Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kashmir’s abandoned glaciers

Athar Parvaiz in China Dialogue: Funding cuts have brought a halt to one of the few on-the-ground projects monitoring receding ice in the western Himalayas. The move comes as scientists stress there is greater need than ever to boost our understanding of glacier changes, which will have a huge impact on the water systems of millions of people downstream.

Himalayan glaciers – which feed the major rivers of Asia – are the fastest shrinking in the word, but conditions among them vary considerably and rates of decline are unknown. What is known is that melting glaciers in the western Himalayas will reduce river flow in a region where competition over water resources is already a major flashpoint.

A reliable source at the New Delhi-based Energy and Research Institute (TERI) confirmed that the organisation has been forced to stop monitoring the receding Kolahoi glacier in Kashmir in the western Himalayas after project funding was axed. It has recently emerged that funding was cut by a US-based foundation back in 2010, in the wake of “Glaciergate”, the controversy surrounding inaccurate claims that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2030. But TERI made no public announcement that the project had stopped.

TERI started monitoring the glacier in 2008, against the backdrop of an acute lack of benchmark data on Himalayan glaciers. The organisation decided to monitor smaller Himalayan glaciers because other glaciers like Gangotiri (the source of the Ganges River) are too large to act as benchmark glaciers. And so it established “glacier monitoring observatories” at Kolahoi glacier in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and at East Rathong glacier in the northeast state of Sikkim....

Couldn't find a public domain shot of the Kolahoi glacier in the article, but here is Drang-Drung, said to be the largest glacier in Ladakh, outside the Siachen formation. One of the main tributaries of the Zanskar river, the Stod or Doda river, is created from this glacier. Shot by Wildchild826, Wikimedia Commons

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