Lakes of Bhutan

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The lakes of Bhutan comprise its glacial lakes and its natural mountain lakes. Bhutanese territory contains some 2,674 high altitude glacial lakes and subsidiary lakes, out of which 25 pose a risk of GLOFs.[1][2] There are also more than 59 natural non-glacial lakes in Bhutan, covering about 4,250 hectares (16.4 sq mi). Most are located above an altitude of 3,500 metres (11,500 ft), and most have no permanent human settlements nearby, though many are used for grazing yaks and may have scattered temporary settlements.[3][4]

Only four lakes are below an altitude of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft): the temperate Ho Ko Tsho in Punakha District at 1,829 metres (6,001 ft); Luchika in Wangdue Phodrang at 1,830 metres (6,000 ft); Buli in Zhemgang at 1,372 metres (4,501 ft); and the subtropical Gulandi in Samdrup Jongkhar at 366 metres (1,201 ft).[3][4][5]

As phenomena of nature, all lakes in Bhutan are believed to be inhabited by spirits.[6]:27 A handful of lakes in Bhutan are particularly sacred, most often connected to lives of Buddhist saints Guru Rimpoche and Pema Lingpa. For example, Membar Tsho ("Burning Lake"), in the Tang Valley near Bumthang, is heavily associated with Guru Rimpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan and discovered his first terma in the lake in 1475.[7]:21, 29, 177

Most natural lake names are denoted with the word tsho, meaning "lake" (Dzongkha: མཚོ་; Wylie: mtsho).[8] They may be identified as an individuals, pairs, or groups of lakes.

Glaciers and glacial lakes[edit]

Main article: Glaciers of Bhutan
Satellite image of Bhutan (April 2002)
Satellite image of Bhutan (April 2002)
Topographical map of Bhutan (2006)
Topographical map of Bhutan (2006)
Glaciers in Bhutan cover a substantial portion of its northern regions.

Bhutan contains some 2,674 glacial lakes.[1][2] Some glacial lakes, such as Thorthormi Lake in Lunana Gewog, are not a single bodies of water but collections supraglacial ponds.[9] Most glacial lakes identified as potentially dangerous feed into the Manas River and Puna Tsang (Sankosh) River water systems of north-central Bhutan.[10] During a GLOF, residents of nearby downstream villages may have as little as twenty minutes to evacuate; floodwaters from one 1994 GLOF at Luggye lake took about seven hours to reach Punakha, some 90 kilometres (56 mi) downstream.[11]

Where glacial movement temporary blocks riverflows, downstream areas may be threatened by glacial lake outburst flood ("GLOFs").[12][13] Although GLOFs are not a new phenomenon in Bhutan, their frequency has risen in the past three decades.[1][14] Significant GLOFs occurred in 1957, 1960, 1968 and 1994, devastating lives and property downstream.[15] According to the Bhutan Department of Energy however, the majority of rivers in Bhutan are more susceptible to fluctuation with changing rainfall patterns than to flooding directly attributable to glacier or snow melt.[16]

For public safety, these glaciers and glacial lakes are maintained by the Ministry of Economic Affairs' Department of Geology and Mines, an executive (cabinet) agency of the government of Bhutan.[17] The Department, as part of its environmental "mitigation projects," aims to lower the levels of glacial lakes and thereby avert GLOF-related disaster. One such glacial lake mitigation project, for example, aimed to lower water levels by five meters over three years. The Department uses silent explosives and other means it considers environmentally friendly in order to minimize the ecological impact of its mitigation projects. These projects, however, remain difficult to conduct because of the weather, terrain, and relative lack of oxygen at the glacial lakes' altitudes. As of September 2010, GLOF early warning systems were slated for installation by mid-2011 in Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang Districts at a cost of USD4.2 million.[2][18]

Lists of lakes[edit]

List of non-glacial lakes[edit]

Naturally occurring mountain lakes, though today fewer than glacial lakes, include several historically and spiritually relevant bodies of water.

