Millions of people in the world are at risk of flooding from glacial lakes

Calculating the risk of such a situation is difficult; But in this case, the researchers focused on the proximity of communities to a possible flood (exposure to it) and how these areas would be affected if the lakes overflow by 2020. In this study, political corruption was also considered; Because this issue is considered an obstacle for the necessary efforts for reconstruction.

According to the researchers, this is the first study that examines not only the physical conditions of the glacial lakes, but also the social situation and vulnerability of the areas. Vulnerability is an issue that directly affects GLOF risk.

The analyzes carried out in this study showed that, contrary to expectations, the regions with the most, largest, most numerous and fastest glacial lakes are not the most dangerous regions; Instead, the number of residents in the area and their capacity to deal with the disaster is the main factor in assessing the level of risk.

Residents of high mountain areas in Asia who live near glacial lakes are at the highest risk. Pakistan and China are the two countries that have the highest probability of danger in the world. 2.1 million people in Pakistan live near glacial lakes and are exposed to their flooding; This figure is almost twice that of China. China’s glacial lakes are larger and more numerous; Therefore, they can cause more damage to the infrastructure.

Although the Himalayas have recently become a popular research area related to the potential effects of glacial lakes, researchers have identified the Andes Mountains in South America and Peru, which ranks third in terms of risk, as high-risk areas.

So far, few studies have been done in relation to the Andes mountains. However, the number of glacial lakes in this region has increased by 93% over the past two decades, which is a significant figure compared to the 37% increase in Asia. According to researchers, deep-rooted corruption is one of the most important reasons that can be considered for this issue. Taylor and his colleagues write in part of their article:

Although the researchers only got a glimpse of these lakes, they believe their methods could be used to monitor the risk of flooding from glacial lake outbursts over time.

It should be noted that societies have not remained silent in the face of this danger; For example, in 2015, a Peruvian farmer and mountain guide sued Germany’s largest electricity producer (RWE). The reason for this complaint was the costs of protecting Ovaraz, the city where he lives, against possible flooding caused by the overflowing of the Palcacocha glacial lake.

The case is still ongoing, and a group of German judges traveled to the region in 2022 to assess the extent of possible damage to Avaraz as a result of an outbreak. This lake has become 34 times larger than in 1970, and the falling rocks will soon cause it to overflow.

It is not easily possible to prove that the pollution released in the European continent has caused the melting of the natural glaciers in Peru; But a 2021 review claimed that greenhouse gas emissions have increased the risk of flooding by accelerating the melting of ice sheets. The Peruvian farmer’s success in his case will lead to other similar cases to try to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their contribution to global climate change.

The above study in Nature Communications It has been published.

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