His Majesty The King awarded the National Order of Merit Gold Medals to the Bhutan Red Cross Society and to the glaciologist Toeb Karma during the 114th National Day celebrations at Tashichhodzong.
His Majesty awarded the National Order of Merit to the senior glaciologist from Bhutan’s National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) Toeb Karma for his dedicated service with Bhutan glacial lake and recognition of his exemplary services to the Nation through his work in preparing for climate-change related risks.
Toeb Karma, is Specialist and Head of Cryosphere Service Division of the National Hydrology and Meteorology Centre. Toeb Karma graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Geology from Jadavpur University in India in 1996 and MSc in Glaciology from Nagoya University in Japan in 2001. Since 1997, he has spent over two decades working to mitigate the risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods in Bhutan. He has led several teams to study and monitor glaciers in the most difficult parts of the country and helped develop a comprehensive inventory of glacial lakes in Bhutan including those that pose the greatest risk to lives and livelihoods downstream. Between 2008 to 2012, he led a team to lower the water level of Thorthomi Lake in Lunana- a challenging but important project which has greatly helped mitigate the risk of flood posed by the lake.
In 2021 he revised the inventory on glaciers in Bhutan using the high-resolution satellite imageries and RADAR data and published the “Bhutan Glacial Lake Inventory 2021”. Since 2008, he worked on containing the glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF), which remains a looming threat, and he stresses the need to have a good risk management plan.
Toeb Karma said getting recognition from the throne is something beyond his imagination but with this medal, “I have been interested in additional responsibility and also accountability. It is a motivation for me to work more and contribute to nation building.”
Toeb Karma joined the service in 1997 and it is going to be 24 years of service. Within this span of time, his major effort was in the field of glaciology. A lot of activities were carried out starting from making the glacier inventory for Bhutan and getting involved in the mitigation or reduction of GLOF in the country.
He shared that one of the most key issues they are facing right now is getting people to work in the field of glaciers and glaciology because the work demands working for a very long period within the mountains under the harsh environmental conditions. So that is why people are not willing to join. “I would like to urge younger generations to get involved in this field because it is very important from the perspective of climate change, water resources and national disasters,” said Toeb Karma.
Currently, there are only two glaciologists in the country, and there are more than 500 glacier lakes and around 700 glaciers in the country. So there is a need for two more professionals to cater to the need in this field, he added.