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Risk from Glacial Lake Floods

Why is it in the news?

  • The Uttarakhand government has formed two expert teams to assess the threat from five glacial lakes susceptible to Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), indicating proactive measures to mitigate potential hazards and enhance disaster preparedness in the region.
About GLOFs

·       GLOFs are disaster events caused by the sudden discharge of water from glacial lakes, primarily occurring due to glacial melting and subsequent lake formation.

·       GLOFs can be triggered by various events such as glacial calving, avalanches, landslides, or unstable boundaries around glacial lakes.


·       Soaring global temperatures, resulting in glacier melting, have led to a rise in GLOF events in regions like the Himalayas.

·       Rapid infrastructure development in vulnerable areas has exacerbated the risk of GLOF incidents, as it increases human presence in high-risk zones.


·       GLOFs can result in devastating consequences, including submerging valleys, destroying infrastructure like roads and bridges, and causing loss of life and livelihoods.

Geographical distribution

·       GLOFs are commonly associated with glacial regions, particularly in mountainous areas with significant glacial activity, such as the Himalayas, Andes, and Alps.

·       Since 1980, GLOFs have become more frequent in the Himalayan region, particularly in southeastern Tibet and the China-Nepal border area.

·       The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has identified 188 glacial lakes in the Himalayan states, including thirteen in Uttarakhand, as potentially hazardous due to heavy rainfall.


Suggestions for Mitigation

  • There’s a need to study glacier and glacial lake dynamics comprehensively to assess GLOF risk effectively.
  • Utilizing satellite imagery and remote sensing technology can help monitor changes in glacial lakes and identify potential threats.
  • Developing and communicating emergency preparedness plans to communities at risk is crucial for reducing the impact of GLOF events.

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