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Vanishing glaciers: How to track a meltdown

Across a dangerous river valley in remote Himachal and up icy slopes, HT joins a mountaineering team to survey a shrinking glacier that may vanish in 25 years. Reshma Patil reports.

tech reviews Updated: Nov 04, 2007 04:14 IST
Reshma Patil

About 12,400 feet high in Himachal Pradesh, a windswept patch of land 30 minutes away from a shrinking glacier will soon host a rugged laboratory of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), open to scientists to continuously record how global warming melts a glacier.

About 9,000 glaciers in the Indian Himalayas feed Asia’s mightiest rivers, affecting almost 500 million people’s sustenance, but they are the world’s least understood glaciers.

Feeling the heat, the department of science and technology (DST) is now planning a new institute for snow, ice and glaciology. “We will also strengthen existing glaciology research centers and set up Himalayan field stations for evidence-based analysis,’’ DST secretary T Ramasami told HT. “The project report is awaiting Cabinet approval.”

Last month, the Sikkim government named a panel to study the impact of retreating glaciers on its water resources. On October 15, the IMF pitched for a National Glacier Monitoring Authority to principal secretary TK Nair in the PMO. “We also proposed field stations at benchmark glaciers,’’ says S Hasnain, chairman of IMF’s scientific committee and head of the Sikkim study. “We need strategic monitoring of not one but many glaciers,’’ says scientist Anil Kulkarni at Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad.