South Asia likely to bear the brunt of glacial floods, study warns

Of the 15 million people under threat, more than half live in South Asia, China and Peru


South Asia is likely to bear the brunt of sudden deadly floods triggered by melting glaciers, a new study published in the Nature Communications, earlier this week, has revealed.

Globally, 15 million people live under the threat of unpredictable floods spawned by melting glaciers. More than half of them live in India, Pakistan, China and Peru, the study has pointed out, aggravating fears in a region which is already embattled by other severe environmental disasters.

These floods, also known as glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), are triggered by warmer temperatures which result in the deluging of human habitations downstream. In addition to the heavy death toll, these floods can cause “significant damage to property, infrastructure, and agricultural land,” the study has underlined.

“The continued ice loss and expansion of glacial lakes due to climate change, therefore, represents a globally important natural hazard that requires urgent attention if future loss of life from GLOF is to be minimized…” the study reads.

According to the researchers, thousands of people have been killed due to glacial floods in the last seven decades. With floods becoming more common due to the planet’s warming, the toll is likely to increase as the floods become more common.

“In total, 90 million people across 30 countries live in 1089 basins containing glacial lakes,” the study says.

Trying to be specific in its estimates, the study warns that India and Pakistan contain the highest number of “exposed people” to these types of floods.

As compared to South Asia, only 1 million people in America and Europe are exposed to potentially unstable glacial lakes, the study adds.

“We had glacier lake outburst floods in the past that have killed many many thousands of people in a single catastrophic flooding event,” Tom Robinson, the study’s co-author and a disaster risk scientist at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand told Associated Press. “And with climate change glaciers are melting so these lakes are getting bigger, potentially getting more unstable.”

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