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Himalayan glacier controversy

india Updated: Jun 08, 2011 16:10 IST
Mahesh Langa
Mahesh Langa
Hindustan Times
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While releasing a comprehensive study conducted by Space Application Centre (SAC) on retreating of Himalayan glaciers, Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday claimed that his stand was vindicated on the controversy on pace of retreating of glaciers.

Ramesh quoted the findings of the study which found that 75% glaciers are retreating, 8% are advancing and remaining 17% are stable in the Himalayan region.

“This is the largest study ever conducted on glaciers in the world. Total 2190 glaciers were studied for the span of 15years by the scientists of SAC, a unit of ISRO,” Ramesh said at SAC campus in Ahmedabad.

“As per the finding, average pace of retreat is 3.75% a year so at this pace, it would take 400 years to melt all the glaciers in the Himalayan region,” he added, debunking the earlier report of UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) headed by Dr Rajendra Pachauri, which had issued an ‘alarmist warning” that Himalayan glaciers may vanish by 2035.

“When the IPCC released its finding, I had said melting of glaciers in Himalaya is incredibly complex issue and glaciers of Europe and Himalaya have different behavior. I was criticized for my remarks but today, conclusions of this study bears out my stand on the issue,” the minister said, thanking the scientists involved in the exercise for the comprehensive work they have carried out on very contentious issue.

In January 2010, Nobel Prize winning IPCC had in its report stated that Himalayan glaciers may disappear by 2035 on account of impact of climate change and global warning.

However, the report had triggered a controversy, forcing the IPCC to retract the discussion paper from its report with admission that it was a “mistake.” Later, it turned out that the 2035 estimate came not from a peer-reviewed scientific paper but from an interview conducted in 1999 by New Scientist magazine with the Indian glaciologist Syed Hasnain.

The article, which included a "speculative" claim by Hasnain that the Himalayan glaciers could vanish by 2035, then became part of a 2005 report by the World Wildlife Fund — and that report, apparently, became the source for the IPCC claim.

The union minister also exhorted ISRO scientists to undertake more such research projects in the country So that propaganda of "Western scientists" can countered effectively. "Today, science is politics in international debate on climate change and related aspects. Western scientists have less of scientific agenda and more of political agenda," he said.