IMJA TSHO ACTION EVENT - 2009
I found out that the greatest threat to mountain communities was Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF). Vulnerable mountain communities, like my own Sherpa community, face the threat of being washed off the mountain slopes. Frail moraine holds back huge lakes formed by melting mountain glaciers. These barriers can break down at any given moment causing the water to thunder down in a vertical tsunami – a GLOF.
My research indicated that the Imja Tsho (lake) has been identified as one the most immediate threats likely to burst its banks at any time. Such a catastrophe would mean loss of lives and the destruction of homes, cattle, and farmlands along the wake of the GLOF, but would also affect the lower mountains and hill communities and even the dense population of the Gangetic plains. While the map indicates the possible path of destruction, what cannot be visualized are the after-effects of such a flood.
Imja Tsho is the fastest growing glacial lake in the entire Himalaya with average rate of growth of 74 m a year in length. They can see and read the signs that GLOFs will only get more frequent. The mountain community in the Everest region now wants to tell the world community that they are aware and are now ready to act. They want scientists, engineers, environmentalists, mountaineers, well-wishers, and all mountain-lovers to support and guide their initiatives to tackle the problem.
The iDEAS Team responded to this call and took on the responsibility to help the Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa to organise the Imja Tsho Action Event 2009 - Beat the GLOF Action Run. The Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa (Sherpa Students Group) is a group formed to create a network between all the Sherpa students. They are a non-profit and non-political organization, registered in 2007 in Kathmandu District Office and affiliated to the Social Welfare Council (SWC). One of their main aims is to encourage the participation of youth in promotion and preservation of Sherpa Culture, language and Environment.
The Beat the GLOF Action Run starts at IMJA Lake, at the source of the biggest threat to the people of the Khumbu. The route will takes us down the path of the Outburst Flood. The runners will run on the paths and bridges that will one day be washed away. They will see the forest and the farmland that will become desolate landscapes. They will cross bridges that will cease to exist, villages and villagers that will all be gone in a flash.
This devastation will not only cause loss of life and property but could also cause cultural and traditional values to fade and become extinct. It has been said: “Memory lasts only as long as the last person who remembers.” The Khumbu Festival will be held in Khumjung village on the day after the Beat the GLOF Action Run.
As a prelude to the Imja Tsho Action Event 2009, the Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa will carry out extensive publicity and promotion campaigns in the Everest region. They will approach all the schools and brief the students and teachers on the risks of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods. An art competition among the primary level students and a letter writing competition among the secondary level students will be announced. Suggested themes will be:
- The impact of climate change on our mountains
- The protection of our mountains
- The impact of Climate Change and glacial melt on our mountain lifestyle and livelihood.
- Initiatives to minimize risks to lives and property.
The title for the competition will be "Climate Change : Voices Of Khumbu's Children."
Imja Tsho Action Event 2009 was organized in the Khumbu on 18th and 19th June 2009 with the support of The North Face, Sagarmatha National Park, Department of Wildlife Conservation and National Park, and Sagarmatha National Park Buffer Zone Management Committee. The event was also supported by The Nepal Tourism Board, ICIMOD, The Himalayan Trust, and WWF Nepal’s “Climate for Life” campaign.
BEAT THE GLOF ACTION RUN, 18th JUNE
IMJA TSHO BASE CAMP
The Action Run was organized to act as a catalyst for the international community to act and assist in programs that would help minimize the loss of lives and property - the disastrous outcome of a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) should the Lake Imja Tsho burst its fragile banks. The Event was a clarion call to the national and international stakeholders for Action to help these threatened mountain communities.
The Action Run was a highly successful event! 113 runners completed the 35 km route from Imja Lake (5010m) to Khumjung Village (3780m). The first 3 male and female runners were:
1. Ram Kumar Rajbhandari : 3hrs 21mins
2. Ram Kumar Tamang : 3hrs 24mins
3. Karma Sherki Sherpa : 3hrs 27mins
1. Ang Phuti Sherpa : 4hrs 03mins
2. Mingma Phuti Sherpa : 4hrs 22mins
3. Mingma Chamji Sherpa : 4hrs 25mins
Mr. Prashant Singh, WWF Nepal Director of Business Relations, presented Khata (sacred Buddhist cloth) and Climate for Life T-shirts to all the runners
During the Beat the GLOF Action Run volunteers from the Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa were in place at 12 checkpoints along the Run route to provide water and energy bars to the runners and also basic First Aid to any runner if needed. Members of the Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa who had received training in the iDEAS Basic Videography Course were also positioned at various locations to film the Run while professional camera teams were at the start and finish lines to film the event.
