His Majesty The King was in Thanza, the largest and furthest village in Lunana. His Majesty visited the glaciers and glacial lakes of Thorthomi, Rapstreng, and Lugge, on Thursday.
These glaciers and lakes are the sources of some of our major rivers, and are considered fragile due to the enormous risk they pose in the event of a glacial lake outburst flood. Such floods occur when the moraine (ice and rock) walls of the glacial lakes recede– such an incident occurred in 1994, when the Lugge Tsho burst, and the Pho Chu, which is fed by the lake, caused immense damage to the Punakha Dzong, as well as numerous other places downstream.
The formation and growth of a glacial lake in the Thorthomi glacier in subsequent years raised similar concerns. An operation to manually lower the level of the lake, which if breached would flow to Rapstreng Tsho below and cause it to burst, managed to reduce the water level by 5 metres. While the lowering of the water at Thorthomi’s lake, an extremely difficult operation at the altitude undertaken by the Royal Bhutan Army upon Royal Command, was deemed a success, glacial melt, as a consequence of the changing climate, continues to pose risk.
His Majesty met with the personnel operating flood-warning mechanisms who monitor the lakes. His Majesty also inspected the glaciers, along with glaciologists.
His Majesty trekked through Lunana, the most isolated region in Bhutan, from Laya, after gracing the Royal Highland Festival, and crossed some of the highest passes, spending nights in tents along the route, or in the homes of the people in the remote villages. His Majesty met people at villages in Woche, Lhedi, Tshojong, Thanza, and Tenchoe, during the course of the Royal Visit. His Majesty spent time meeting the people, and granted tokha in the villages. In Tshojong, His Majesty also visited the Dzong, and granted a statue of Chana Dorji.
From Thanza, His Majesty will continue the trek, and cross Rinchenzoe la (5350m) and arrive at Sephu in Trongsa.
His Majesty last visited the villages of Lunana and the glaciers and glacial lakes in 2008.