Wednesday, September 28, 2011

200 million depend on melting glaciers for water

Fabíola Ortiz in IPS: At least 200 million people in the world are in danger of being left without water, because they depend for their supply on glaciers that are melting, although paradoxically the process creates the illusion of plentiful water resources. While the average global temperature has risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius in the last 100 years, the temperature of glaciers has increased by 1.5 degrees in just two decades.

Local communities, especially in the Himalayan and Andes mountain ranges, are the most affected. If the temperature is below zero, "ice remains frozen, but if it rises even a little bit, it is enough to turn the ice to water," Marco Rondón, a Colombian expert on natural resource management at the Canadian government's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), told IPS.

When the ice surface shrinks, the meltwater produced each year affects the way of life of people living close to the glaciers, Rondón told IPS at the 14th World Water Congress being held Sept. 25-29 in Porto de Galinhas in northern Brazil. The accelerated rate of glacier melting was highlighted by one of the panels at the Congress, which was organised by the government of the state of Pernambuco and the International Water Resources Association (IWRA), a not-for-profit network that promotes debate on water administration and management.

In the Andean region, close to 10 million people depend directly on water from glaciers. In addition, many cities depend on the food produced in areas irrigated by glacier meltwater, such as Lima, the capital of Peru, a country with some 500 glaciers. According to Rondón, about 30 percent of the Andean ice surface could melt in the next few decades....

The Perito Morino glacier in the Andes, shot by Calyponte, Wikikmedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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