Shimla warmer by one deg celsius


It is emerging as a ‘Himalayan’ challenge to stem the tide of climate change that threatens to wipe the very nomenclature, ‘abode of snow’, from the mighty ranges.
The ‘Third Pole’ that the Himalayan mountain range - the largest in the world - is called due to its vast glacial cover spreading over 33,000 square km, is steadily shrinking at the edge spreading panic from Kabul to Beijing. If dire warnings from the scientists were to be believed, the onslaught of global warming could denude the majestic Himalayan peaks of its snow-cap and the mighty glaciers might just disappear as early as in next 40 years.
Such an event would be catastrophic for more than 2.6 billion people who thrive on water and natural resources from the ten mighty rivers which are fed by the huge Himalayan glacial reservoir.

That this projection falls short of unanimity among the scientific community is the only consolation. There is less contestation, though, to the fact that human-induced climate change is real and the Himalayan eco-system faces urgent environmental challenges. At a simplistic level, consider the popular hill destinations of Mussourie and Shimla, which are getting perceptibly hotter during summers and snowfall is becoming a rarity. Once blooming, apple orchards in their vicinity are recording ever receding yields. Shimla is now warmer by one degree Celsius while far-away Gangtok’s mean temperature has shown an increase from 0.9 degree Celsius to 2 degree Celsius over the past decades.

Shimla Declaration
Alluding to the urgency of climate change impacts on the hill states, five Himalayan states have now set into motion an elaborate action plan for sustainable development of the Himalayan eco-system. Dubbed as ‘Shimla Declaration’, which emerged at the two-day conclave of Himalayan chief ministers, the 12-point plan envisages setting up of a “Himalayan Sustainable Development Forum.”

Interestingly, the joint initiative from Himachal Pradesh, J and K, Arunachal, Sikkim and Uttarakhand came within days of the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh setting into motion a National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-system - one of the eight missions formed under the National action plan on climate change.
The Mission aims to study the extent to which the Himalayan glaciers are in recession and how the problem could be addressed through collaborative efforts with other South Asian countries.

It also aims to set up observational and monitoring network for the Himalayan environment to assess freshwater resources and health of the ecosystem.
The Shimla Declaration aims to supplement the objectives of the National Mission by institutionalising a Forum with regular dialogue among the states and taking several initiatives for initiating research, exchange of data on climate change and preserving forests and natural resources.

“Himalayas shape the climate, hydrology and soil fertility of much of South Asia and, therefore, preserving their ecological sanctity is  importance to the region”, said the pro-active chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, P K Dhumal, who brought the Himalayan states on one platform.

Green bonus
Union Minister for Environment Jairam Ramesh supported the Forum and met the  demand of hill states for financial incentives for preserving natural resources by announcing a “Green Bonus”.

Prof Syed Iqbal Hasnain of The Energy and Resources Institute, Delhi said that melting of glaciers would lead to severe shortages of water for irrigation and drinking.  Dr Akhilesh Gupta, Advisor to Union department of science and technology, differed and said the hue and cry about melting glaciers was not based on facts.

While the opinion remains divided over the extent of glacial melting, there is near unanimity that some melting is taking place. In fact, Himachal was devastated by flash floods in Sutlej river a few years back because of the bursting of Pareechu lake
in China which was dammed by loose earth material formed by rapidly melting
glacier ice.

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