FLOOD: Lack of cross-border flood alerts adds to disaster fears in Nepal

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Two years ago, as he arrived to check a mountain trout fishing centre he owned near the Tibetan border, Gyanendra Kachhapati noticed the Melamchi river flooding, despite a clear sky.

He quickly sent his son racing home on a motorcycle to warn his wife and others living downstream. They survived the rapidly growing deluge – but Kachhapati was not so lucky.

“I came home to save mum at my father’s direction because our home was on the Melamchi riverbank,” his 29-year-old son Upendra Kachhapati remembers.

But as father and son spoke via mobile phone, Gyanendra “was swept away while talking,” his son said – one of five people killed near the riverside centre that day.

Altogether the flood, sparked by a glacial lake collapse near the Tibetan border, killed 24 people and damaged about $905m in infrastructure, including 570 homes, according to Nepal’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority.

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As climate change heats the planet, making rainfall more extreme and accelerating the melting of glaciers, Himalayan nations such as Nepal are facing growing risks from floods, often driven by glacial lake outbursts.

Nepal floods

Greater volumes of glacial meltwater are gradually building up in mountain lakes, putting growing pressure on the earth and rock holding them in place. Those can suddenly collapse, spurring huge downstream floods.

While some monitoring equipment and early warning systems are in place to alert downstream communities, a lack of cross-border information sharing among Himalayan nations – among them China, India and Nepal – is hampering protection efforts, analysts warn.

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