Massive fire near glaciated area of Parvati Valley, Glaciologists sound alarm
NEW DELHI: A team of glaciologists from the Divecha Centre for Climate Change of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, who are in the Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh for their project work, were alarmed to see a massive forest fire on Tuesday and Wednesday in the region adjacent to the glaciated region.
After noticing the huge forest fire, the team travelled up to Pulga closer to the fire affected region on Wednesday. “We went up to the Parbati Hydroelectric project. The fire is affecting a very large forest area near the glaciated region. Parvati Valley has 279 glaciers and 396 square kilometer of glaciated area. The fire is adjacent to Sara Ugma glacier,” said Anil Kulkarni, a distinguished scientist at the Divecha Center for Climate Change.
“I have never seen anything like this in such high altitudes in the past 40 years of my career. The soot or black carbon from the fire will definitely get deposited on the glaciers. It will reduce the albedo effect of the glaciated area and enhance melting of snow. This will leave the glacier exposed. The fire should be extinguished at the earliest,” he added.
There have been 16,840 forest fire incidents in the country between March 28 and March 30, according to Forest Survey of India’s forest mapping. In Himachal Pradesh, 80 forest fire incidents have been reported in the past two days.
‘Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region’, a ministry of earth sciences report modelled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) assessment reports, which source scientific evidence on climate change globally, flagged in 2020 that the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau recorded warming of 0.2 degree C per decade between 1951 and 2014. In the higher reaches, the warming was recorded at the rate of 0.5 degree C, much higher than the average warming experienced over the entire country.
The Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) recorded a temperature rise of about 1.3 degree C during 1951-2014 compared to an average temperature rise of around 0.7 degree C during 1901-2018 over the country. This has led to several areas of HKH recording a steep decline in snowfall and retreat of glaciers in recent decades. The high elevation Karakoram Himalayas, however, has experienced higher winter snowfall and hence, far less glacial retreat.
“There is now consensus that most glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating, with the pace accelerating from the beginning of the 21st century. As several studies have shown, warming is much higher in the upper reaches of Himalayas, with loss of glaciers and lake formation increasing. These lakes can burst and cause flash floods. There are a number of mechanisms through which such floods can happen in association with landslides and avalanches. We have also monitored glacial lake formations in the Alaknanda basin and the Nanda Devi glacier,” Kulkarni had earlier said following the February 7, 2021, glacial overflow that triggered a flash flood and swept away two hydroelectric plants in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, killing over 200 people.