Believe it or not. There are only about a dozen scientists working on 9,575 glaciers in India under the aegis of the Geological Society of India. Is the available data enough to believe that the glaciers are retreating due to global warming?
Some experts have questioned the alarmists theory on global warming leading to shrinkage of Himalayan glaciers. VK Raina, a leading glaciologist and former ADG of GSI is one among them.
He feels that the research on Indian glaciers is negligible. Nothing but the remote sensing data forms the basis of these alarmists observations and not on the spot research.
Raina told the Hindustan Times that out of 9,575 glaciers in India, till date, research has been conducted only on about 50. Nearly 200 years data has shown that nothing abnormal has occurred in any of these glaciers.
It is simple. The issue of glacial retreat is being sensationalised by a few individuals, the septuagenarian Raina claimed. Throwing a gauntlet to the alarmist, he said the issue should be debated threadbare before drawing a conclusion.
However, Dr RK Pachouri, Chairman, Inter-Governmental Panel of Climatic Change said it’s recently released fourth assessment report has recorded increased glacier retreat since the 1980s.
This he said was due to the fact that the carbon dioxide radioactive forcing has increased by 20 per cent particularly after 1995. And also that 11 of the last 12 years were among the warmest 12 years recorded so far.
Surprisingly, Raina, who has been associated with the research and data collection in over 25 glaciers in India and abroad, debunked the theory that Gangotri glacier is retreating alarmingly.
Maintaining that the glaciers are undergoing natural changes, witnessed periodically, he said recent studies in the Gangotri and Zanskar areas (Drung- Drung, Kagriz glaciers) have not shown any evidence of major retreat.
"Claims of global warming causing glacial melt in the Himalayas are based on wrong assumptions," Raina, a trained mountaineer and skiing expert said. He rued that not much is being done by the Government to create a bank of trained geologists for an in-depth study of glaciers.
The agencies such as the GSI are not getting fresh talent simply because of the measly salaries offered by the Government.
Consider this. During one of his visits to Antarctic, to his utter dismay, Raina discovered that the cook of a Japanese team was getting a bigger pay packet than him.
If he is to be believed, currently only about a dozen scientists are working on Indian glaciers. More alarming is the fact that some of them are above 50. How can one talk about the state of glaciers when not much research is being done on the ground, he wondered.
In fact, it is difficult to ascertain the exact state of Himalayan glaciers as these are very dusty as compared to the ones in Alaska and the Alps. The present presumptions are based on the cosmatic study of the glacier surfaces.
Nobody knows what is happening beneath the glaciers. What ever is being flaunted about the under surface activity of the glaciers, is merely presumptions, he claimed.
His views were echoed by Dr RK Ganjoo, Director, Regional Centre for Field Operations and Research on Himalayan Glaciology, who is supervising study of glaciers in Ladakh region including one in the Siachen area. He also maintained that nothing abnormal has been found in any of the Himalyan glaciers studied so far by him.
Still, he wondered on the Himalayan glaciers being compared with those in Alaska or Europe to lend credence to the melt theory. Indian glaciers are at 3,500-4,000 meter above the sea level whereas those in the Alps are at much lower levels. Certainly, the conditions under which the glaciers in Alaska are retreating, are not prevailing in the Indian sub-continent, he explained.
Another leading geologist MN Koul of Jammu University, who is actively engaged in studying glacier dynamics in J&K and Himachal holds similar views. Referring to his research on Kol glacier ( Paddar, J&K) and Naradu (HP), he said both the glaciers have not changed much in the past two decades.