IMJA TSHO ACTION EVENT - Beat the GLOF Action Run and Khumbu Festival
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 has responded to this call and has taken on the responsibility to help the Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa to organise the Imja Tsho Action Event 2009 - Beat the GLOF Action Run. This event will be the tipping point from awareness and education into Action. 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 is organised to show the world what lies in the path of destruction. The Action Run will demonstrate that even the fastest runner will not be able to outrun the fury of the Glacial Lake Outburst.
The 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.
The Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa will be coordinating with youth clubs, social service units, and the local residents to hold a Festival. The theme of this Festival is to focus on the Mountain Communities Culture, heritage, and their crucial role in maintaining and protecting their mountain environment. This will be an occasion for the communities to show their solidarity in taking action to tackle the impacts of Climate Change. National and International experts will be invited to share their studies with the communities, and together to formulate plans of action that are realistic.
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 letter writing competition will be "Climate Change : Voices Of Khumbu's Children."
All entries will be exhibited at the Imja Tsho Action Event 2009 in Khumjung and the best entries will be awarded prizes. The program for the Festival in Khumjung will include:
- Presentation of prizes, award and certificates for the runners. The fastest male and female runners win cash awards. All participants receive a certificate of appreciation and are named “ambassadors of the environment”.
- Prizes and Awards to winners of the Letter, art, and quiz competitions held earlier.
- The Letter competition will be addressed to our world leaders to inform them about the problems we are facing in the mountains because of climate change and asking for initiatives to tackle them. The best letter will be read out to the public and international media at the festival. Furthermore, we hope to hand deliver the letter to all the diplomatic missions in Nepal.
- There are plans to publish the art entries and the letters in a coffee table book.
- iDEAS in collaboration with ICIMOD will support Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa to organize these competitions.
- Sherpa/traditional song and dance competition. Youth clubs will be invited to perform traditional songs and dances to compete for most authentic, best choreographed dances, etc.
- Individuals will be invited to perform their best original songs and dances in the traditional style as well.
- Inauguration of the Mountain Communities Filming Academy. A first batch of Sherpas, trained in the proper use of cameras and editing will be stationed at various locations throughout the race route. A runner will collect their footage and bring it to Khumjung to be compiled. The footage will be given to the International and National media on the spot.
- Stalls run by the Aama Samuha (Mothers Association) selling traditional Sherpa food items as well as Cottage Industry items.
- Briefings on topics of environment and climate change. ICIMOD, IUCN, The World Wildlife Fund, The Mountain Institure, Department of National Parks, Nepal Tourism Board, and all other related institutions will be invited to set up info-stalls and send experts. This is an opportunity for the organisations to talk and explain about the work they are doing and share their findings with the communities. This will assure mutual respect and better cooperation in the future.
- FOST and CRT will be invited to demonstrate their locally appropriate technology such as the portable solar cooker, solar ovens, briquette press, etc. Eco Everest Sherpas will also act as motivators and witnesses to promote these technologies as they themselves have seen their successful use.
- Tree plantation: Trees will be planted at appropriate spot in the Khumbu and will be nurtured directly by the funds provided by the sponsors. Nepal Tourism Board will be invited to promote its program of Plant/Adopt a tree among the local communities.
- Sewage and waste management. High Altitude Climbing Sherpas from the Eco Everest Expedition 2008 and 2009 will share with the local communities on how they managed to contain, gather and properly dispose human waste and garbage/debris from the world’s highest peak. They will advocate adopting these practices to prevent sewage water getting into drinking water and the eco system.
- Attention will be drawn to the problem of sewage on the Gokyo Lake Series. The Gokyo Lakes are listed as Ramsar Wetlands, and there is an urgent need for the local residents to take timely action not to allow our precious water systems to be polluted and destroyed.
I invite you to join Imja Tsho Action Event 2009 and support the Mountain Community that has dared to take this First Step!