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Alarm bells for Himalayan glaciers

delhi Updated: Jun 13, 2011 00:12 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
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Source of water in northern and central India, the western Himalayan glaciers, are retreating at the fastest rate in India, a new government study has revealed.

The most disturbing trend from latest monitoring of 2,190 glaciers in major river basins of India has shown that glaciers in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir are retreating at a much faster than the glaciers in eastern Himalayas that is northeast. Overall, 75% of glaciers are retreating.

All the 119 glaciers fall in part of Alaknanda sub-basin, a source of water for Ganga, have retreated by over 10% since 1990. Of the 29 glaciers in Gauriganga basin, another source of water for Ganga, 20 are retreating. Retreat was slowing in Bhagirathi basin but no reason was specified for that.

Ganga is mainstay for about 40% of India’s population but has witnessed lesser flow of water in recent years due to glacial retreat and construction of hydel projects in the upstream of the river.

“Ganga’s glacial basin is one of the most unstable in India,” the report based on comparison of glacial monitoring for 15 years released this week said.

Although the monitoring done by Indian Space Research Organisation does not specify by when glaciers will melt, it says that climate change is playing it role.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said the important observation of the study was huge debris on western Himalayan glaciers, which is not witnessed in European glaciers.

The yearly snowfall is a major source of summer water for cities such as Delhi, Chandigarh, Lucknow because most of it melts before the onset of monsoons. “The falling snowfall should be matter of concern for your urban planners,” Ramesh said.