Glacial Floods, Infrastructures, and Sustainability in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park and Buffer Zone, Nepal

Authors: Milan Shrestha*, Arizona State University, Alton Byers, University of Colorado, Boulder
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Asia, Mountain Environments
Keywords: Cryospheric hazards, Glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF), High mountains, Community resilience, Nepal
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8212, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Sustainability is rarely a focus of the conventional response to glacial floods or other disasters risks in which the more urgent needs is often an emergency remediation strategy. A growing body of literature suggests that building “community resilience”—rather than a singular focus on a hazardous glacial lake or other natural hazards—is a more effective and sustainable solution. What would be the meaning of ensuring community resilience in high mountains like the Mt. Everest region? Communities in this region have lived through three major glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and several smaller glacial floods, which seriously damaged their physical infrastructures. However, the societal response has been somewhat slow and complicated (e.g., lowering of glacial lakes, fear of flood), as communities have perceived with these “wicked problems” in a different way than scientists and disaster management agencies typically do. In this paper, we present some of the preliminary findings of our ongoing interdisciplinary study conducted in the Mt. Everest region, which focuses on a science-driven and community-based approach to reducing glacial lake outburst floods. Using a combination of quantitative analysis of household survey data and ethnographic techniques, we analyze the intersections of socio-cultural, economic and institutional factors with GLOF disaster risks in the region. We also discuss the potential role of “boundary institutions” in sustainable disaster risk management. Insights on how communities perceive GLOF risks and construct social memories can add tremendous value to the scientific assessment of GLOF risks, local risk mitigation strategies, and potential community resilience pathways.

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