Wednesday, January 12, 2011

'Water towers of Asia' show cracks

Keya Acharya in IPS: A concerted effort to formally document the magnitude and directions of climate trends in the Eastern Himalayas and thereby decide regional adaptation strategies is critical to ensure the region’s water security, according to water experts.

In Nepal, the Imja glacier is retreating almost 70 metres per year. In Bhutan, where glacial melt is the least perceptible currently, 25 of 677 glaciers are categorised potentially dangerous, with an ‘alarming’ glacial retreat rate of 20-30 metres per year, says G. Karma Chhopel of Bhutan’s National Environment Commission.

It is more important to gather statistics on the effects of climate change than to get preoccupied with China building dams in the region, says Professor Jayanta Bandyopadhyay of the Centre for Development and Environment Policy at the Kolkata branch of the Indian Institute of Management. "Building more dams when waters are anyway threatened due to climate change is accelerating the issue of water loss. It’s a bit like ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’," Himanshu Thakkar, of the New Delhi-based South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, told IPS.

Sharing of water is an important issue, says Thakkar. "India needs to leverage its huge trade dealings with China to form a water-sharing accord."

Bandyopadhayay says a conflict-resolution system is a ‘good idea’, "But we still don’t know the nature of changes in the region. What will the treaty be based on?" he asks. "I must again stress on the need for developing indigenous climate models for the region. Adaptation strategies will be very difficult without this," Bandyopadhyay told IPS. "The whole issue of Asian Development depends on this."

The Eastern Himalayan mountains - stretching 1,500 miles across Nepal, Bhutan, northern Myanmar, south-eastern Tibet and northeast India - and referred to as the ‘water towers of Asia’ are also known as the Third Pole due to their having the largest glaciated area outside of the two poles….

Natural-colour image of Imja Tsho and surrounding glaciers. Dirt and debris coat these rivers of ice; like the glaciers feeding it, Imja Tsho appears dull gray-brown. A thin trickle of water exits the lake on its western side, having carved through the natural earthen dam

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