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Controversy around Himalayan Glaciers

>> Sunday, January 24, 2010

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Himalaya is one of the most complex regions on earth. About 80 per cent glaciers of this region have been reported to be retreating. However, the conditions of these glaciers are affected by confusing local variations and some reports reveal that some glaciers including that of the Karakoram are advancing. As for the glacial retreat in Himalyan region during the current global stress of climate change accelerated by global emissions of carbon, soot, methane and other pollutants is concerned, it can be considered on the basis of some facts collected through real researches. But, forecasting baselessly that Himalaya’s glaciers would disappear by 2035 is a matter of serious criticism and strongest comments. It is important here to remind that UN’s international panel on climate change in its “fourth assessment report in 2007” said that “glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of their disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the earth keeps warming at the current rate.”



Himalayan Glacier

source: UNEP

The retreat of Himalayan glaciers is felt deeply by all the nations sharing the area. But, there are many thousands of glaciers in Himalayas that are difficult and expensive to get to. These glaciers are located in three major weather systems and numerous types of microclimates. The striking feature is that, the countries in which these glaciers are located are not good neighbors and they don’t have any considerable record of scientific cooperation. Some glaciers lie in most sensitive security regions due to which these are inaccessible for scientists of other countries. Thus very little research could have been done so far about Himalayan glaciers. Hence, making big and strange forecasts that too with absolute certainty can not be understood by any one.


The countries sharing the Himalayan region are aware of the consequences of the climate change. They are aware of the resultant water and food crises and risks of disasters. They also know that water crisis resulted by receding glaciers has started threatening their energy supplies by disrupting the process of hydro power generation. The report of 80 per cent retreat of Himalyan glaciers has been produced by the Chinese Academy of Science. The out break of new pests and diseases has already been reported by farmers of Nepal. Another consequence feared to come up due to retreating glaciers relates to the river systems of India and Pakistan becoming seasonal in the near future. It is feared to make the monsoon erratic. Scientists predict that Yangtze and Yellow River may loose their volumes of water in near future.


Himalayas-Hindu Kush is the region on which about 40 per cent of the population of the world depends for its water requirement.But, it is sad that no reliable data on the possible fate of this largest source of fresh water is available due to lack of proper and sufficient research. It is again heartening to think that the impact of Himalayan Glaciers on monsoon responsible for the food security in South Asia, too has not been researched properly till now and we depend on the forecast of climate sceptics. Only a true glacier scientist can research and report properly and only he can supply the reliable data.


Mr. Jairam Ramesh, India's Environment Minister


Mr. Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Environment Minister has reportedly stated that – the claim that climate change would cause Himalayan Glaciers to melt away by 2035 was unfounded. He has further told the media that they (glaciers) were indeed receding and the rate was cause for great concern but the claim was not based on the iots of scientific evidence. In India’s discussion paper by glaciologist Vijay Kumar Raina has criticized the IPCC’s glacier claim (November 2009). The discussion paper admits that some of the glaciers in Himalayas are retreating, nothing to suggest as some have said that they will disappear.



Mr. R.K. Pachauri


The IPCC's Chairman, Mr. R. Pachauri said recently while discussing the report, “We are looking into the issue of the Himalayan Glaciers, and will take a position on it the next two or three days”. Here, it can be noted that the forecast that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035 was based on a report published by WWF on the basis of an article published years ago in 1999 in the journal New Scientist. The journal had published an interview of the Indian glaciologist Syed Hasnain and the U.N.‘s International panel on climate change incorporated the same in its 2007 report. Now U.N.’s international panel of scientists have begun reviewing the disputed claim in the report.



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