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Unwise to neglect Himalayan crisis

Unwise to neglect Himalayan crisis

The ISRO study has given a lot of valuable data on the status of the glaciers. That should help us formulate plans to deal with glacier-related situations in future.

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Last Updated : 28 April 2024, 22:19 IST
Last Updated : 28 April 2024, 22:19 IST
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The finding of an ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) study, that glaciers across the Indian Himalayan region are melting at an alarming rate, is not surprising. Studies by various organisations have noted the diminishment of glaciers, which play a crucial role in maintaining and controlling the climate of region and the world. The Himalayan region is considered the Third Pole because its glaciers are as important as those in the two other geographical poles. The ISRO study, conducted using satellite data from 1984 to 2023, has found that glaciers have retreated and thinned drastically, leading to expansion of glacial lakes and formation of new lakes. They serve as freshwater sources for rivers but also pose a danger when excessive melting of the snow produces Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). India recently experienced a GLOF event which destroyed the Chungthang dam in Sikkim, after the South Lhonak Lake was flooded by a melting glacier. It led to loss of life and destruction of property in two states.

A separate report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development has also found that the disappearance of glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayas was 65% faster after 2010 than in the previous 10 years. A parliamentary committee has also underlined the strategic role of the glaciers and called for the creation of an agency which will co-ordinate glacier protection efforts. It is not known if any action has been taken in this respect. The excessive melting of the glaciers is due to global warming. Even when it is true that there are no local or regional solutions for the problem of global warming and climate change, the world needs action at all levels to address their causes and consequences. The global response can only be a sum total of all such responses.

At the current rate of greenhouse gas emission, the volume of glaciers is predicted to decline from 55% to 75% in the coming years. The glaciers on the Rwenzori Mountains and Mount Kenya in Africa may disappear by 2030, and those on Kilimanjaro by 2040. The depletion of glaciers would lead to a sharp reduction in freshwater supply. All the major rivers in north India, Pakistan and China are fed by the Himalayan glaciers. The depletion of glaciers will result not only in a water crisis but also in serious economic and social problems. The ISRO study has given a lot of valuable data on the status of the glaciers. That should help us formulate plans to deal with glacier-related situations in future.

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