Early Warning System for Glacier Outburst in Bhutan

Glaciers Outburst Floods Lakes GLOF in Bhutan. Mountain Gankhar Puensum soars over the border between Bhutan and China. The Zanam glacial lakes spread out at the foot of the mountain. Bhutan’s water resources and river potential for hydropower, estimated at 30,000 MW is the backbone of Bhutan’s National Happiness Commissions socio-economic development strategy.

Bhutan has been a model in South Asia for its environmental conservation policy and the reliability of renewable energy. However, the impacts of climate change are becoming evident in the form of fast-retreating glaciers and erratic precipitation patterns. Bhutan´s water form glaciers that melt as an effect of global warming and form lakes in valleys and on slopes. When the natural dams that contain those lakes burst, floods result, posing a great threat to the surrounding areas.

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has always made the world’s most far-reaching climate promises to the Paris climate summits in term of carbon neutrality and sustainability. The country is proud of a conservation policy where almost three quarters of the mountainous nation is covered in forests, often watered by snowmelt rivers.

According to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), the country is now an unparalleled carbon sink, absorbing three times more CO2 emissions than its 700,000 population produces, mostly through hydropower.

With the funding of the EU and UNDP/GEF, OIKO has been supporting the National Happiness Commission of the Royal Government of Bhutan and the Department for Disaster Management (MoHCA) since 2011 with the formulation of the first large-scale disaster risk reduction project, a community-based initiative to reduce the risks and effects of a GLOF through preparedness.


Kingdom of Bhutan





Mountain Gankhar Puensum, elevation 7,541 meters

Three quarters of the nation is covered in forests, often watered by snowmelt rivers

Punakha (GLOF Flood in 1994)