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Xu Qiang, Member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC): To Strengthen the Risk Prevention and Control of Glacial Hazards on the Tibetan Plateaueau in Response to Global Climate Change

News Source: Sichuan News Net

With the aggravation of the global warming, a series of debris flow disasters triggered by glacier avalanches, snow avalanches and glacial lake bursts have often occurred in recent years, and there is a tendency that the number will increase in the future. Global climate change, which has become a hot topic of great concern, is of great relevance to every inhabitant of the planet.

The National People's Congress and The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference(NPC and CPPCC) are currently held in Beijing. In the Report on the Work of the Government, it is clearly stated that China, as a member of the global village, will continue to take concrete action to play its part in the global response to climate change. Meanwhile, China will strengthen its emergency rescue capacity and disaster prevention, mitigation, response, and relief capabilities. Also, solid efforts should be made to protect against floods, droughts, forest and grassland fires, geohazards and earthquakes, and provide quality meteorological services.


Xu Qiang, Member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Vice President of Chengdu University of Technology

"I have been engaged in the research on geohazard prevention, and my recent proposals have mainly focused on prevention and mitigation of geohazard. However, this year’s proposal is concentrated on a rather special geohazard-- ice avalanches and glacial lake outburst geohazard. With the aggravation of the global warming, ice avalanches and glacial lake bursts on the Tibetan Plateaueau have occurred more and more frequent, causing greater and greater damages, which we should draw high attention." During the NPC and CPPCC sessions this year, Xu Qiang, member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, vice president of Chengdu University of Technology and executive deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of Geohazard Prevention and Geoenvironment Protection of Chengdu University of Technology, initiated a proposal on "strengthening the risk prevention and control of glacial hazards on the Tibetan Plateaueau".

As the "Third Pole" of the earth, The Tibetan Plateaueau is extremely sensitive to global warming. With its heating rate twice that of the global average, its glaciers are now melting about 8 billion tons per year. In the past 40 years, a quarter of its glaciers have melted, the number may rise up to two thirds by the end of the century.

According to Xu Qiang, the Tibetan Plateaueau is dotted with tens of thousands of glacial lakes of all shapes and sizes. The loss of glaciers is causing a rapid increase on glacial lakes, the water level thus rises. If the glacier on the upstream avalanches and flows into the glacial lake, it can provoke a surge that causes the lake to burst, thus triggering a sudden debris flow disaster that can cover several kilometers or even hundreds of kilometers, causing devastating damage along the way.

"The irreversible global warming trend is becoming more and more critical." According to Xu Qiang, glacier-related disasters caused by melting glaciers will also become more frequent, posing an increasingly serious threat to the security of lives and property of the people on the Tibetan plateau and its periphery, as well as to the safety of major engineering construction, which should be taken seriously and prevented proactively in advance. To this end, Xu Qiang offered four proposals.

"First, it is suggested that the prevention and control of glacial hazards on the Tibetan Plateaueau be incorporated into the '14th Five-Year Plan'." Xu Qiang suggested that high-resolution optical remote sensing, InSAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar Interference), UAV photogrammetry, ground survey and other space-air-ground polytechnics should be applied to conduct a comprehensive investigation and assessment of glacier dynamics on the Tibetan Plateaueau, especially the precursors of disaster, risk source identification and monitoring and early warning to actively prevent glaciers and their secondary hazards on the Tibetan Plateaueau.

The Tibetan Plateaueau is the "Asian Water Tower", which is the origin of China's major rivers including the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, the Yarlung Tsangpo River, the Nujiang River and the Jinshajiang River. The second proposal is that the relevant departments should conduct a survey on the risk of glaciers and landslides blocking rivers in major river basins, and a special section in the Key Research and Development Programme shall be established to carry out investigation and assessment, hazard identification, monitoring and early warning, and risk prevention and control of the safety of major hydropower projects and other infrastructure in important river basins with global climate change.

Thirdly, the impact of glaciers and their secondary hazards on the Tibetan Plateau on the safety of major projects and key towns with global climate change should also be given high priority. Xu Qiang suggested that efforts should be taken to carry out investigation, assessment and risk prevention and control of glacial hazards on the safety of major projects under construction and planning (such as the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, Yunnan-Tibet Railway, China-Nepal Railway, China-Pakistan Railway and highways, etc.) and key towns.

"As glaciers are mostly located in the middle and upper parts of mountains over 4,000 metres above sea level, the geological survey and detection technologies commonly used in the mainland are no longer applicable to the Tibetan Plateau. Existing remote sensing techniques (such as InSAR) are also very ineffective in detecting glacier movement and three-dimensional structures under the ice for glaciers have much stronger specular reflection when compared with rock-soil mass, and glacier movement and variations are rather significant, coupled with the undulating topography of the Tibetan Plateaueau." Xu Qiang said, the lack of monitoring measures urges us to carry out special research and development on airborne and satellite-based glacier movement and three-dimensional structure detection technology and instrumentation, and strive to accomplish the continuous dynamic monitoring of the movement of the glaciers and snowfields on the earth using remote sensing technology and "3D laminar CT imaging", to provide the necessary data support for the risk assessment of glacier hazards.