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Cryospheric hazards and risk perceptions in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park and Buffer Zone, Nepal

  • Sonam Futi Sherpa
  • Milan ShresthaEmail author
  • Hallie Eakin
  • Christopher G. Boone
Original Paper

Abstract

Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) are among the most serious cryospheric hazards for mountain communities. Multiple studies have predicted the potential risks posed by rapidly expanding glacial lakes in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park and Buffer Zone of Nepal. People’s perceptions of such cryospheric hazards can influence their actions, beliefs, and responses to those hazards and associated risks. This study provides a systematic approach that combines household survey data with ethnography to analyze people’s perceptions of GLOF risks and the socioeconomic and cultural factors influencing their perceptions. A statistical logit model of household data showed a significant positive correlation between the perceptions of GLOF risks and livelihood sources, mainly tourism. Risk perceptions are also influenced by spatial proximity to glacial lakes and whether a village is in potential flood zones. The 2016 emergency remediation work implemented in the Imja Tsho (glacial lake) has served as a cognitive fix, especially in the low-lying settlements. Much of uncertainty and confusions related GLOF risks among locals can be attributed to a disconnect between how scientific information is communicated to the local communities and how government climate change policies have been limited to awareness campaigns and emergency remediation efforts. A sustainable partnership of scientists, policymakers, and local communities is urgently needed to build a science-driven, community-based initiative that focuses not just in addressing a single GLOF threat but develops on a comprehensive cryospheric risk management plan and considers opportunities and challenges of tourism in the local climate adaptation policies.

Keywords

Cryospheric hazards GLOFs Risk perception Adaptation Mt. Everest region Nepal 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under the Grant No. ICER-1516912, CNH-L: Science-Driven, Community-Based Approach to Reducing Glacier Lake Outburst Flood Risks—a multi-disciplinary research project of University of Texas, Austin (PI: Deane McKinney), Arizona State University (Co-PI: Milan Shrestha), and University of Colorado, Boulder (Co-PI: Alton Byers). Research Assistantship provided to the first author is acknowledged. This manuscript primarily draws upon the social survey dataset generated from the summer fieldwork of 2016 and 2017, which immensely benefitted from the research assistance received from Mr. Jagadish Parajuli (ASU, School of Sustainability) and Saroj Adhikary, Shanta Sharma, Lalmani Wagle, and Sharmila Paudyal of Tribhuvan University, Nepal. The authors thank the constructive comments and criticism offered by anonymous reviewers. Dhananjay Regmi and his team at the Himalayan Research Expedition provided excellent logistic support during the fieldwork. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the key respondents, village leaders, officials of the Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone, and other local stakeholders for their hospitality and generosity with time during the fieldwork.

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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