Saturday, November 9, 2013

Climate change is melting away Nepal's mountain tourism

Coco Liu in E&E News: Dawa Tshering Sherpa remembers the 1985 flood as if it happened just yesterday. ...Sherpa ran out of his house with his wife and 9-year-old son, watching the river -- mixed with rocks, mud and livestock -- passing along his village a quarter of a mile away.

...That was the first glacier lake outburst flood that Sherpa and his neighbors have experienced, but it probably won't be the last. Glacial lakes are a normal feature of mountain geography, formed by melting ice, but as temperatures have increased in recent years, a lot more of them have been created, setting up a time bomb for villages downstream.

At the same time, erratic weather patterns, decreasing freshwater supplies and other problems likely associated with global warming have emerged here, making it more costly and challenging for locals to cater to global travelers. Mount Everest alone attracts more than 36,000 travelers each year. But experts doubt whether the attraction will persist under changing climate conditions.

"One of the biggest challenges that arise with a series of extreme events is the disruption of the image Nepal has built as a tourism destination," said Marjorie van Strien, a tourism specialist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Katmandu.

"The country had just recently rebuilt its attractiveness with an image of being a safe and accessible destination. Extreme events could set these developments back," she added....

The north face of Mount Everest, shot by Luca Galuzzi - Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

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