Chenab · Climate Change · Himachal Pradesh

Ferocity of Glacial Lake Outburst in Bhaga Valley in Himachal

Have you seen how FEROCIOUS glacial lake outburst flood can be? I too have not, but watch this[i].

Frightening, is it not?

Having not seen a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) first hand, it is difficult to imagine how ferocious it can be. This is a video, that I have been told by local people who should know, of such an event. It took place on June 13, 2018 in Bhaga river valley (Bhaga river is a tributary of Chenab, also called Chandra Bhaga, since the river Chenab is formed by confluence of its tributaries Chandra and Bhaga[ii]) in Lahaul-Spiti District of Himachal Pradesh. Plz note that the video erroneously says this is in Nubra Valley in Leh district in Jammu and Kashmir.

It seems this happens almost every year, around the time when snow melt at glaciers at higher elevations peak up speed. This location is about 3.1 km downstream of a place called Zing Zing Bar along the Leh Manali Highway, see the location map below, thanks to Prashant Thakur, co-founder of “Far Out Himalayas”.

Another map of the location in larger landscape is quickly put together by SANDRP, see above.

Here is another video[iii], sent to me by Prashant, following my request for information about the first video posted above. Prashant says this is of the same incident, taken from other side of the stream a couple of hours after the first one, when the ferocity of the debris flow from the glacial lake outburst had possibly reduced. The video was shot by some anonymous person, Prashant got it on a WhatsApp group.

In fact, the process started earlier today when I saw the blog put up by Prof David Petley (Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom) yesterday, it was titled: “A remarkable debris flow video from Ladakh”.[iv] This blog of Petley was based on the first video above, posted on you tube on June 15, 2018, under title: “Natural Land Slide In Nubra Ladakh June 2018”. Prashant Thakur told me categorically that this is video of the event that happened on June 13, 2018 as described above, and not in Nubra Ladakh as the you tube post says.

In fact, not able to find any corroborative evidence of this Nubra Valley landslide, I posted the blog article of Prof Petley on my FB page, requesting friends to let me know if any one knows anything about this event. My FB post too was misguidedly titled “NUBRA VALLY, LADAKH, Jammu & Kashmir”. But within minutes of putting up FB post, I got a reply from Ishan Marvel (author of “EXIT ONE”), saying that “The video is not from Nubra, but near Zing Zing Bar on the way to Ladakh. We were stuck there ourselves the next day. we were advised to stay back at Jispa because of this very event. The same video was shared with us. Next day, the entire stretch was a mess, full of water. This was basically coming from the top of a mountain, sudden glacial melt or something causing the water to come down in torrents. No one died, but a Bullet motorcycle was found the next day completely smashed.”

When I started asking too many questions, he introduced me to Prashant Thakur, who very patiently answered so many of my questions and helped understand the event.

Prashant explained: “There used to be a glacial lake in the mountain, which broke suddenly. It happens almost every year, as the land nearby is loose because of less vegetation, it won’t hold the water pressure.”

When he said “100% sure, both videos are from same event” I asked how are you sure he clarified: “We are natives from Lahoul Spiti, the affected area is in Lahoul. We travel throughout season to Leh. We are familiar with those mountains and streams sir and we have crossed that area next day of incident.”

I wanted to know the name of the stream on which the GLOF travelled, his reply: “No name, till now. But people call those streams pagal (literally, it means mad) nullah. But there are many pagal nullahs already in Lahoul Spiti and Ladakh region!”

Thank you, Prashant Thakur and Ishan Marvel!

WHY ARE OUR DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND REMOTE SENSING INSITUTES NOT ACTIVE? We are all lucky that this ferocious GLOF hopefully did not do too much damage to kill anyone. But we won’t be that lucky every year. Why are our disaster management institutes not mapping, identifying and monitoring such known locations of possible regular disaster and also alerting the vulnerable people? The frequency and intensity of such events are only likely to increase in days and years to come. We hope the agencies wake up soon.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaJtuEAx7Vc

[ii] In fact, as I wrote this, I was fascinated to note that Bhaga river originates from Suraj Taal, literally meaning Lake of the Sun. And Chandra, literally meaning moon, originates from Chandra Taal, a crescent shape lake! And Chenab, formed by confluence of Chandra and Bhaga, is literally a confluence of Sun and moon! How amazing!! No wonder, Chenab Darya is known as river of love in Pakistan, possibly for entirely different reasons!!!

[iii] https://www.facebook.com/gydprshnt/videos/10209879091088952/

[iv] https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2018/06/22/ladakh-1/

3 thoughts on “Ferocity of Glacial Lake Outburst in Bhaga Valley in Himachal

  1. Thanks for sharing this video. It convey vividly the ferocity of a GLOF event. From what one can see, this would probably qualify as a “small” event, so a bigger GLOF event would be even more catastrophic. Thanks to Prashant Thakur and Ishan Marvel, for the detailed grond truthing.

    Like

    1. I guess you mean GLOF and not Golf?

      I am not so sure. If there is a depression and unstable morrain, may be it can hold initial melt water and than when it breaches due to inherence weakness, it creates GLOF. Its difficult, but not impossible.

      Like

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