A majority of glaciers in the Himalayan region are melting as temperatures rise and climate change wreaks havoc across the world. Studies conducted by the Centre reveal that the phenomenon is being seen across nine major glaciers in the country which is melting at different rates.
Studies led by the Geological Survey of India, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, National Institute of Hydrology, Space Application Centre, and Indian Institute of Science have observed accelerated heterogeneous mass loss in Himalayan glaciers.
Minister of Science & Technology Dr. Jitendra Singh in a written reply in the Lok Sabha said, “GSI has conducted studies on melting of the glaciers by assessment of mass balance on nine glaciers and also carried out monitoring the recession/ advancement of 76 glaciers in the Himalayan region. The majority of Himalayan glaciers are observed melting/ retreating at varying rates in different regions.”
WHICH GLACIERS IN INDIA ARE MELTING?
The Ministry of Earth Sciences said that the mean retreat rate of Hindu Kush Himalayan glaciers is 14.9-15.1 meters per year, which is 12.7-13.2 meters per year in Indus, 15.5-14.4 meters per year in Ganga, and 20.2-19.7 meters per year in Brahmaputra river basins.
Meanwhile, mass balance studies conducted for some Himalayan glaciers by the University of Kashmir, Sikkim University, IISc, and WIHG, revealed a similar event where a majority of Himalayan glaciers are melting or retreating at varying rates. The Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, which is monitoring a few glaciers in Uttarakhand, found that the Dokriani Glacier in the Bhagirathi basin is retreating at 15-20 meters per year since 1995, whereas Chorabari Glacier in the Mandakini basin is retreating at 9-11 meters per year during 2003-2017.
The Satluj River basin is witnessing similar events. Divecha Centre for Climate Change, IISc Bangalore investigated the glacier and found that there will be an increase in glacier melt contribution until the middle of the century and then there will be a decline. “Numerous small glaciers located in the low altitude region of the Satluj basin indicate a significant loss in the area till the middle of the century, creating a scarcity of water during the dry summer season,” the ministry said.
WHY IS THIS A CAUSE OF CONCERN?
The melting of glaciers in the Himalayas is a major cause of concern as it will have a massive impact on the water supply for rivers that depend on these glaciers. The continued melting will lead to change in glacier basin hydrology, downstream water budget, and impact on hydropower plants due to variation in discharge, flash flood, and sedimentation.
“The increase in risk related to glacier hazards due to enhanced number and volume of glacier lakes, accelerated flash flood and glacial lake outburst floods, while also having an impact on agro practices in high Himalayan region,” the ministry said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the minister said that The melting of glaciers is a natural process and cannot be controlled, however, the melting of glaciers does increase the risks related to glacier hazards. The Centre said that various Indian institutes, organizations, and universities are monitoring the Himalayan glaciers using remote sensing data at a large scale to assess the calamities associated with the melting.