Repeated glacial lake outburst flood threatening the oldest Buddhist monastery in north-western Nepal
Abstract. Since 2004, Halji village, home of the oldest Buddhist Monastery in north-western Nepal, has suffered from recurrent glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). A sudden englacial drainage of a supraglacial lake, located at a distance of 6.5 km from the village, was identified as the source of the flood. The topography of the lake basin was mapped by combining differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) measurements with a structure-from-motion (SFM) approach using terrestrial photographs. From this model the maximum filling capacity of the lake has been estimated as 1.06 ×10^6 m3 with a maximum discharge of 77.8 m3 s−1, calculated using the empiric Clague–Mathews formula. A simulation of the flooded area employing a raster-based hydraulic model considering six scenarios of discharge volume and surface roughness did not result in a flooding of the village. However, both the village and the monastery are threatened by undercutting of the river bank formed by unconsolidated sediments, as it already happened in 2011. Further, the comparison of the GLOF occurrences with temperature and precipitation from the High Asia Reanalysis (HAR) data set for the period 2001–2011 suggests that the GLOF is climate-driven rather than generated by an extreme precipitation event. The calculation of geodetic mass balance and the analysis of satellite images showed a rapid thinning and retreat of Halji Glacier which will eventually lead to a decline of the lake basin. As the basin will persist for at least several years, effective mitigation measures should be considered. A further reinforcement of the gabion walls was suggested as an artificial lake drainage is not feasible given the difficult accessibility of the glacier.