From a receding glacier, an SOS to the world

From a receding glacier, an SOS to the world

From a receding glacier, an SOS to the world

Rohtang Glacier

As world leaders gathered in New York for the day's UN General Assembly (UNGA) session which is to focus on climate change, Kapur made a direct telecast to them with the appeal: "Stop blaming each other and start acting, because we have passed the deadline."

Organised by the international NGO Greenpeace to coincide with the premiere of a film on climate change, "The Age of Stupid", the telecast went from the Himalayas to New York on the eve of the UNGA session, and just two days before the Group of 20 nations is to meet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to grapple with the negotiations that have been stalled on the way to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen this December.

Kapur, who is to start shooting his next film "Paani" in 2010, said: "It'll be about the water wars that will break out as we run out of water as a result of climate change. There will be 12-13 percent people in every city who can afford the water.

"They'll be the globalised people who will live in their city atop the flyovers (as conceived in the film). The rest will be the natives who will fight for the water. They'll worship water and wonder how we could have ever thought of using it to flush our toilets."

The Rohtang glacier bifurcates and feeds the Chenab and the Beas rivers, two of the five lifelines of Punjab and the entire Indus river system that straddles India and Pakistan. Standing between an apple orchard and the banks of the Beas downstream of the glacier, farmer Mohinder Thakur said: "The rain and the snow are getting more erratic all the time. We get either too little or too much. And it does not come at the right time for the crops any more. We have to now look for other ways to make a living."

He drives a taxi and runs a small hotel in his village Kanihal near Manali, the big tourist centre near Rohtang. "But none of this will work if we keep interfering with nature."
Manali-based high-altitude trekking guide Kapil Negi found the same when he took two Americans and two Australians to the Parvati and Spiti valleys a few weeks back. "I used to keep going to those places regularly 17 years ago. Then I stopped, and this time I went after a gap of 10 years."

 "I was shocked by what I found. All the lovely glaciers in Parvati and Spiti valleys have moved back. There is moraine (rock and soil deposited by receding glacier) where I used to regularly see ice before. And even the glaciers have become more dangerous to cross. The ice is softer and there are more crevasses. Obviously it is melting faster", Negi said.

Drawing his four-year-old-son close, Negi said: "If it goes on like this, I'll not be able to walk in the forests and the glaciers with him. He will not know this world."

The receding of the Himalayan glaciers due to global warming is reducing water supply to the rivers that serve all of South Asia and much of China, putting at risk 1.3 billion people who are dependent on these rivers that flow from what has been described as the Third Pole, since it is the world's largest storehouse of freshwater after the north and south polar ice caps.