Thursday, January 21, 2010

Alarming retreat of Himalayan glaciers

A little before world community got curious on outcome of the Copenhagen summit, a shocking unveiling of climate change in and around the Indo-Himalayan glacier systems raised many eyebrows.
If what was published in the 2007 - Fourth Assessment Report of Intergovernmnetal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set up by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) points toward factual observations, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have enough reasons to raise flag. Future of about two decades from now would lead to a deserted Pakistan, a dried Bangladesh and almost ruined India.

As studied and reported by Dr. S I Hasnain, glaciologist and environment scientist, Himalayan glaciers are retreating and thinning faster than any other part of the world and with its current rate, if persists, will disappear by year 2035. Himalayan and Hindukush glaciers are the greatest reservoir of freshwater and are the cradles of the largest population-base of the world. Almost all the major rivers of India, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, including Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra river systems, are streamed out of the Himalayas raising close to 700 millions of lives on their alluvial catchment.

With the most alarming example, Gangotri glacier has its receding rate increasing recently. Gangotri is retreating at a rate of 23 m per year between 1985 and 2001, compared to 7.3 m between 1842 and 1935. With this rate, by 2035, Ganges will reduce to a seasonal river along with its other two counterparts Indus and Brahmaputra.Glaciers less than 4 km in length, like those in the Tibetan plateau, are likely to evaporate off. This will lead to a reduction of 50% of agriculture in Gangetic India and Bangladesh, while population of India will touch 1.6 billion by that time. Not to mention, a disaster already foreseen.

Not only glaciers receding, microclimate changes in Himalaya-Hindukush area has triggered many more side effects. Farmers in Nepal are already reporting unforeseen pests and diseases.Water supply in Kyrgyzstan has been predicted to reduce by 80%. The Yangtze and Hwang Ho rivers in China will lose their volume. In short term, it threatens hydel power projects impacting heavily on smaller economies like Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet while long term results are disturbing. Probably we do not need a WWIII to revert back to sticks and arrows, as foretold by Einstein; those days are anyways inevitable.

Are democratic law-makers in India listening?

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