KHUMBU FESTIVAL, 19th JUNE 2009
The Festival focused on the cultural heritage of the mountain community, and the community's crucial role in maintaining and protecting their mountain environment.
During the festival members of the mountain community stressed the need for urgent action to be taken to reduce the risk to lives in the event of Imja Tsho bursting its banks.
During the opening session of the program, Chairman of The North Face Nepal, Capt. Nima Norbu Sherpa, presented cash prizes to the top 10 male and female runners as well as specially designed medals to the first three runners in both the male and female categories. Mr. Prashant Singh, Director, Development and Marketing, WWF Nepal, presented the top three male and female runners with Climate for Life mementos.
Chief Guest, Sonam Gyalzen president of the Sagarmatha National Park Buffer Zone Management committee, Guest of Honor Linda McMillan, President, Mountain Protection Commission UIAA and Senior Advisor iDEAS , Mr. Prashant Singh, Director, Development and Marketing, WWF Nepal, commented on this unique initiative of a threatened mountain community and their call for action.
Dawa Steven Sherpa, iDEAS Chief Coordinator and WWF Climate for Life Ambassador said, “We pledge to continue to work towards raising awareness on this issue in the future. We truly appreciate the endeavor of international organizations like WWF in helping us take this message to the wider world.”
Prashant Singh, Director, WWF Nepal commented “The threats of Himalayan GLOFs exemplify Climate injustice forced upon communities who have played no role in the creation of this problem in the first place. It’s heartening to see, though, that the local communities are coming together and raising their voice against it. This event is part of WWF’s Climate for Life campaign to raise global awareness on the impacts of Climate Change in the Himalayas."
WWF’s Educational Children’s Book series “Pani Prasad” Volume I and II in Nepali were launched at the program. The Pani Prasad mascot became an instant hit with more than 1500 adults and children as it mingled with them.
As a prelude to the Imja Tsho Action Event 2009, an interschool art and letter writing competition titled “Climate Change: Voices of Khumbu’s Children” was announced in the Khumbu. The competition was organized by iDEAS and ICIMOD in collaboration with Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa.
117 primary level students from 9 schools in the Khumbu created art on the “Climate Change- Voices of Khumbu’s Children” theme for the Art Competition, while 198 secondary level students from 4 schools in the Khumbu wrote letters to World Leaders as part of the Letter Writing Competition on the same theme.
Through their art the primary school students have expressed their concern on the protection of the mountains and the mountain communities.
The Secondary School students’ letters inform World Leaders about the problems being faced by mountain communities due to climate change and ask for initiatives to help tackle them.
Prizes for the winners of 'Climate Change: Voices of the Khumbu Children' Art and Letter Writing Competition were distributed at the Festival. The children ranging from age 5 years to 15 proudly received their awards from the Headmaster of Khumjung School Mr. Mahendra Kathet. The end of the awards ceremony marked the conclusion of the formal part of the festival.
A traditional Sherpa dance competition was also held where 114 dancers participated. The Himalayan Trust was the main sponsor for the dance competition. The dancers requested that the prize money be shared equally among all the competitors as they felt that the most important part was to participate and help preserve our traditional dances. Dancers from Pangboche, Phortse, Khumjung, Khunde, Namche, and Thame participated.
Many stalls were set up at the Khumjung Village Square including stalls run by the Aama Samuha (Mothers’ Group) selling traditional Sherpa food items as well as Cottage Industry items.
WWF and ICIMOD also set up stalls at the Festival, interacting with the local communities and disseminating information on various environmental issues including Climate Change.
Journalists from eight national print and video media organizations were invited to Khumjung for the Imja Tsho Action Event 2009. Agni Airlines offered discounted airfares for the Kathmandu-Lukla flight and Asian Trekking (P) Ltd. sponsored full services Lodge trek for members of the media teams. Asian Trekking also sponsored 4 days/3nights lodging and all meals for the media representatives during their stay in Khumjung Village. Camp de Base at Namche Bazar and La Villa Sherpani at Lukla sponsored the media's stay in Namche and Lukla.