With its glaciers retreating at a rapid pace, the Himalayas - youngest folded mountains in the world - are feeling the heat of global warming. In order to study the impact of climate change on glaciers, a first-of-its-kind automated weather station has been set up at an altitude of 15,552 feet (4,860 metre) above sea level at Nardu glacier that feeds Baspa river, an important tributary of the Sutlej, in Kinnaur.
The Himalayan range that cuts across Himachal Pradesh is a repository of a large number of glaciers, which are main source of water for five major north Indian perennial rivers - Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum.
Himalayan glaciers are considered to be the best indicators of climatic variation. The state council for science technology and environment, which is carrying out an integrated study 'Snow Monitoring, Mapping and Energy Balance and Assessment of Biophysical Environment of Nardu Glacier in Baspa Basin of District Kinnaur' with the funding support by the Centre's department of science and technology, has established an automated weather station at the Nardu glacier site.
Glacial studies are being carried out with the active participation of institutions such as Sharda University, Greater Noida; National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, Shimla; Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, Chandigarh; and state Council for Science Technology and Environment, Shimla.
"Carrying out studies in the higher regions will be helpful in developing a strong meteorological database of temperature, precipitation, net incoming and outgoing solar radiation and snow depth, which will be used for pursuing energy balance studies," Dr Nagin Nanda, director-cum-secretary, environment, told HT.
The Baspa is joined by many smaller channels draining snow melt waters. Thereafter it empties itself into the Sutlej in Kinnaur district. The Baspa originates from the Baspa hills, joins the Sutlej from the left bank near Karcham (Kalpa). The Sutlej leaves Kinnaur district in the west near Chauhra and enters Shimla district. "Himachal Pradesh being a mountainous state has witnessed the vagaries of climate change. Studies pertaining to this Himalayan reserve will be helpful in ascertaining the effects of global warming," added Nanda.
The studies will helpf ascertain the effects of climate change on the agri-horticulture practices and livelihood of people in the Baspa river basin as a whole.
It will also be useful in assessing the impact of climate change on Himalayan glaciers and also help in establishing a relation that how does the floral distribution will have an impact on social life and livelihood of the people of the Baspa valley.