climate-related flooding and the possible impact for people living in the river basin.

The Climate Reality Project encourages local-level field visits to highlight signs of climate change in communities. The project is currently working with partners around the globe to lead and document expeditions focusing on the theme of ‘sea ice and glacial melt’. ICIMOD chose to invite local media representatives on the field visit, urging them to disseminate the messages to a wide public.

Dr Arun B. Shrestha, ICIMOD Climate Change Expert, led the trip to Sun Koshi on 23 January 2012. He enlightened participants about glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and flash floods, and about the vulnerability to their consequences in the region. 

The participants also met with more than 40 local people of Barahbise to learn about local community’s perceptions about climate-related threats, adaptation, and mitigation. This bustling commercial centre, like others along the main road between Kathmandu and Tibet, is situated precariously close to the river. The local people requested the media to bring their concerns to the government authorities.

Engineers at Bhote Koshi Power plant, a privately owned power station, briefed the participants about the advanced early warning system that has been put in place for flash flood risk management there. At the Phulping Bridge, the participants saw the remnant of an earlier bridge that was washed away by a GLOF caused by the melting of the Zhangzangbo Glacier in Tibet in 1981; they observed how the new bridge has been built at a much higher elevation to withstand future flooding. Nearby, at Larcha, they saw the impacts of a landside dam outburst flood that occurred in 1996; after a landslide had dammed the river, heavy rainfall caused the river to burst through the dam. Heavy damage ensued, but residents have resettled in the same place. The final destination of the trip was the border between China and Nepal, where the participants saw the sensors of Bhote Koshi Power’s early warning system. As the power plant is not far from the border, the system is only able to provide five minutes warning time in the case of a flood.

The Climate Reality Project is publishing a three-part blog account of the field visit (see Part 1 and Part 2) to bring the word about the dangers of shrinking glaciers to its large audience around the world. The postings also include a video produced by ICIMOD to document the trip. In Nepal, the field trip generated numerous news stories in print and on national television and radio. 

- Subasana Shrestha <>