Lake name District Gewog Notes
Animo Tsho Bumthang District Chhoekhor Gewog Located near Dhur, Animo Tsho sits at an elevation of 4,375 metres (14,354 ft) on the road from Bumthang to Lunana. It is a holy lake where speech is forbidden.[6]:239
Buli Tsho Zhemgang District The Buli sits at 1,372 metres (4,501 ft).[3][4][5]
Chhiba Tsho Dagana District Chhiba Tsho is located below a pass at 4,500 metres (14,800 ft). On the other side of the pass lie Dagana Valley and the small, blue Langtsho ("Ox Lake").[6]:205
Chungge Tsho Bumthang District Chhoekhor Gewog Chungge Tsho is at an elevation of 4,400 metres (14,400 ft), near Lungsipang village.[6]:256
Dagebho Thimphu District Soe Gewog east Jomo lake group; its name means "longer than the archery range," and is also called Batsho.[6]:200
Daja Tsho Thimphu District Soe Gewog Jomo lake group; Daja Tsho is also called Serbho Tsho ("Golden Lake").[6]:200, 202 It lies along the Snowman Trek at 4,520 metres (14,830 ft)[7]:215
Djule Tsho Bumthang District Chhoekhor Gewog Djule Tsho is located to the northwest of the sacred Animo Tsho at 4,190 metres (13,750 ft) near the Gongto La (Gokthong La) and Djule La passes. This pass marks the watershed of the Mangde Chhu (Trongsa Chhu), one of Bhutan's major river systems.[6]:239
Dongney Tsho Paro District Tsento Gewog Dongney Tsho is surrounded by fir trees, located on the trekking path to Drugyel Dzong.[6]:66
Dongtsho Thimphu District Soe Gewog east Jomo lake group.[6]:200
Dungtsho Tsho Paro District Doteng Gewog Dungtsho Tsho and Dungtsho Sama, male and female lakes, respectively.[6]:190
Gulandi Tsho Samdrup Jongkhar District The subtropical Gulandi sits at 366 metres (1,201 ft).[3][4][5]
Ho Ko Tsho Punakha District The Ho Ko Tsho sits at 1,829 metres (6,001 ft).[3][4][5]
Janye Tsho Thimphu District Lingzhi Gewog Janye, or Jane, Tsho rests at 3,956 metres (12,979 ft) along the Druk Path Trail between Jimilang Tsho and Simkotra Tsho. It is often occupied by yak herders.[6]:190
Jatsho Thimphu District Soe Gewog Jomo lake group; the largest lake of its group, its name ("Vulture Lake"), comes from its shape.[6]:200
Jimilang Tsho Thimphu District Jimilang rests at an elevation of 3,870 metres (12,700 ft) at the apex of the Druk Path Trail. Its name means "Sand Ox Lake," named after a legendary bull.[7]:214 Also called Bimelang Tsho, this sacred lake is a meditation site. The lake contains many trout, and fishing there is allowed with permit.[6]:188, 191
Laname Tsho Paro District Tsento Gewog Laname Tsho is near Laname La and Bonte La passes.[6]:159
Langtsho Dagana District Langtsho ("Ox Lake") is a small lake adjacent to the Mangde Chhu watershed.[6]:205
Luchika Tsho Wangdue Phodrang District Luchika sits at 1,830 metres (6,000 ft).[3][4][5]
Membar Tsho Bumthang District "Burning Lake", in the Tang Valley near Bumthang, is heavily associated with Guru Rimpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan and discovered his first terma in the lake in 1475.[7]:21, 29, 177
Ngyetsho Thimphu District Soe Gewog east Jomo lake group.[6]:200
Nob Tshona Patta Tsho Paro District Tsento Gewog Nob Tshona Patta Tsho is a treking destination from Haa to Paro near Lukha village.[6]:67, 70
Om Tsho Trongsa District Nubi Gewog Om Tsho, also called Omtoe Tsho and Omta Tsho, lies at 4,665 metres (15,305 ft). It is a sacred lake, believed to be where Pema Lingpa found terton: cymbals, texts, and other artifacts hidden by Guru Rimpoche. There is a second smaller lake below the waterfall of Om Tsho at 4,150 metres (13,620 ft); both are located along the Snowman Trek.[6]:141
Rigona Tsho Paro District Tsento Gewog Rigona is near Nob Tshona Patta Tsho at 4,090 metres (13,420 ft).[6]:71
Sertsho Thimphu District Soe Gewog east Jomo lake group.[6]:200
Sethag Burge Tsho Gasa District Laya Gewog Also called Sistiha Phugi Tso, this lake lies below the enormous Tsenda Gang range.[6]:178
Setsho Gasa District Lunana Gewog Setsho lake is located southwest of Gonju La along the Ramena Trail near Woche[6]:123
Simdong Goi Tso Gasa District Laya Gewog This lake lies between Wochey and the Wagye La pass, the old route to Lhasa.[6]:178
Simkotra Tsho Thimphu District Naro Gewog Simkotra Tsho is located to the south of Jimilang Tsho along the Druk Path Trail at 4,090 metres (13,420 ft).[6]:190
Solang Chhu Bumthang District Chhoekhor Gewog Solang Chhu (Thole Tsho) is an alpine lake at 4,420 metres (14,500 ft) near Bopsar and Thole La pass.[6]:264
Tampoe Tsho Trongsa District Nubi Gewog Tampoe Tsho is a small lake near Om Tsho.
Tshochena Lake Gasa District Lunana Gewog Tshochena is located along the Snowman Trek, at 4,970 metres (16,310 ft).[7]:240
Tsho Phu Paro District Tsento Gewog The Tsho Phu are a pair of lakes along the Snowman Trek at 4,380 metres (14,370 ft).[7]:221 Although they were stocked with brown trout in the 1960s, fishing there is prohibited.[6]:149
Utsho Tsho Thimphu Soe Gewog Jomo lake group; Utsho is also called Gewa Tsho ("Turquoise Lake"), and is the lowsest of the Jomo lakes.[6]:200

