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'Siachen is world's dirtiest glacier'

And the saddest part is that due to its vast size, it would be almost impossible to clean it, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2007 23:32 IST
Arun Joshi
Arun Joshi

Siachen glacier – the highest battle ground - is the "dirtiest" glacier in the world.

"It is the biggest glacier outside the two poles and also the dirtiest, and there is hardly any means to clean it in many, many years to come," according to Mohammad Ashraf, spokesman for the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, a body that keeps a track of the expeditions and pollution level in the Himalayas.

This glacier has witnessed 19-year-long uninterrupted glacial war between Indian and Pakistani armies since 1984 after Pakistanis set up their bases in the glacier.

More soldiers of the two armies have died in the glacier because of the freezing temperatures - that dip below 40 degrees Celsius - and crevices than the 19 years of war.

But now guns are silent on the glacier - where the heights vary from 18,000 to 21,000 feet above sea level, since November 2003, because of a ceasefire between the two armies.

Since 1984, the Indian and Pakistani armies have deposited so much human waste, plastic sheets, empty artillery shells and ammunition boxes, parachutes and food packets that today it is the "most polluted glacier" in the world.

“The unfortunate conclusion that we have drawn after reports from each and every expedition to the glacier is that Siachen glacier is the dirtiest,” Ashraf said.

Siachen, when translated in Ladakhi, means, black rose. But now it has black patches, a gory reminder of the exchange of artillery shells on the highest battlefield of the world.

Parachutes have stuck at several places, especially close to the cliff, which has been nicknamed as “One short 20” for it stands at the height of 19,999 feet above sea level.

Expeditions, only joint expeditions of Indian and Foreign mountaineers, are allowed to the Siachen glacier, because of the security and strategic concerns.

The Army agrees that it is the most polluted, but blames Pakistan for that. Army spokesperson Lt Col SD Goswami said, "Siachen is the world’s highest, costliest and coldest battlefield, also most polluted, because of Pakistani shelling for the last 22 years."

A former Army commander of Northern Command Lt Gen Hari Prasad, who had visited the glacier umpteenth times, had told this  correspondent that the 'glacier was beautiful'. "We will make an effort to clean the glacier."

Northern Command of the Indian Army guards the glacier. He had acknowledged that the glacier could not be cleaned because of the war between two armies at the glacier.

The hope of cleaning it lies in the November 2003 ceasefire that is still continuing. But the cleaning effort has not  started as yet. There is no idea as to when it would start, or whether it would start at all.

"But that beauty has been marred now," M Ashraf regretted.

His greater regret was that it would not be possible to remove the garbage from the glacier. "Twenty-two years is a long time. Two armies have lives there in strength of brigades (4,000 personnel constitute a brigade). Only a miracle can  restore the beauty of the black rose glacier. Oxygen is needed for taking two steps on the glacier, so it is next to impossible to retrieve the garbage from such a vast stretch of glacial heights."

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