Climate Witness: Ang Tshering Sherpa, Nepal
I am Ang Tshering Sherpa and I was born on 15 November 1953 in a picturesque place called Khumjung village in Solu Khumbu district. It is close to Namche Bazaar, where the tourists visiting the area acclimatize themselves to the altitude before going further. I spent most of my childhood in my birth place and also stayed in Tengboche monastery for 6 years.
It has been more than 35 years that I have been working in mountain tourism sector. Around 25 years back, in 1982, I established Asian Trekking Pvt. Ltd. The company organizes trekking package, mountain expedition to Everest and other activities related with mountain tourism. Over the years, Asian Trekking has grown into one of the biggest operators in Nepal and Tibet in mountain tourism sector We are also general agent of mountain association of China and Tibet and I am Chairman of the company. I am also president of Nepal Mountaineering Association and am honorary Consul of Belgium.
Glacial lakes growing
I have witnessed vast changes in mountain areas, especially in the Everest region. Glaciers are retreating fast and new glacial lakes have formed. When I was a kid, we could easily cross Gokyo Lake with our herd of Yak. We used to cross Lho La pass situated in 6026 meters and took our herd as far as Rumbuk in Tibet. Now, Gokyo Lake has become so huge that it is not possible to cross it with our animals. Besides, the snow has melted which has made it difficult for Yaks to walk on steep rocky mountains and therefore, people had to find an alternative pass. Thus, instead of Lho La Pass (6026), nowadays people use alternative pass called Nangpa Pass (5790).
Over the years, I have seen new glacier lakes form and their size has also increased dangerously. Before 1960, Imja Lake did not even exist and it first appeared in 1962 as a small pond. Now, the lake has become so huge that it could burst anytime. A Similar trend is seen in Nokjumba glacier. Small ponds have started to appear in Nokjumba glacier and it might follow Imja Lakeís trend and grow into dangerously big lake.
I dread thinking about the calamities and possible human loss if these lakes were to burst. About 15 years back, Dikcho Lake burst resulting in huge property loss. Imja Lake is much bigger than Dikcho Lake (about 20 times bigger) and if this lake burst, there will be huge calamity. The lives of people living in the area, their property and cattle are in danger as well as the damage to infrastructure.
Impact on livelihoods
Besides, potential glacier lake outburst, our mountaineering profession is facing problems due to unpredictable weather conditions. About 12-13 years ago, the appropriate season for mountaineering used to be September, October and November. Nowadays, it has shifted to late May because the weather has become unreliable. It snows when it is time to rain and rains when it should snow. This has resulted in an increase in the rate of accidents in mountain expedition.
The snow is melting so fast that it makes it difficult for our profession. A few years back, it used to take around 2 months to melt 5-6 cm of snow whereas nowadays within 6-7 days, about 2 feet of snow melts. This phenomenon is very obvious when we set up our camps. Within few days, we could see the snow around our tent melt and we need to adjust accordingly. The melting of snow also destroys our camping sites and trekking routes.
It is not only our profession that has been highly affected by this phenomenon but glacier melting and rapidly increasing number and size of glacier lakes has put us in a very vulnerable situation. Thinking about potential damage and calamities that might occur in case of glacial lake outburst makes me feel very uncomfortable.
I donít think local pollution and tourism is the cause for this trend. We hardly receive 600-800 tourism in a year and the number is too small to have such huge impact in our mountain environment. I think it is because of global warming.
According to me, it is time for all of us to act.
The leaders and international people should come up with appropriate policy to deal with this. However, we all should act from our part to address the issue, especially of Imja Lake. It is very essential for us to take immediate measures to reduce the water pressure of the lake and take similar measures like in Tsho-Rolpa. It is very important that water in the lake is drained out so that potential danger is reduced. We also have to keep cautious eyes on new glacier lakes that are forming.
Besides, we need to protect plants and animals of this region. This is our biggest asset and if the environment is destroyed, our tourism business will be highly affected which ultimately affects the livelihood of the people.
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