List of glacial lakes[edit]

Glacial lakes in Bhutan far outnumber other kinds of lakes, and pose a particular risk to those living downstream in the event of a GLOF. Many of these lakes have appeared or grown after climate change, and the frequency at which they emit flood waters has increased. in recent history.

Below is a list of the major glacial lakes in Bhutan. Many lakes appear in clusters, and may someday merge; for example, he numerous glacial lakes of Laya and Lunana Gewogs lie mostly within Jigme Dorji National Park along a handful of major glaciers.

Lake name District Gewog Notes
Thorthormi Glacial Lake Gasa District Lunana Gewog Thorthormi Lake appeared on its glacier sometime after 1967. It is the largest lake in Lunana, with a width of 30 metres (98 ft).[2][19]
Raphstreng (Rapstreng) Glacial Lake Gasa District Lunana Gewog This lake appeared on its glacier in 1958. It is just over 2 square kilometres (0.77 sq mi) and 107 metres (351 ft) deep.[9][19][20]
Luggye (Lugge) Glacial Lake Gasa District Lunana Gewog Luggye first appeared in 1967 atop its glacier. It has a depth of 142 metres (466 ft), and a width of 30 metres (98 ft). Luggye produced a significant GLOF in 1994.[9][19][20][21]
Bechung Glacial Lake Gasa District Lunana Gewog Supra-glacial lake.[9][19]
Roduphu Glacial Lake Gasa District Laya Gewog This lake feeds into the Mo Chhu (River) basin.[22]
Sinchhe Glacial Lake Gasa District Laya Gewog Sinchhe drains into the Mo Chhu (River) basin.[22]
Gangchentag Glacial Lake Gasa District Laya Gewog Located at the base of Gangchentag Mountain.[23][24]
Wochey (Wachey) Glacial Lake Gasa District Laya Gewog Wochey Lake lies at an altitude of 4,220 metres (13,850 ft), just below the Gokthong La pass,[7]:239 on the single longest glacier in Bhutan at 20.1 kilometres (12.5 mi).[19]
Teri Kang Glacial Lake Gasa District Laya Gewog This dam-reinforced lake produced a devastating GLOF in the 1960s, partially destroying Punakha Dzong.[25]
Chubda Glacial Lake Bumthang District Located in the upper Chamkhar Chhu basin, this large supraglacial lake was identified as a potential danger in 2001.[26]
Taksha Tsho Glacial Lake Gasa District Lunana Gewog Taksha Tsho is 500 metres (1,600 ft) in diameter and 110 metres (360 ft) deep.[6]:131
Tsokar Glacial Lake Bumthang District Glacial lake in the Chamkhar Chu basin.[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Tirwa, Badan (2008-01-19). "Managing health disaster". Thimphu: Bhutan Observer online. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d Pelden, Sonam (2010-09-03). "Thorthormi water level brought down 43 cm". Bhutan Observer online. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bisht, Ramesh Chandra. International Encyclopaedia Of Himalayas. Mittal Publications. pp. 34–5. ISBN 81-8324-265-0. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Survey of the Waters of Bhutan – Physiography and Fisheries Potential". United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. December 1978. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Survey of the Waters of Bhutan – Physiography and Fisheries Potential". United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. December 1978. