Monday, October 05, 2009

Melting Glaciers in the Himalayas

An article published on CNN today titled, "the high stakes of melting Himalayan glaciers". The article quotes Dr. Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist, physicist and leader in the International Forum on Globalization, raising the awareness of the melting glaciers, flash floods in the villages of Ladakh region, and possible drying of underground aquifers.

This is an alarming issue and have been in discussion among the scientific community and also highlighted by IPCC in their last report.

In August, I trekked through the Zanskar and Ladakh ranges for 30 days and had an opportunity to see the changing scenarios along the ranges. The places where the trek description talks of glacier walks were gone. For example, one of the highest passes along the way of Shinge La, after which we were supposed go down a steep glacier. Once on top, there were only remnants of a glacier.

As far as the underground aquifers are concerned, one should also look into the growing demand for water in the urbanized and tourist parts. For example, in Leh, the demand for water has increased many folds and most of it is supported by underground aquifers.

Recent publications (and newspaper articles) were pinpointing at Black Carbon, whose contribution to global warming and possible role in the glacier melts is increasing. While the science of black carbon's role is being studied and understood (see a review by Princeton University), the sources of black carbon is still uncertain. The scientific community should restrain for blaming low-income groups (New York Times), who are dependent on biomass for cooking and heating in the region, for black carbon emissions (see Black Carbon to the Rescue?).

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