Reducing Risks and Ensuring Preparedness

04 Dec 2012

The International Conference on Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) risk reduction is organized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs as part of the first National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) follow-up project "Reducing Climate Change-induced Risks and Vulnerabilities of GLOF", to facilitate sharing of project lessons and application of these in future interventions in Bhutan and other GLOF prone countries in the region and beyond. The project is financed through the Global Environment Facility's - Least Developed Countries' Fund (GEF-LDCF).

The conference is organized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, RGoB in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who have provided co-financing for the project.

Other international organizations such as World Bank Global Fund for Disaster Risk Reduction (WB/GFDRR), International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Japan International Cooperation Agency, Norwegian Water Resources & Energy Directorate, University of Vienna  and the Mountain Institute will also be participating in the conference with institutions and experts/ practitioners on GLOF form around the world.

Glaciers in Bhutan are receding at a rate of 30-60 meters per decade. The risk of potential disasters inflicted by GLOFs, pose new threats to lives, livelihoods and development. The risks are mounting as water levels in several glacier lakes approach critical geostatic thresholds. Keeping these concerns in mind, the conference will also deliberate on recommendations and resolutions from similar past and ongoing initiatives such as the "Bhutan Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas" held in Bhutan in November 2011 and the "Regional Knowledge Sharing for Effective Risk Management of Hydro meteorological hazards in the Hindu-Kush-Himalayan Region" held in Kathmandu in March 2012.

In follow up to the UNDP supported NAP (2006), Bhutan has been implementing the first project funded by the LDCF. The project addresses climate risks in two Sub Basins - Pho Chhu and Chamkhar Chhu - which represent the two most GLOF-vulnerable areas in the country where there exists a major threat to life and property as well as infrastructure downstream.

Approximately 10% of the Bhutanese population lives in these two areas. The Pho Chhu flows into Puna Tshang Chhu, the country's longest river, along which there are emerging townships, important historical structures, major hydropower projects, farmland, and public infrastructure projects. The Chamkhar valley is an important emerging tourist, and economic hub. The goal of the project is to enhance adaptive capacity to prevent climate change-induced GLOF disasters in Bhutan in general and in particular in the above mentioned valleys.

The conference will be organized with plenary presentations as well as Group Sessions and an exhibition/gallery displaying project photos, posters, videos, publications, etc. Approximately 60 -70 participants are expected to attend the conference from GLOF prone countries, regional and international organizations such as SAARC, UNDP, WB-GFDRR, ICIMOD, Mountain Institute and others.The conference objectives are as follows:

  • Enhance learning and knowledge exchange, enabling the replication of effective disaster risk reduction measures and adaptation to climate change both within Bhutan and with other countries facing climate change-induced GLOF risks
  • Facilitate information sharing and cooperation through sharing of technical lessons from Bhutan with other GLOF-prone countries, based on experience of project implementing partners and an independent review conducted in mid-2012
  • Present regional and international experiences and best practices through invitation of international experts from other GLOF-prone countries
  • Discuss approaches and opportunities for sustainability, replication and up-scaling of project interventions in Bhutan and other GLOF-prone countries
  • Discuss linkages with regional initiatives such as the Bhutan Climate Summit, regional risk reduction and Early-Warning System-initiatives

The conference is scheduled for 3 days including a 1 day field visit to project sites in the Punakha-Wangdue valley.