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Jordans, Bart (2008). Bhutan: A Trekker's Guide (2 ed.). Cicerone Press Limited. ISBN 1-85284-553-8. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Brown, Lindsay; Armington, Stan (2007). Bhutan (3 ed.). Lonely Planet. pp. 62, 105, 108, 113. ISBN 1-74059-529-7. Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  8. ^ "༈ རྫོང་ཁ་ཨིང་ལིཤ་ཤན་སྦྱར་ཚིག་མཛོད། ༼མཚ-༽" [Dzongkha-English Dictionary: "MTSHA"]. Dzongkha-English Online Dictionary. Dzongkha Development Commission, Government of Bhutan. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  9. ^ a b c d Pelden, Sonam (2009-10-09). "Thorthormi water level brought down". Bhutan Observer online. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  10. ^ "Bhutan's glaciers and glacial lakes". RAO online. 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  11. ^ "Watching the lakes". RAO online. 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  12. ^ "Fighting glacial lake floods". Bhutan Observer online. 2009-05-22. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  13. ^ Dahal, Rabi C (2008-10-31). "Glacial lake outburst a real threat". Bhutan Observer online. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  14. ^ "Department of Geology and Mines". Government of Bhutan. 2009-08-25. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  15. ^ Rinchen, Sonam (2008-09-16). "Monitoring climate change". Bhutan Observer online. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  16. ^ Pelden, Sonam (2010-04-02). "Looking beyond hydropower". Bhutan Observer online. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  17. ^ "Tengye Lhenkag – Ministry of Economic Affairs". Government of Bhutan. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  18. ^ Prime Minister Jigme Thinley (2010-07-02). "Prime Minister's State of the Nation address, 2009–2010 (IV. Environment – Mitigation and Adaptive Measures)". Bhutan Observer online. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  19. ^ a b c d e Choden, Kuenzang C (2009-08-21). "A major GLOF in 2010?". Bhutan Observer online. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  20. ^ a b Pelden, Sonam (2009-10-21). "Up against the raw nature". Lunana: Bhutan Observer online. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  21. ^ "Lakes in Lunana with high GLOF (glacial lake outburst flood) risks". RAO online. 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  22. ^ a b c "Glaciers, Glacial Lakes, and GLOF-related Reports". Department of Geology and Mines. Government of Bhutan. 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  23. ^ "Trip Itinerary for 2011 Takin Festival at Tsharijathang (9–10 June 2011)" (PDF). Tourism Council of Bhutan online. Government of Bhutan. 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  24. ^ "Keys to Bhutan Adventures and Holidays". Tourism Council of Bhutan online. Government of Bhutan. 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  25. ^ "Snowman Trek I (to Sephu)". Tourism Council of Bhutan online. Government of Bhutan. 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  26. ^ Iwata, Shuji (2010). "Glaciers of Bhutan — An Overview" (PDF). In Richard S. Williams, Jr & Jane G. Ferrigno. Glaciers of Asia: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1386–F. USGS.